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Wall Street Journal: Get rid of your car

by Richard Masoner

It’s a strange new world indeed when the Wall Street Journal publishes an article showing how much of a money pit the family car is.

If you really want to see where your money is going, take a closer look at your car. Foreign or domestic, it doesn’t matter. It’s a cash guzzler, and it is probably costing you more than anything else except your home.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics calculated that in 2006 vehicles sucked down nearly 17 cents of every family dollar. Maybe it’s time for smart families to consider some really tough choices.

Read more. Hat tip to the folks at Xtracycle.

 
The Chariot Summer Sale - 2013

21 Responses to “Wall Street Journal: Get rid of your car”

  1. WheelDancer says:

    Hmmm, I downgraded to a 16 year old car that cost me less than my road bike and gets less miles than my bikes. I did recently move into a more urban setting but from my current location downtown Mpls. is five miles on a bike trail that usually gets plowed sooner than the street I live on.

    Great story to have on the Wall Street Journal!

  2. jamesmallon says:

    Suburban housing is not really cheaper than urban housing.

    You can argue the math, but for myself I discovered that if my wife and I each have cars, we have enough less money that we have to buy a house $200K cheaper. That is, we can live in the suburbs (and need cars), or live in the city (and not need them) for a similar price.

    We prefer the city, not to commute an hour to work, won’t live somewhere we have to let a teenager drive, and do not want the ten extra pounds that Canadian suburbanites have over urbanites.

  3. John in Portland says:

    It’s like duh! We all know that. My wife and I went down to one car a year ago, and really noticed how much we saved. We drove the remaining car only 5000 miles

    Believe me, get rid of all but one car. (Or better yet, go all the way.)

  4. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    For a laugh, I have thought how much money it would cost to buy a cheap car, fix it, put tires all around, send the insurance dealer’s kids through college, and feed an addiction like all the other junkies at the corner gas station…. I would be broke!
    Did I tell my bikes how much I love them today?

    I’ll admit I do spend a little money on the bus, but my bike rides free” and like today, it was in the twenties, light wind and a little sun” It was a nice 50 minute – 8 mile ride, as the snow covered streets were something to enjoy” without a car!

  5. Stuart says:

    Here in Japan we have to shell out about $1000 for a mandatory “car inspection” every two years. The city car tax is $348 every year. Those are on top of all the other usual car expenses and the $4 a gallon of gasoline ($7 last summer). I really want to get rid of the car, but the wife says no. Hey, getting rid of the car would cost $600 for recycling!

    Well, I’m going to keep riding my bicycle, whether I have a car or not.

  6. John Mayson says:

    I emailed the writer thanking him for the piece. Perhaps he’ll write more about the carfree lifestyle.

    It was economics that finally made me go all the way. We were a two-car family, but I rode about 1/3 of the time. One of the cars died and I couldn’t justify spending $6k a year (or more) on something that sat in my garage or parking lot 97% of the time. I live 4.2 miles from work and live in a bike friendly city with generally good weather. No excuses. I commute 100% by bike and often run errands on it.

    John in Austin

  7. Mike in KC says:

    Exactly! We had our 93 Civic need a new engine a few years ago and putting $3000 into a new engine when I didn’t drive it but a few days every so often was crazy! Spending $40 on a bus pass for transportation for the month puts a different perspective on spending $250 on a car payment plus insurance plus gas…not to mention the aggravation of driving 25 miles each way…

    Of course, I said to my wife “I think the one car thing is going well” and she said because you do all the sacrificing…

  8. John says:

    @Mike in KC

    I know what you’re saying. I do 100% of the biking, but it’s my wife who thinks we need the second car while I don’t. Not really what you’d expect. I cannot think of a single time in the past 7 months where having a single car has been a huge problem.

  9. Roger says:

    So our choices are

    1) Living the eccentric, self-sufficient country life
    2) Living in the exurbs with crazy car commutes
    3) Living in the ‘burbs with one or two cars (because the bus doesn’t come here, either)
    4) Surrendering to utter dependency on big gov’t to maintain our cozy little urban infrastructure and have everything trucked into us

    I think more people can live car-free than do, but there’s no way it will ever be for everybody, and in my opinion it’s not even desireable. I’d like to see all communities (even suburbs) planned more around people than around the car, and I’d like it if the car were not an expected “price of admission” to society. But the world is a big place with lots of open spaces and great distances and I will happily retain my automobiles and the freedom they still represent despite the cost, TYVM.

    My hats off to those of you who choose a car-free life, but I respect and admire anyone who replaces at least some car trips with bike trips. I agree with the WSJ in that change is coming.

  10. John says:

    @Roger

    I seem to gravitate to lost causes. The way North American cities and suburbs are laid-out is completely unfriendly to all modes of transportation except for motorized vehicles. Some of us are lucky (or in my case planned it this way) and live close to work and can get to our place of employment by bike.

