Sunday, June 7, 2009

Why I Want to Get Rid of Our Car. (Pat, part 3) Money

(by Pat)

This is part 3 of the series that I wrote in January, on The Writing Life x3 blog.

Okay, this is the last bit about getting rid our car for now (really), at least until we finally do it.

I thought I'd lay out what it costs for us to own a car, how much it'll cost to get around without one (since we still do have to get around), and see if we'll save money.

Monthly Costs of owning a car for us:

Ownership/Purchase. . . . $150*

Insurance. . . . $75

Gas. . . . . $120**

Repairs and Maintenance. . . . . $100

Parking. . . . $100

Tolls and taxes: $25

Total: $570 per month

So, a bit of explanation. For cost of ownership, I used what we paid for our car, spread out over ten years. Now, we paid off the car a while ago, but I think it's important to keep this in the calculation, because if we're in a cycle of car ownership we should always be setting aside money for the next purchase (borrowing money to buy a fast-depreciating car is not a smart financial move). For us, we tend to buy a new car and drive it until the repair costs rise too high. (We currently have a 2003 Dodge Caravan with 75,000 miles on it.)

Repairs and maintenance are an expected average over that time period. The figure I used for gas is a little less than our average for 2008, but prices were unusually high in 2008, though I think prices won't stay as low as they are now, and likely will spike again over the next few years, as worldwide demand recovers.

So, $570 a month for the ready use of our car. But of course, even if we got rid of it, we'd still have to get around, which won't be entirely free.

What it might cost to get around (per month):

Car rental: $90 (0ne weekend, every other month)
Zipcar: $60 (costs $10/hour or so)
T pass: $60
Bike stuff: $40
Total: $250

These are guesses, of course. Maybe we'll need Zipcar and rentals a lot more than I think. I'm not sure about the T pass, because Tracy already gets a monthly pass through work, and we tend to just share that one between the two of us.

I've put in $40 for bike stuff, which includes tune-ups and ownership costs. (The purchase costs on our current four bikes comes out to $3.85/month.) Repairs will need to happen if we use them more, but to be honest, Tracy already commutes by bike to work, so her current costs shouldn't be factored in to this setup, since we'd have to pay that anyway. I'd like to take a bike repair class, so I can maintain them myself and keep costs low. I bought my used bike for $65 on Craigs List and it does fine.

Maybe I should put in money for extra shoes (I already walk 4-6 miles per day, even with a car) and umbrellas.

With all these assumptions, it would appear that we would save about $320 per month by giving up our car. (This wouldn't all show up in our cash flow, since the car is paid off. The cash flow bump would be $170.) All this comes while helping us get more excercise, know our neighbors and community better, and have less negative impact environmentally.

Seems like it's definitely worth a try. And if it doesn't work, we can always go out and buy a car (Detroit would be happy to sell us one real cheap right now).

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