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Owning A Car In A City Is Shockingly Expensive–Don’t Do It

Chronicling the costs of unnecessary car ownership.

Owning A Car In A City Is Shockingly Expensive–Don’t Do It
[Top Photo: Dwight Smith via Shutterstock]

How much money could you save if you gave up your car? Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the car is paid off, so your only running costs are gas, insurance, maintenance and depreciation.

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Kati and Kurt Woock of Denver realized their car was costing $4,000 per year just to run. They decided to ditch the car and rely on bikes, car-sharing services, Uber and regular old car rental. The result? Well, given that Kurt was happy enough to write up the results in a blog post, you can probably guess. “The savings of not owning a car are insane,” he writes.

Andrew F. Kazmierski via

Which is to say that a car is almost useless in a city, where we have easy access to bike lanes, public transport and–increasingly–car-sharing schemes. But maybe you think you need a car for you out-of-town trips? Kurt has some great advice on that:

If you’re thinking of going carless, it’s tempting to fixate on trips that seem the most challenging without an engine — heading to the mountains, for example. Don’t do that. It’s discouraging. Instead, arrange all the trips you take in a year into a pyramid, with the most frequent trips (like your commute) at the bottom. Replace those trips first. Next, work your way up, replacing trips that repeat weekly, like the grocery store. Already you’ve replaced 75 percent of your car trips, which you’ll realize are only to a few different destinations. This discovery builds confidence.

And Kurt presumably had his own garage or similarly free parking space. Think about how many cars you could rent on parking costs alone. What about the convenience of hopping in the car to buy groceries? Well, a bike is great for grocery shopping if you use panniers (saddlebags), but if you don’t like that idea, there isn’t much that’s more convenient than dialing up an Uber on your smartphone. Better still, you don’t even have to park.

Filipe Frazao via Shutterstock

You could even order your boring groceries online and buy the fresh stuff daily from local stores. Imagine that. You might even rebuild your sense of community.

Outside of major cities, things are harder. Public transportation is sparse or non-existent. There are no car-sharing programs, and taking a bike down the highway isn’t something you do without some experience. But that’s fine. Rural and urban areas are quite different already. Leave the cars in the country, bus in from the ‘burbs, and cycle around the city.

Still not convinced? Unlike your car, which burns dirty gas, the engine of a bicycle runs on delicious pizza. And if you’re riding everywhere, you can eat as much as you like, which means you can also cancel that expensive gym membership.

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About the author

Previously found writing at Wired.com, Cult of Mac and Straight No filter.

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