What is Car Ownership Really Costing Us?
NERD ALERT – Looking at the numbers
One of the things I love about the Longfellow neighborhood – and a big reason I wanted to live here – was its close proximity to everything. That made it possible, in 2010, for my husband and I make the decision to become a one-car household. In the past 7 years we’ve found that to be a pretty easy lifestyle change, with only an occasional inconvenience. In fact, it’s been so easy that I’ve begun to wonder if we’re ready to go even further and give up car ownership altogether.
The Dollars and Cents of Transportation (Including Carbon)
According to AAA, in 2017 the average auto driver spent $706 a month to own and operate their vehicle for an average of 15,000 miles. Think about it: that’s almost as much as the rent on an efficiency apartment in Minneapolis! And that figure doesn’t include the cost of car payments – or the cost of its associated carbon footprint.
So what does transportation cost my two-person family? I took a look at NerdWallet’s Car Cost Calculator and then factored in the rest of our transportation costs.
- Gas: Our car gets about 25 mpg in the city. We drive 6,000 to 7,000 miles a year so we used about 280 gallons of gas @ $2.30/gallon = $644/yr. Let’s account for the full cost of that gas by looking at the amount of CO2 we produced. Burning a gallon of E10 gas produces 18.9 pounds of CO2 so our 280 gallons produced 5,292 pounds of carbon, or 2.6 tons. If we carbon-tax ourselves at, let’s say $40 per ton, we’d pay an extra $104/yr.
- Insurance for two: about $1,200/yr
- Maintenance and repairs: If the past 6 months are typical, it would be about $200 a month or $2,400 /yr
- Car Payment: Zero, our car is 12 years old.
- Parking: $20/month or $240/yr
- Taxes: $45/yr
Car Ownership = $5,381/yr
We also use mass transit. We spend $80 a month ($960/yr) to take the bus and light rail, which saves us, at minimum, $120 a month in parking ($1,440/yr) and the absolute nightmare of driving downtown. We hopped on the bus to get to the Ordway last month and saved parking and a whole lot of hassle fighting traffic with all the sports events occurring that night!
Taking the bus shaves 30% off my husbad’s work-related carbon footprint, according to Transit Screen. Taking the light rail shaves another 30%. Driving fewer miles keeps our insurance lower, too.
Total Transit Cost Per Year: $6,341/yr
What if we dropped our other car and …
- Took the Bus: Bought one all-you-can-ride monthly bus card and one stored-value card for when we need to travel together ($103/month or $1,236/yr)
- Biked more: Peter could ride his bike to work to save money from May-October, while finally getting in some exercise. His employer offers a secure bike garage at his building so he would pay nothing. (If his employer didn’t have the locker option, he could rent a bike locker from Metro Transit.) (-$120/yr)
- Used Hour Car Sharing Service: $8.50 an hour and 100 miles free (no charge for gas or miles) with $55/yr fee (x 2). We’d need to bus to the closest car sharing hub about 2 miles away. If I used a car 3 days a week for maybe 8 hours that would be $292/month or $3,504/yr. Hour Car provides insurance so we’d save (-$1,200). Hour Car pays for the gas, too, so we wouldn’t spend -$644. If I still drove the same number of miles, I’d still have the same carbon footprint ($104 carbon tax) and I’d still be paying to park ($240/yr).
- Rented a car for vacation: We could borrow a friend’s car for a few days or we could rent an Hour Car for $75 a day for the weekend, or rent a car at the airport for $350 a week. Last year we took a 2-week trip and traveled by train and bus. If we had to plan separately for transportation, it would make us more aware of the true cost of our trip.
Transit Cost Without Car Ownership: $5,074/yr -$5,194
Cost for Convenience: around $1,147-$1,267
That’s not as much of a difference as I expected. And if we took a 2-week vacation and paid to rent a car, it would be half that savings. But it’s possible that making this change would result in more changes. That we’d look for opportunities to carpool, or we’d drive even less.
We’ve talked it over and we’re going to try a month-long no-car challenge to see how it goes.