So I’ve been thinking a lot about what it would take to go car-free and how the finances would really work out. My friend in D.C. is living car-free but says she was disappointed in the local carshare program because of its expense – $15/hour plus a membership fee (if my memory is correct). Andy, a car-free commenter, looked around and saw that rates are generally cheaper in other areas ($5-$12/hour plus mileage, membership). He also pointed out that living without a car and using a carshare money ends up cheaper in the long run because
1. you’re not paying those fixed costs of car ownership that no one thinks about
2. you learn to make your trips much more efficient when you are paying a price that feels expensive
In my Friday post I talked about the fixed costs of car ownership and figured that I spend about $2,000 a year before I even drive it anywhere. When I add in fuel costs, I spend about $2,800 a year or $233 a month. (I originally posted a miscalculated number of $3,600 a year; sorry.) I tried breaking my costs down on a per mile basis but concluded those numbers are misleading because the more you drive, the cheaper the “per mile” cost becomes. This became especially obvious when I compared notes with Will. He only spends about $900 a year on his car but he only drives about 3000 miles so his “per mile” cost is higher than mine. (Viewed another way, once you own a car there is very little economic incentive to drive efficiently since most of your costs are the same regardless of how much you drive – gas being the major exception.)
I’m still not sure how to objectively compare the cost of car ownership to other alternatives except to say that if I took the $233 I currently spend every month on transportation and applied it to living a car-free lifestyle, I would have a lot of flexibility to cover bus costs and rent a car when needed. Plus I’d get the fringe benefits of extra exercise and time spent outdoors from walking and biking. Andy says his main motivation to go car-free was reading a statistic that the average American spends 95% of their time indoors and watches 4 hours of TV a day. He decided he’d rather use those 4 hours for walking or biking and let go of the need for instant convenience and superquick transportation time.
So I’m trying to figure out an option that will put me really close to car-free but still allow me to go on environmental field trips out in the boonies. For starters, Will and I are planning to become a one-car household. It should be cheaper for each of us and allow us to allot some of our transportation budget towards bicycle upgrades or an electric scooter or maybe a vacation fund. So the question is, which car do we sell? At this point, I think we will sell my car for two main reasons
1. His car seems to need much less maintenance (as in $120 versus $800+)
2. If we keep “his” car, I will be able to psychologically convince myself that I should really minimize driving since it’s “his” car. (I’m sure I could totally accept it as “my” car but I want to discourage myself a little from driving when it’s not necessary.) Will is already very good at not driving unnecessarily.
I’m sad to let go of the greasecar dream but my particular greasecar has needed a LOT of maintenance pretty consistently over the last three years. I also feel that greasecars really only make sense for commutes and long drives, which is something I’d like to avoid. Hopefully I can sell my greasecar to someone in town who will let me borrow/rent it for road trips. And maybe I’ll try again in the future with a newer diesel that (hopefully) will require less maintenance. For now, I’m looking forward to living a car-minima life.