Do You Really Need To Own a Car?

Blessing or Curse?

When you think about it, cars a pain in the neck. First of all, there’s the expense. Think about how much you spend every day just keeping it going: gas, parking, service, loan payments, insurance…There must be a better use of that money.

What if…? That’s always a good question. What if you could take the money that goes down your tailpipe, and put it towards the daily cost of an alternative means of transportation, like a taxi or shuttle service. When you need a vehicle for longer periods of time, like for moving things or for vacation travel, you could rent one. Is that so outrageous?


Just imagine the difference to the environment. Not just the air quality but also the roads. Less driving and less stress on you and on society. If you really want to imagine a different way, what if those rented vehicles had low emissions or zero emissions? After all, the technology exists.

It’s time for each of use to rethink how we move about on a day-to-day basis. If we all voiced our opinions on alternative transportation, and encouraged private companies to create new transportation services, it could make a real difference to the planet. And think of the money you might save. Hmm. What would I do with that extra money?

All this raises an even deeper question. Do we own our cars or do they own us?

Andrew Grant is the world’s first hybrid taxi driver. He introduced his Prius taxi to the not-so-mean streets of Vancouver in 2000, and logged 200,000 miles in just 25 months. Andrew’s Prius was snatched by Toyota. The automaker wanted a chance to study the durability of the hybrid batteries and other components, which held up amazingly well. See this video for details. He’s now driving his third Prius. Andrew has taken a break from taxi-driving, and now works as a professional coach helping his clients achieve personal excellence in various fields of endeavor.

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  • Guest

    Public transportation is inefficient in our low density suburban society not to mention that “public” means government which in turn means inefficient and corrupt. You think big oil is corrupt try big government where the regulator and the vested interests are one and the same. A car is also the ultimate in transportation independence and if fuel efficient will beat a bus hands down in fuel consumed per person transportation hour. Go watch current mass transport buses sometime and you will see they are often empty but consuming lots of smelly desiel. Of course the government could froce everyone to use its public monopoly with the operative word being “force”.

  • dkennington

    I know what you mean Don (I live in metro Atlanta)but I think you miss Grants point, it’s a chicken or egg thing in some ways, if less people drove those buses would be full. “Public” transportation hasn’t always meant government either. I just wish people would carpool, I’m amazed at the intelligent people I work with that all drive to work 30-40m in seperate 20mpg vehicles. Also Grant’s right, if you add up your car payment, insurance, fuel, maintenance, ect. it’s an appalling total.

  • Guest

    The “ultimate in transportation independence” is also the ultimate in self-absorbed conspicuous consumption. If I were queen of the universe, I’d open your eyes to the ridiculousness of your “empty buses” theory with a couple of rides on the 30 Stockton (bus in SF that is notoriously packed, Tokyo style, up until about 11 PM). Not everyone lives in the ‘burbs, thank God. And sorry in advance for saying this, but those of you who have fled the cities for the luxury (yeah, I said luxury) of a yard, a single family home with a separate bedroom each for Junior and Jill a den for dad and a sewing room for mom, a good public school and the absence of those icky poor and/or colorful people instead of working toward more livable cities and a sustainable future, deserve the (ever increasing) expense of your car. I would say to hell with you, and let you stew in your own soulless suburban mown lawn sanitized hell if your choices weren’t choking the planet. (disclaimer–I may appear to be generalizing non-urban dwellers, but I really am only talking about a certain subset of suburbanites–those that fit the profile I have outlined. I am not suggesting that everyone who lives outside of a city is a racist/classist/wasteful moron, or that no one inside a city fits the profile–we all know that ain’t true). If public transportation is not currently convenient, we need to work on it and make it convenient enough to make the added expense of owning your own “ultimate transportation independence” not worth it. If we don’t, we’re all equally screwed, whether we take the bus or drive a hummer.

  • Guest

    If there was a “half-decent” public transportation system around here, I would definitely get rid of my car. I suppose I could try harder to find someone to car pool with… but I don’t know of anyone at work close by…

    Andrew, you forgot to mention the luxury of reading a book or something instead of staring at the roads. Of course, there are plenty of bad drivers around that I am not really sure most people keep their eyes on the road in the first place.

    All that time spent at the DMV, mechanic, etc… why is owning a car such a PITA?

  • Guest

    Interestingly, my interest in owning a car was that I’d be able to get to more bicycle races. Now that I have one, I use it for a lot more than that, but we still manage to keep our driving down to about 12000km a year — about 7500 miles. I cycle to commute, even in the winter (down to about -25C). My commute is about 10km. I live in one of the largest cities in North America by area: Edmonton, AB. If anywhere has a sprawl problem, it’s this place. It’s all stop and go traffic, too, since our freeway system is still stuck in a small-town mentality.

    A large part of the problem is the way our North American cities are built. I can walk to a bakery in about 10 minutes, but the nearest grocery store is more than half an hour’s walk. I don’t live in a suburb. The downtown is slightly better, but you’re probably still well served by having a car to run your errands. We’re so entranced with giant stores that we’ve forced out the small stores that would actually make our lives more convenient.

    So, yeah. Buy a fuel efficient vehicle. Walk or bike to work. If you can’t do it all the way, drive half the way to work and get your bike out of the trunk. Anything. It’s good for you, and it’s good for the Earth. Everything else is just excuses.

  • Guest

    I call my daily vehicle a pedal/coast hybrid. I have a van that sits and waits for appropriate useage (hauling/traveling) and the bus system takes me everywhere I need to go outside of the city. Bottom line is NOBODY needs to drive everyday. Not everyone can dump the car but everone can reduce their dependency and purhapse even phase it out as a necessity. And while i’m on the soapbox, lets stop addicting our kids to the auto. A car should no longer act as a right of passage to adulthood.

