It wasn’t just about the money – although we’re hoping we will save a bit of cash – but I’m interested whether we end up spending more or less without a car sat on the drive. So I’ve been keeping track of our transport costs in November (and the last week of October)- and here they are in summary:
- We spent £240 on car hire and related costs (petrol, annual insurance, car club fee)
- We spent £218 on public transport
- So, with a few other things (including internet shopping delivery charges) in total the cost for a family of three getting round for five weeks without owning a car was just under £480.
A few facts to put these figures into context:
- £85 of the car hire costs are annual charges for insurance and car club membership.
- We hired a car twice for a total of ten days
- Around £200 of the public transport costs are costs we would have incurred if we still had a car – as that was for work travel (mostly on the bus) and visiting family (mostly train and the odd taxi).
- So, given that we estimated that the car cost us about £3000 to run, we’re on course to save a bit of money, but not much (based on around £240 costs over and above the public transport costs we would have incurred anyway).
Over five weeks our mileage in hire cars was 215 miles. This compares with a monthly average of around 500 miles a month over our final twelve months with a car. We’d got our monthly average mileage down from around 1000 miles a month in the previous 18 months. For me this is the most significant change.
So how have things changed?
- We’re walking more – short journeys of around a mile each way (e.g. to take my son to a weekly after-school activity) which we’d have done in the car – we’re now walking
- We’re shopping more regularly – more locally. We’re picking up things on the way home from work, or popping out to the shops a mile up the road. We’ve also had a couple of online supermarket deliveries for bulky stuff.
- I’m cycling more – it’s been fortunate that the weather’s been pretty mild – so I’ve been cycling to more work meetings.
I think the other stuff that’s interesting is how you need to be a bit more organised because you can’t always just pop out and get something that you need. So I’ll be taking the wheelbarrow up to the Christmas Fair at the local hospice this afternoon to buy our Christmas tree. Life takes a bit more planning when you haven’t got a car sat on the drive ready to go.
Have we missed the car? Not really – because when we’ve really needed one we’ve hired one. I think it does change what you choose to do in your leisure time though – we’ve noticed that we’re more regularly going to places that we can get to easily on the bus – which for us means Leeds city centre or Harrogate. Places like Wilkinson’s and Clas Ohlson – i.e. DIY stores in the city centre – come into their own when you don’t have a car to go out-of-town.
You might be thinking, “So what?” Fair enough. I’m not suggesting that everyone should give up their car. We live in a city, have only one child, and have jobs which mean that with a bit of organisation we can get around without a car. Our families live in places that we can easily get to on the train. Not everyone’s life is like ours.
But plenty of us could drive less, or perhaps consider giving up the second car. Or maybe share our car with other people. And, in some cases, follow our lead and give up the car altogether.
With years of austerity ahead, many people will need to look at how to spend less. For years it’s been a given that you learnt to drive at 17 and then as soon as you could afford it, you bought a car. That’s changing already – and this trend is bound to get stronger as we learn to adapt to a good few years of falling incomes.
More than anything, it feels good not to be such a part of car culture any more. In a small way we’re reducing demand for a finite resource. We’re also making a bit of a counter-cultural statement that personal progress (better job, earning more) doesn’t mean you need to buy a nice car to sit on the drive. And, you never know, I might finally get fit, before the midlife crisis hits……