Individual costs of having a car vs living car free

When we think about costs, we think on an individual level that cars are cheaper than public transit. So let’s talk about it. In your day to day life, one doesn’t really think about the property taxes and car tab fees and other things that go towards paying for public transit projects, a person mainly thinks about how much it costs to purchase bus/light rail/subway tickets. Using Portland, Oregon as an example, an all day pass for the Max bus/light rail/streetcar system is $5. If you live car free, and were to get an all day pass every day of the year, it’d cost you $1825 a year to live car free, not including any plane or Amtrak expenses should you take trips out of the city.

Now let’s say you decide to have a car and use it as much as the average USian does. If you buy a new car, that’s about $33,000. However let’s say you pay those costs over the duration of the cars lifespan. The average lifespan of a new car is eight years. So on the costs of buying the car, you’re spending $4125 a year, already more than twice as much as it costs to live car free in Portland. You have to buy gas too though, and the average USian pays around $2,000 a year in gas. Let’s not forget annual car insurance costs either. The average car insurance in the U.S per car is $815. So the total costs per year of having a car and using it like an average USian is $6940.

By living car free, you save roughly $5115 a year. That’s enough money to take a one week vacation to Dubai every year. That’s enough money to spoil yourself and buy a round trip business class ticket to anywhere in the world. If you’re in my shoes, that’s enough money to go see Oregon in the Rose Bowl AND watch them in the national championship game. Or like I did last year with my saved money, go see Oregon play in the Final Four.

Now some will say that having a car gives you freedom and mobility. Well, if you live in a city, like Seattle or Portland or New York City or even super car centric Detroit, you can get around pretty much anywhere using public transit. Also, like I said, the money saved by not having a car gives you the freedom to take additional vacations, go to cool sports events, do other enjoyable things in life, so yea there’s your freedom. Well what if I want to listen to music in my car you might ask. Well thankfully there’s these things called IPods, you can listen to them on the bus/train, who knew right?! Some might say that having/driving a car is a selfish thing, and while there is an argument to be made for that, I’d actually say that saving your money to spend on other enjoyable things is selfish. In fact, living car free is actually both selfless AND selfish at the same time.

So yea, having a car is for the most part, just plain stupid. That’s just from an individual standpoint too, not including the environmental or sociological impacts of having a car.

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