Yeah, I’m keeping the car

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.

3 thoughts on “Yeah, I’m keeping the car

  1. I hear ya. My car is costing me a pretty penny this month with registration, a couple smaller repairs, and just the normal stuff like car insurance and gas. It’s going to eat up all of my planned spending account this month. But I need it. And I know “need” is relative. Living in a smaller city with highways to work (or 4x as long to get there and I’m not biking 40k each way) and unreliable public transportation means that I’m going to have a car. I think we’re doing well in that we only have one car though.

  2. DebtFreeJD says:

    Getting a car was probably the single most transformational thing that every happened to us. No more buses! No more trains. No more rental cars. But really, NO MORE BUSES. Ugh. There were so many buses before. And they were so crowded. And the bus trips lasted for hours. And hours. And hours. And there was only the horrible stinky bus bathroom.

  3. I struggle with this – right now we have two cars and I feel guilty about that. We could make do with one car here, but I have no idea where we’ll be in a year so we’re keeping it for now. I would never try to go completely carless, for all the reasons you mentioned. We try to walk or bike when possible, but we like to move around on the weekends and a car makes that possible.

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