Sunday, July 5, 2009

How Many Cars do You Need?

OK, those of you who don't own a car, go pat yourselves on the back and read a different article.
For the rest of us, imagine with me. Now, imagine owning one less car than you currently do.

We own one car, and it was built in 1995. It's been running really well lately. Even though we only have one car, we don't need it most of the time. Here's what we do:
  1. We walk everywhere that's within a couple of miles.
  2. I bike or jog to work (2 miles the short way, 5 miles the scenic way).
  3. I bike to school (5 miles).
  4. Julianne walks when she can do her grocery shopping close (she has to drive when going to Costco).
We don't end up needing the car very often, and have been putting fewer and fewer miles on it. Really though, it would be really easy to find a way justify having two cars in our situation (it's really easy to justify about anything if you want it badly enough), but we have saved a lot of money by only having one car.

When we were in Seattle, this was a bit harder - since it rained often enough that I couldn't always bike. So I got a bus pass instead for the rainy days.

OK, I know what some of you are thinking: "Jeremy you're cheating - you're supposed to imagine yourself with one less car."

Here goes:
  • We would still need a car to visit family a couple of times a year, as they live about 10 hours away. We could rent one for these occasions. This would actually be nice, since we could rent a small SUV to make it through the sometimes treacherous pass between here and there during the winter, instead of having to take a roundabout trip that adds 4 hours.
  • For occasions when we would need a car, we could use ZipCar!
  • Julianne can use the bike trailer when she needs to go shopping at Costco.
  • We can just plan better - half of our car usage is when we didn't plan well enough in advance.
  • Julianne would still need to find a bus or something - she often takes night courses at a college. Since they are night courses, it would be too late to bike back afterward.
  • There are lots of good public transit options around, so we'd probably be able to get wherever we needed just fine.
  • We'd save lots of money on repairs, car insurance etc.
We added everything up, looked at the probable costs for each option, and decided that not having a car probably wouldn't actually save us any cash - primarily just because of the high cost of renting a car to get back to see our families, which is where the car gets the majority of its miles anyway. In addition, ZipCar doesn't yet have any locations within four miles, which would make it difficult to use.

Add it up yourself - as we've decreased our own car usage, we've quickly discovered that we don't miss driving everywhere. And if you have two, three or four cars, the savings from getting rid of one or two of them can be substantial. There are many websites that can help to estimate the true cost of owning a vehicle.

Getting rid of an extra vehicle is one of the ideas suggested in this Ensign article for getting out of debt or avoiding bankruptcy: Before You Lose It All …

1 comment:

Molly said...

I hope you guys know you're my inspiration. Since you moved in I've been trying to convince Christian to walk to church. He will never give in since he sweats really easily and would be a mess by the time we got to church. But I can dream...

And we almost got rid of one of our cars a couple years ago, but it was a good thing we didn't, because we soon had my job, my night job in East Palo Alto (different county=different transit system=ridiculous amount of time to get home on public transportation that late at night), his full time job, and his classes in San Jose. But once our lives calm down a bit, I'd love to ditch a car.