In it, Liz Goulding, writing for Strong Towns member, Patrick Kennedy’s blog, Street/Smart, talks about her family’s experience going from owning one car instead of two. Changing job circumstances mean they will be going back to having two cars.
My husband and I bought a car this weekend, and it was officially the end of an era. It was the end of us being a one-car household. My husband’s workplace is trading in an old building in Plano for a new one in Frisco, meaning he’s trading in the DART Red Line for the Dallas North Tollway. So now I’m left reflecting over the past three years: the good, the bad, and if I managed to learn anything about myself or Dallas in the process. Because I know most people don’t make it to the end of a blog post, I will give you my biggest takeaway now: sharing one car wasn’t just tolerable, it was genuinely enjoyable.
She goes on to point out that moving from a two-car to a one-car household won’t work for everyone.
Will sharing a car work for everyone? Obviously not. It depends on your work commute and travel requirements during work hours. It depends on how many kids you have and their school and extracurricular transportation needs. It also depends on what part of the city you live in. But I want to emphasize that even here in Dallas, the positives vastly outweighed the negatives.
I’ve always been careful to acknowledge this as well. I’ve been able to successfully go carless, but realize that being single, childless and living within an easy walk or bike ride to work (and now telecommuting) provide distinct advantages that the average American does not enjoy.
Still, I like to encourage people to give lessening their car dependence some consideration. While getting rid of a vehicle all-together may be too big of a leap, perhaps you can find a day or two of the week where you can make an alternative work. That’s a great start. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
There are a number advantages to ditching a car. Your budget being one of the biggest. Driving is not cheap as Liz Goulding talks about in her piece:
Of all the things that are going to change, this one brings me the most sadness. In addition to buying a car and paying for its continual upkeep, we are about to spend thousands of dollars in toll fees annually for my husband’s commute from Oak Cliff to Frisco. Thousands. Plural. As an adjunct community college instructor it will be like an entire 3-hour class I teach this year never happened financially. In case you were wondering what multi-layered futility feels like, there you go.
One of the biggest advantages is the amount of money you can save! Gas, maintenance, insurance, parking... it all adds up. This is money that could be spend on dining out, traveling and entertainment.
And it’s not just about having a little extra disposable income. This is fundamentally about building wealth. AAA estimates the cost of owning and maintaining a vehicle to be $9,000 per year (includes depreciation). My friend Mike Williams, a City Commissioner in Fargo and one of my favorite communicators on cities, talks a lot about how the $9,000 saved by not owning a car is enough to pay the mortgage payments on a home in a walkable neighborhood.
A well thought-out home purchase can be a tremendous way to build wealth whereas a car, at the end of the day, is a depreciating asset.
As I said earlier, not everyone is in a position to ditch their car. But it is becoming increasingly easy thanks to things like ride sharing and car sharing services (think Lyft, Uber, ZipCar, Car2Go, HourCar etc). These services coupled with investments cities are making in walkability, bikeability and public transit are making the decision to reduce driving and perhaps even ditch a car, an increasingly plausible option. Look for more on that in a future post.
Finally, while I’ve focused on the financial benefits, there are plenty of other benefits to being able to get rid of a car. The Street Smart piece referenced in this post gives some good perspective on those. I highly recommend checking it out.
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