Un-driving the car: the last vroom

For the first time in the nearly ten years I’ve been driving cars, I do not own one.

Today I sold my Toyota Rav 4. The last of a long line of Toyotas that I’ve owned, starting with my 1995 Toyota Corolla that I got for $5,000 when I was 15 years old and on my learner’s permit.

Over the last several months I’ve been playing with the idea of not having a car. I’d have to go out and start it up just to make sure the battery wasn’t drained. At times, I’d only really drive it once or twice a month, and usually that was just to get something taken care of for the car.

I no longer own a car and don’t intend on buying another. For now, I’m relying on my trusty Jamis bicycle and my Kymco motorbike. I’ll rent a car for really long trips. My new mantra for life is, “Never trust a man on four wheels.”

I thought it’d be interesting to try and figure up how much money I’ve spent on cars over the years. Here’s the best I can remember, as conservatively as possible:

1995 Toyota Corolla – $5,000 purchase price + $1,400 for insurance annually for 4 years + $650 for a new axle + gas and oil. I don’t remember how much I spent on gas or oil changes, but if you take the average price of wear and tear on a car at that time of .39 cents a mile x 12,000 miles a year, I spent about $4,680 a year on oil and gas + taxes of $150 a year.

= $30,120 over the four years I owned that car.

 

2006 Volkswagen Beatle – $6,000 purchase price + $600 for a new battery, radiator, turn signal, wipers and tires + .40/mile for 6 months I owned it (6,000 miles) + $650 for insurance.

= $9,650 over the six months I owned that piece of crap car.

 

2008 Toyota Yaris – $15,500 purchase price + $1,300 annually for insurance x 2 years + $212 taxes annually x 2 years + .49/mile for 36,000 miles (what it had when I sold it).

= $36,164 over the two years I owned that car.

 

2003 Toyota Rav 4 – 10,800 purchase price + $590 for insurance over 6 months + $180 in taxes + .49 mile for the 7,000 miles I drove it over 6 months.

= $15,000 over just 6 months.

Now, if you take away the sell price of each of these ($1,700 for the Corolla, $4,500 for the Beatle, $12,000 for the Yaris and $7,000 for the Rav), I’ve spent at least $65,734 for car stuff over 10 years.

I’ve tried to balance getting a good car for a good price at the demand I had for driving at the time. The Corolla was my first car, the Beatle was my second but it had too many maintenance problems. The Yaris was when I was living in the suburbs and commuting downtown for an hour one way every day. The Rav was my middle-ground after the Yaris when I started working from home.

This doesn’t factor in little things, like the floor mats I replaced in all of the cars, car washes, parking fees and other little piddly things that get in the way. I spent $250 on the Rav right after I bought it to get the window tint replaced and fixed. But at the very least, $66,000 in car-related expenses. Would you like to have $66,000, because I know I would.

That’s why this ends today. I sold my Rav, paid off the difference of about $4,000 and I no longer have a car payment. I wanted to unload it fast because in the next three months I would have had to pay $550 for insurance, $150 for taxes and registration renewal and $750 for car payments, plus it was due for an oil change and it would likely need new tires and brakes. Or about $2,100. In just three months, not counting gas, which costs the average American about $6,000 a year.

I just got back from a quick trip to the bank, on my bicycle in the slushy snow, and it didn’t cost me anything and was just as quick as a car (in fact, I followed a car from the bank to my neighborhood just as quickly as they could drive). The bike was $550 when I bought it. At that rate, I could buy about 119 bicycles for the price of all the car expenses I’ve had over the years. My motorbike, which I bought for just under $4,000 costs about $5 to fill up with gas, the insurance rates are less than half what I paid for the car and I can park just about anywhere I want and goes just as comfortably fast as a car.

Now I get to save, and save, and save…


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About JUSTIN HARTER

Justin has been around the Internet long enough to remember when people started saying “content is king”.

He has worked for some of Indiana’s largest companies, state government, taught college-level courses, and about 1.1M people see his work every year.

You’ll probably see him around Indianapolis on a bicycle.

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