The savings can be significant

Could You Give Up Your Car?

by Rich Finzer

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According to AAA, the annual cost to own and operate a car in 2015 was $8,698.

With many Americans moving back into cities and many recent college grads struggling with student loan payments, there are a lot of people who simply can't afford a car, even if they did want one. So imagine for a moment the dollars you'd save if you didn't own what some folks regard as a mobile money pit.

  • No car payment
  • No vehicle depreciation of roughly 30 percent the instant you drive it off the lot.
  • No car insurance, so no need for that lizard to save you 15 percent.
  • No registration or annual vehicle inspection fees.
  • No need to replace routine maintenance items like wiper blades, air filters or headlamps.
  • No more buying/adding washer fluid.
  • No trips to the car wash, or periodic detailing.
  • No need for oil changes or new batteries.
  • No need for rust proofing, or annual re-applications.
  • No major repairs such as shocks/struts or brakes.
  • No parking fees or parking tickets.
  • No traffic tickets.
  • No wheel alignments, tire rotations or, for that matter, tires!
  • No annual auto club dues.
  • And no more buying gasoline at today's sky high prices!

So is going vehicle-free a viable strategy for everyone? Absolutely not! Maybe you use your car for work like real estate agents do. Those folks can at least write off some vehicle expenses on their income taxes. Should you sell your beloved antique car? Nope. In most cases, you service it yourself and worked darn hard to buy it. It's your toy, so play with it. But keep the following thoughts in mind as well.

During the 1950s and well into the 1960s, most families owned one car and shared it, so maybe you could adopt that strategy and still save gobs of money by dumping ride #2.

If you live in an urban area with an established transit system of buses or light rail, for goodness sake, use it! After all, you tax dollars help fund it. As an example, a college friend of mine has lived in New York City for 43 years, has never owned a car, and manages quite nicely. And if you're retired and living on a fixed income, you and your spouse could probably learn to share a car or go without, just like you did when you were first married. With the money you'd save, you could afford to take that second honeymoon, visit the grandkids more often, or tuck the savings into a rainy day fund.

Related: Selling Your Car for the Best Price

Better still, some cities like Seattle, Boston and Aspen have adopted car-sharing programs. Most are funded through government or foundation grants and are aimed at cutting traffic congestion, parking shortages, and air pollution. If a program like that is available where you live, check out the details. It would certainly simplify getting around town while running local errands. The rub is that programs of this type work best in densely populated areas, where the startup costs can be spread across thousands of urban dwellers.

"But, Rich, we were planning a cross-county road trip to the national parks out west. How would we manage that without a car?" And to those stricken by wanderlust, I'd respond, "Rent one." I'm not suggesting you give up driving. I'm suggesting that you pay for the use of a car when you want/need it. Just keep your driver's license current. The teachable moment is that owning a car is an expensive proposition, but renting or sharing a vehicle preserves your personal mobility while still saving you a ton of money.

Updated May 2016

Rich Finzer resides in upstate New York. During his 43 years as a writer, he has published nearly 1,100 newspaper, magazine and Internet articles. His award winning book, Maple on Tap is available from his publisher; Acres USA. His two novels, Taking the Tracks and Julie & Me, are available from Amazon Kindle.

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