Low Car Diet Math

The end of the Zipcar Low Car Diet is tomorrow. It was a complete and total success from my point of view. I didn’t drive the Civic a single time, and Lisa only drove it about 4-5 times, to go to doctor’s appointments and such. I ended up taking the bus four times, and biking the rest of the days. The experiment was such a success, I decided to run some numbers to see what it would be like to get rid of the car altogether. During the warm months, I can bike most places, so the costs of owning a car are pretty much only the insurance. But let’s look ahead to the colder winter months when I might not be biking as often.
First, the current costs of the Civic. Insurance, now that I got a new policy, costs only $30/month. Gas is probably about $40-50/month. Maintenance and such, averaged out over the year, probably runs around $30-50/month as well. So we’re looking at anywhere from $100-150/month.
Now, going car-free. Taking the bus every day would cost $2.50 a day. Averaging around 20-22 work days per month, it’ll cost about $50-55/month.
Even looking at keeping the car and riding my bike every day (only expense being insurance at $30) versus riding the bus every day ($50), I’d only be saving $20/month, and obviously it’s not a fair comparison. At this point, it kind of looks like getting rid of the car is a good idea. There is one more thing though: extracurricular activities like curling.
During the curling season, I usually play on Sundays and Mondays. When I play on Sunday, the whole family comes to watch and have pizza, so I wouldn’t need the car for that. On Monday evenings, I could take the Metro to a station in Maryland with a Zipcar and rent that for 3 hours or so. If I had a late game, I could even just drive the minivan (or the Zipcar from the Vienna station), since the Metro closes around midnight, and our games probably wouldn’t be done in time to Metro home. On those days, renting a Zipcar for 3 hours at $7-9/hour would cost $21-27/week, or about $80/month. Even with those numbers, it’s a close contest. $100-$150/month for the car versus $50 (bus fare) plus $80 (Zipcar) equals $130/month.
Let’s also consider that selling our Honda Civic hybrid could get us about $13k. That could help accomplish any number of things. $13k would go a long way toward defraying the Zipcar costs. I could also upgrade the lights and such on my bike. Or, it could help pay off a good portion of the $20k we have left to pay on our minivan (which costs over $420/month in payments). And it’s here that it starts to look better for the selling argument. Selling the car for $13k and having $130/month in Zipcar and public transportation costs gives me 100 months of costs paid for. That’s over 8 years! Let’s say I “only” get $11k for the car, and that my Zipcar and public transportation costs balloon to $200/month. I still have 55 months, 4 and a half years, of expenses paid for by selling the car. And all those numbers assume that I don’t ride my bike and that I use the Zipcar a lot! Suddenly, owning a car seems like a silly idea. I am going to have to seriously consider it.