Wrapping up a year

I’ve only been car-free for a little over 4 months now, but since the year just ended, I figured it was time to take stock of the costs and savings of going without a car.

First the savings and earnings:

Insurance $50/month (not spent!)

Parking rent $60/month (paid to me!)

There are some other savings I could add in as well. I hardly ever bought gas, but if we still owned the car, I’m sure we would occasionally drive it. I probably only filled up once a month, so I’m going to ballpark that at $20 / month.

There weren’t too many other regular expenses for the car (one of the barriers to selling it is that it was relatively cheap to keep it!)

So let’s estimate that I have saved / earned $130/month by not having the car. In the last four months, that means I’m up $520.  But being car-free has not been completely devoid of expenses.

We’ve rented a zip car 3 times, each for a full day. Plus, we had a regular rental car for a weekend. However, the rental car trip and 1 of the zip car trips were for Spouse’s research (I went along for fun), so they were reimbursed by her employer. So, we had 2 full zip car days at about $80/day = $160.

We have taken the train to Boston a few times in the last 4 months. However, even before selling the car, we often took the train to Boston because I always hated that drive so much.  Still, I did occasionally drive into Boston, so I’m going to say that one of these times I would have driven instead of taking the train.  2 round trip train tickets to Boston = $31.00. However, that means we’re not paying for gas. It could easily cost $10.00 in gas to get to Boston. (I’m going with 100 mile round trip at 25 mpg and $2.50/gal just to make the calculations easy.) That means that we paid a premium of $21.00 for the train – maybe.

I’m sure I’m forgetting some other car-free expenses, but I can’t really think of them right now. We took the train to NYC in September, but even if we’d had the car, we would not have driven. We also flew to Philadelphia last month, again not a drive I’d really want to take. We did take the bus to the airport, and in the past we may have driven. The bus is free for the Spouse and ran me $1.75 each way. Parking would have been $12/day X 3 days so…. nah, I won’t add that to the equation.

$520 (savings / earnings)

$181 (expenses)

= $339 in the black in just 4 months. Not bad at all. I think I’ll give myself over to a moment of auto-lust:

That's a Tesla Roadster with an HOV sticker and a self-important vanity plate: "PLUGS N"

MMMM, tesla. So green yet so fast!

There is one part of being car-free that I haven’t talked about yet – bumming rides from people. I’ve done it a few times now, and at times it does seem like cheating. Twice now, Spouse and I have caught a ride from someone who also happened to be going to the Farmer’s Market on an inclement Saturday morning. Well, once was this morning, so I’ll have to include that in my 2010 wrap-up.  Let’s see other ride-sharing events: a couple of rides downtown for dining, and one ride out to western Mass. In that case, we had 5 people in a rather small car, and there’s no real public transit that can get you to the pioneer valley from Providence. All in all, I’ve probably been in other people’s vehicles for less than 250 miles since selling my car. Add that to about 700 miles in rental cars. That’s less than 1000 miles so far. I’ll have to start keeping better track for 2010. Here’s my first entry into my ride-bumming log for 2010:

On the second day of the year I took a trip in a friend’s car for 5 miles.

I’m afraid that there might be more ride-bumming in my future. Looking outside at the ice-covered roads, they don’t look too great for biking.

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3 responses to “Wrapping up a year

  1. Spouse pointed out something about the miles driven now that we are post-car-ownership. When we owned a car 80% of the miles were with just two people, and maybe 5% were with just one person in the car. Now that we have rented cars or bummed rides from friends, I would estimate that for about 80% of our miles in the car, there were more than two people in the car. For what it’s worth. And it is worth something because a full car is a fairly efficient way to move people over medium-length distances.

  2. You also save by not making car payments (or if you paid cash for a car: you might figure out how much per month that would be if you kept it 4 years… or however long you keep a car) plus you save on maintenance (tune-ups, etc.). You’re less likely to have the expense of a parking ticket or (i hope) a traffic ticket. Plus the health benefits of riding regularly mean you save on having to join a gym (an easy $30 a month right there). Good luck staying car free…

  3. Thanks Kevin.
    In my case, I had no car payments – the car was a hand-me-down and I owned it outright. Repair and maintenance is hard to calculate on a monthly basis. The car was starting to show its age and had an occasional repair that would be somewhere in the $500 – $1000 range every 16-24 months. It’s difficult to put an exact number on it. It’s a great relief to not have to worry about when the car will need to be repaired next. Being free from worry is something that is often overlooked as a reason not to own something that requires a great deal of investment after purchasing it (like a car, or a boat, or a house in some cases) For this post, I was just trying to get a rough calculation. I should really compare my costs to the $8,000 / year estimated annual cost of owning a mid-sized car.

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