Nonetheless, the car costs make the reasons to consider it are really appealing.
Gas is expensive. Maintenance costs are crushing. Insurance rates are daunting. Motor vehicle taxes are exorbitant. Car payments seem downright stupid. And driving is just plain bad for the environment. When you add up the padding it could mean for your budget, it sure looks like a super smart step to take, but ditching your gas guzzler is tough. As with all personal finance decisions, parting ways with your car is something that deserves careful consideration.
Here are three questions to ask yourself before getting rid of your car:
Can my family survive on fewer cars?
- Back in 2008, The U.S. Department of Transportation estimated the 304 million people in America owned a total of 256 million cars. That means we’re currently paying to keep 8/10 of a car on the road for every man, woman and child in America! It also means, we’re still living under the Baby Boom-era belief that every American should have a car. Do you really need all the cars your family owns? Ditching those payments, insurance and other car costs could mean enough for a much nicer annual vacation for your fam. (One they’ll complain less about.) Or a way bigger television for the living room. (What American family doesn’t want that?)
- Translation: Odds are, your family has more than one car. If you don’t need them all, consolidate. Look at your weekly transportation needs and see if intra-family carpooling is an option. It could translate to a way bigger family budget without your clan losing much in the way of convenience.
Can I take (new, improved) public transportation?
- Real-time data is making public transportation a whole lot more convenient across America. Gov 2.0 efforts are opening transportation data APIs all across the U.S., which means you can now know exactly when your bus or train will arrive at your stop based on GPS tracking of those vehicles. (Boston just opened up its subway train data this week.) Where before you used to have to run to catch the train or bus, you can now pop open your smartphone and watch it move from stop to stop on a map. This kind of innovation will make it much easier for urban commuters to take public transit than ever before.
- Translation: If you could take public transportation before but have been opting out of it, now might be a great time to make the switch. Unfortunately, this new technology doesn’t mean public transportation is now an option if it wasn’t before.
Can I use public car sharing to meet my transit needs?
- Let’s face it: Having a car is convenient. Driving can save you a ton of hassle and time. But if you don’t drive your car every day, you’re losing a bunch of money to insurers each month. Maybe you just like having a car to make weekend trips? Maybe all you care about is having a car to get groceries each week? If you live in one of the 50+ major cities or near the 100+ colleges and universities currently being served by Zipcar, parting with your car without having to lose that convenience could be even easier than you think. Car sharing basically gives whole communities access to cars within a 5-minute walk that they can rent by the hour. And, with emerging services like RelayRides popping up, car sharing is getting even cheaper.
- Translation: Car sharing can save you a ton of money if you’re just hanging onto your car for weekend getaways. Plus, it gives you options about the kinds of vehicles you can rent, so hanging onto that pickup truck is way less important than it was. But if your town or neighborhood doesn’t currently have car sharing as an option, you might want to hang onto your ride.
Ultimately, making the choice to break up with your car can feel brutal. If it seems like a good idea, but you can’t quite get yourself to do it, think about all the money you’ll walk away with. If a few thousand dollars in your pocket isn’t incentive enough, we don’t know what is.
Let us know how you decided to ditch your car in the comments section below!
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