    Rarely do I look at Europe and think “Hey, they’re doing things right!” But I am envious of countries like The Netherlands and Denmark with their bicycle culture and Switzerland with its train system. I would very much like to mimic that here, but I know a.) we don’t have the population density Europe has b.) our cities continue to grow while theirs are largely static c.) there’s no way in **** Americans will give up their cars.

    I do sense some people are starting to wake up to the fact that the reason for many of their financial difficulties is sitting in their garage. The problem is few are willing to give up their car because it’s a need. And yes, for many people it is a need. It’s unreasonable to expect people to migrate from the fringes of the wilderness into relatively tiny apartments in the city center.

    Everything from car manufacturing to road building to supporting the oil industry is just too ingrained into our psyche to vanish overnight. But hey, I can dream. :-)

  11. Sean says:

    It’s awesome that bicycle commuting is getting more mainstream press! I commute across the Golden Gate Bridge every day for work and did a little calculation (when gas was about $4 a gallon) and calculated how much I could save by bicycle commuting and carpooling. It came out in the thousands per year. And that’s not even including the cost of ownership and maintenance of a car. http://www.seanchon.com/2008/05/why-cycle-commuting-to-work-is-better-than-driving-alone/

    Now the tough part. How do we keep ourselves motivated when it’s cold and wet outside and the days are short? I know that’s been my biggest excuse when avoiding the bicycle commute this winter.

  12. siouxgeonz says:

    Many households have more cars than necessary. Cutting back on one car often isn’t “going car-free.”

    I’m not sure whether it was going to happen anyway, but soemthign happened when I put the Xtracycle Free Radical on my Giant; or perhaps it was being given a hand-me-down Gore-tex rain suit. I’d hear the morning weather report and think, “Adventure time! What shall I wear?” instead of “should I ride or drive?”

    It was getting out and riding in the bad weather that made me realize it was usually fun.

  13. John says:

    @siouxgeonz

    You’re absolutely right. I’m really “car lite”. I generally only use the car on weekends, but yes, I do use a car.

    I personally know families who own more vehicles than they have drivers. They park them in the garage, the driveway, and even the street. I don’t understand why anyone needs to own so many vehicles.

  14. Ciego says:

    I live in Southern California and have been commuting by bike for three years. I don’t think in places like this and with a family one can have only one car, but one can do more bike commuting as one of the readers suggested.

    I am surprised that the WSJ suggests such a choice, but it seems like commuting by bike really is a trend toward environmentally friendly commutes and cost savings.

  15. xcskimt (Robert) says:

    A good article. I have been commuting by bike for the last four years. I have been contemplating dropping to one car. Last year was the first year I biked more than I drove. My wife, still drives in my opinion too much but she is slowly giving in to some of my eccentrics. Green Bay is not as nice as far as bike lanes as say Portland, Madison, San Diego, and Minneapolis but it is improving. Maybe I can have her try commuting in the Spring.

  16. Ellen says:

    I agree the majority of American cities are not laid out for bikes. We currently are a 1 car, 2 bike household and drive the car only 1 time per week (to a location that is not accessible by bikes or bus). We take that opportunity in the car to piggy-back on some grocery shopping and errand running. While I know this is not feasible for many people, I have a problem with people who live one mile (or less) from work and still drive their cars their. At that distance you could even walk.

  17. John says:

    @Ellen – My neighborhood has central mailboxes instead of curbside ones. I have been in my front yard and watched people get in their cars and DRIVE three houses down to get their mail and then return home.

  18. Paul says:

    Judging by so many of these comments and responses, maybe getting rid of THE WIFE that says there has to be so many cars in the family or relationship! I went carfree about 3 years ago and have dated even bike riding women (commuters and sport) that have made fun of their past “dates” with guys (in front of me) because they didn’t own a car! I haven’t met a single woman that didn’t own and use a car, even if she was a avid bike rider. I know several guys, including 4 of my friends who don’t have a car. WOMAN + RELATIONSHIP = MUST HAVE CAR has been my experience. I don’t date much anymore… neither do 3 of my carfree friends.

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  20. Stuart M. says:

    Shankyrhodes, thanks for that obvious spam posting. I hope it gets deleted. Where is the “report this post” button when you need one?

    Paul, I feel for you. I remember going on dates using public transportation when I lived in Europe, that was no big deal. BUT… in America a man is measured by the type of gasoline-powered wheelchair he drives. I have to think there must be some women bicyclists out there who would gladly go on a bicycling date to a cool restaurant out in the boonies somewhere during the daytime on a Saturday or Sunday. Try the Internet, there must be some way to hook up with local enthusiasts. BUT DON’T RIDE OFF AND LEAVE THE WOMAN A MILE BEHIND YOU, you get the best view (and will arrive at the restaurant hardly sweaty at all) from riding behind her. I have long fantasized about tandem biking on a date, but it has never happened. I thought getting an Xtracycle attachment would be neat for carting around my wife, but she took one look at the brochure and said she was not getting on that.

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