When I look back at my last year, aside from paying down debt and paying rent, my single biggest expense, by far, has been my car. I paid $4000 for it to a friend of mine, and registration, taxes, maintenance, and parts (oil changes, new battery this month, new muffler last winter) are in the vicinity of $1000, give or take a hundred bucks. Plus every month I pay a minimum of $100 in insurance and gas; my guess, although it really is only a guess, is that I’ve spent more like about $2000 on gas/insurance in the last thirteen months.
So basically what we’re saying here is that I could have, roughly, $7000 more in the bank right now if I’d resigned myself to biking/walking everywhere (plus I’d be in better shape). Or maybe $5000 if I’d rented a car every time I needed to make an out of town trip and bought bus tickets for local transportation.
Part of me is saying to myself: “if you really wanted to be financially sound, you wouldn’t have bought the car until you were more solvent, or better yet, you’d never have a car at all.”
And the rest of me, by far the biggest part, is saying: I love having a car. Actually, I don’t love my specific car; it’s a 2-door, which I don’t like, and I’d prefer to be a little higher up than my tiny low-slung sedan lets me be. But it’s fine as a car, and it’s more the principle of the thing: at age 35, I love having a car. I love that I’m killing my back less by hauling around groceries and books and whatever else. I love that taking an out of town trip doesn’t involve a ton of logistics around getting to the rental place, doing paperwork, blah blah. I love that it’s easy to get out to pick apples or hike or whatever. I lived in New York for 11 years. I went hiking in a state park in New Jersey once, because it was so complicated and expensive to get out there. I don’t have to beg and borrow when I need to transport boxes (I used to spend a lot of time in NY trying to figure out who I knew who had a car that I might be able to borrow for whatever.)
Mostly, though, I really love the feeling of security it gives me. If things go south with my job or my housing situation, I can carry more with me than a suitcase and a backpack. I can get to friends or family in other cities. Dealing with disaster is infinitely easier when you have a car. Even if there’s nothing dramatic, I’m still going to be moving again in the near future; I don’t have to entrust all my most valuables to movers; I can pack them in my car, like I did the last time. It is just so much easier.
So I guess it’s worth the constant ongoing costs, to me.