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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