  • Guest

    I think one of the underlying issues (at least in America) is that we are lazy by nature. It is so easy for someone to jump in their own car to get where they want to go, that even significant money savings gets ignored. That said there are many people (like myself) who have joined a car pool. There are seven of us who ride to work together every morning. It’s both relaxing and conducive to work-place comraderie. The problem as I see it is that car pooling and other alternative transportation is not readily available to everybody. This is the first company I’ve worked for that actually had a car pool program, and I couldn’t even join the pool until someone else dropped out and freed up a seat in our van. Until we get to the point where access is easy, cheap, and readily available to most commuters, our highways will remain clogged and our skys will continue to become polluted.

  • Guest

    My wife and I share one car. She needs a car to get to work in the suburbs. I bike or bus to work. We save a lot of money this way and it turns out that we really didn’t need two cars. We halved our driving because I never drive anywhere unless absolutly necessary. I second what andrew said, it is hard to get a carpool going because people are really reluctant to give up their ability to run errands after work. If you don’t drive you need the discipline to plan shopping trips or accept paying more at the local small grocery.

  • Guest

    A big Yes for Bike and Transit as a commuter’s mode of choice. I live in the rural northeast and a combo of bike to bus stop, private bus company, and then a local bus takes me to work every day. It does take twice as long to travel the 25 miles but I would never drive a blood drenched oil powered vehicle if I can help it. Besides I cherish my bus ride as I enjoy the beautiful landscape, watch interesting people, and make new friends along the way. I would say that my time is well spent reading, socializing and relaxing with a clean concsience. Yes at times the wait at the bus stop may be inconvenient in heavy rain or snow, but if you got the right gear on, you will be ready to face the elements of nature for ten minutes at a time. Yes, it takes quite an effort to juggle bus schedules and daily trip planning but it is better than dealing with car insurance companies, vehicle maintenance, and deicing, snow clearing needed for a car for several months of the year in sub zero temperatures early in the morning. You mention some financial savings too? Well, I would rather spend the couple of grand I save on my next vacation, season tickets, and other things I enjoy. Happy alternates modes of travel everyone.

  • Guest

    Yes I do need a car in nj. I also like my car vw jetta diesel 38 city 46 highway.

  • John Acheson

    My last car was the highest mileage car ever made and I regularly got 54-67 MPGS, but it still cost over $500 per month…The car before that was my Tacoma 4 banger 2WD truck…Before I divorced cars about 18 months ago, I ran this analysis, what do you think???

    Financed Insight Financed Truck Used Car
    Down Payment $0.00 $0.00 $2,000.00
    Monthly Repairs $25.00 $25.00 $100.00
    Monthly Payments $224.00 $275.00 $0.00
    Gasoline @ $2.5 $109.09 $150.00 $120.00
    Bridge Toll $96.00 $96.00 $96.00
    Registration $12.50 $12.50 $4.17
    Insurance $85.00 $80.00 $65.00
    Total 1st Month $551.59 $638.50 $2,385.17
    Total 1st Year $6,619.09 $7,662.00 $4,622.00

    The bottom line is that consumers don’t realize that transportation is the largest household expense aside from rent. If you own your home, it’s the largest source of cash getting flushed down the toilet.

    Let’s assume I spend $100/mo. on biking, busing, and training per month, over a 30 year life that’s $36,000!!! Add $150 worth of car-sharing to that and it goes up to $90,000!!!

    What about if you own an hybrid bought for $11,000 and financed at below 7%??? According to the figures above the first 5 years would be a conservative $6K and then $300 per month after the loan is paid off. For a 30 year life, the highest mileage hybridon the planet would cost $120,000!!!

    How about a high mileage truck, $150,000 per life. For a SUV that breaks down frequently, I would estimate $250-300K per 30 years. Some people drive 50 years of their life which could exceed half a million dollars!!!

    The bottom line is that divorcing your car could save enough money to buy a reasonably priced house in middle America.

    This brings up the question, why are people so happy to pay into car financing, insurance, gas, tolls, parking, maintenance, etc. How did we get programmed to swallow these costs to form the richest and most powerful groups in the world: automakers, govt, insurance and oil organizations?

    After 30 years of paying into transportation, what did the oil company, govt, insurance company or car company give you back?

    At least when you buy a house, you get an asset. That’s the difference between an investment and expense. Transportation is an expense not an investment!!!

  • rahman

    Definatly its a curse…but the problem is that you can’t live with it specially you live in outside big citites in USA. I spend almost 20% of my income on cars hence i always has headace to maintain it..worried about gas price and if you ever visited a auto repire shop…you know how traceful and expnesive it can be…So I wise i did nto need a car to live. But unfortunate truth is i have to have a car to live…no lternative….


  • joe

    it’s a sad state of affirs. Go to another country and look at their transportation systems. The only US city the even competes is NYC. I live in boston, and the T is $5 billion in debt and old. It takes a decade just to get the OK to extend the a line. Change is going to come. We can’t sustain this way of life without killing ourselves, so be ready for it. The governemt will be taxing cars that get poor MPG and giving tax breaks to hybrids. You can also look for similar taxes dished out to houses in the suburbs. we need density in order to live efficiently – we can’t keep on the path we have been on. not to mention the suburbs suck. our cities need some life breathed into them. get rid of the cars and replace them with bikes, people, and trains.