Growing up in small-town New Zealand, finally reaching driving age was like receiving the keys to the kingdom. It meant being able to break free of the mum-taxi and holding the reins to your own life. Weekend trips! A part-time job! Late night hangouts!
Even once I moved to the ‘Big Smoke’ to study, public transport options were limited enough to make having access to a car the only real alternative to walking. And I loved my little blue bomb, even if I did leave it on the side of the road more than once while I walked for emergency petrol (gas to you yanks).
All of this meant that once I moved to Melbourne, finding a car seemed to be a no-brainer to me. Melbourne was even bigger than Christchurch, how could I possible find my way around without wheels?
Fate smiled on me & I ended up with a housemate interested in sharing the costs of a car. We wrote up an agreement (very important with something as pricey as this) and the arrangement worked nicely.
The thing was, as time passed I realised just how little I really needed the car. My co-car-er was a photographer and so was often using our wheels to lug heavy equipment from place to place while I caught the bus, train, or tram. As the car bills continued to mount, it gradually dawned on me that it was time to pull the plug. Here’s some of the maths that made it clear that I wasn’t engaged in the best arrangement for me:
*roughly calculated on the average insurance cost of someone my age owning a car manufactured prior to 2014
**roughly estimated as one 20min trip (ie to work) and back a day. No allowance made for longer trips or more than one journey a day
For those playing along at home, that makes a monthly difference of $86.60! And that figure doesn’t even take into account any other ongoing costs like replacement tyres, car repairs, toll road charges, parking fines or time wasted in traffic. From my brief experiences with Australian car ownership, those can also skyrocket these estimates, particularly with an older car.
That $86.60/ 4.33 (the average number of weeks in a month) comes out to a nice round $20 per week extra in my pocket.
But wait! I hear you say, what about the convenience of my car? I couldn’t live without that!
Well fair reader, let’s crunch a few more numbers:
- Supermarket shopping is always a pain- if I take the tram to my nearest supermarket, I can grab an Uber home for an estimated $6-8
- Sometimes I stay late for a drink at work, and those last trams home are so gosh darned easy to miss! – if I catch an Uber home from my most distant workplace, that will run me an estimated $15-20 (a further note here: after that drink, there’s normally about four of us that share this trip home & split it evenly through the app’s Share function, making the fare a much more attractive $7-8 per person. Friends are great!)
- Ahh Ikea. How I love you. How I hate your giant blue bags when I’ve spent my estimated 30% more than intended. If my poor wallet has had a hard trip, I can jump in an Uber (are you seeing a trend here?) and get home with my shopping for an estimated $12-17.
Out of all of these scenarios, the ‘missed the tram home’ is probably my most frequent – around once a month. My other main trip expense would be when an audition pops up somewhere more annoying to get to, but looking back over the last year of auditions, that cost has never gone above $10 per trip.
For me, those figures are pretty clear cut.
Opting to ditch the car and pay for a monthly transport pass means I have one pre-defined outgoing expense, no unexpected or difficult to anticipate ongoing costs and even with the occasional Uber trip as required, I’m still coming out on top!
Now, I totally understand that the factors involved in car ownership are hugely varied and this situation probably only applies to a very small number of you. For me this was an eye opening moment to actually calculate the huge cost I was paying for simply assuming that I still needed something that I had relied upon in the past.
As an interesting side note, about a year after ditching the car I was offered a new-model mini to test drive. After five days of car expenses, parking hassles and a marked decrease in my daily activity, I actually ended up giving it back well before the end of my trial period. I guess even without rego & insurance expenses, the cost of owning a car is just too high for me!