It’s been four years now since we made a resolution, in an icy car park of a budget Manchester hotel, to drive less.
Eighteen months later, we’d sold our car – to see if we could live by hiring cars when we needed them, rather than owning one.
So how have we got on? I’ve written a few times about it so won’t go over old ground, but now that we’ve had two full calendar years without owning a car, I thought it’d be interesting to compare 2012 to 2013. What changed year on year? And why might that be?
As I’ve suggested before, it wasn’t really about the money. It was mainly an environmental decision – an attempt to reduce our family’s carbon footprint. But it was also about the money to a certain extent – particularly once we started using the car less, and saw it sat on the drive, slowly depreciating. So how much has it cost to not own a car?
These are the headline figures. In 2012, our travel costs (as a family of 3) totalled £4661. In 2013, that dropped to £3260 – a saving of £1401. So that’s a drop year-on-year of 30%.
In both years, car costs (mainly car hire and fuel) made up the majority of our travel costs. In 2012, we spent £2518 on cars and fuel – and in 2013 we spent £1809. That’s a reduction of just over £700 – a 28% drop.
Other costs dropped year on year too. In 2012 we spent £1331 on buses – and £912 in 2013 – a drop of £420 (or 32%). Meanwhile we spent £335 less on trains (£205 compared to £540) whilst the only thing we spent more on in 2013 was cycling – up from £163 to £273. Taxis made up the last bit of spending – £120 in 2012, and dropping by half to £57 in 2013.
So £1400 less spent in 2013 compared to 2012. Why? In short, we’ve adapted to not owning a car. We were pretty quick to hire in those early months – particularly at weekends. But slowly we changed how we got around. My son’s birthday is a good example. In the first year we hired a car to get to his party, carry his cake, bring his presents back. In the second year we got the bus – and – now that most of his friends’ parents know we don’t have a car – we got a lift back. £60 or so saved. One car fewer on the road.
Overall, in 2012 we hired a car 20 times – for a total of 96 days – the equivalent of around 1 day in 4. In 2013 we hired twelve times – for a total of 73 days – the equivalent of 1 day in 5. So around a 20% drop year on year – and as this graph suggests – car use was nearly all about school holidays – plus weekends away.
The other main change year on year was switching more short journeys to my bike. I bought a bike through the Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative Cycle To Work scheme – which meant I paid around £25 a month during 2013 out of my gross pay for a new bike. My cycling really picked up when Leeds Empties moved to new offices in Cross Green in the summer – as the daily commute is a perfect length for cycling – 5 miles – half an hour. So the amount I spent on bus fares reduced – as (to a certain extent) did my waistline.
I’ll write more over the next couple of weeks about how things have changed – and why we hope we’ll never go back to owning a car. But I suppose the main point I’d like to make is that I think what we’ve done (which I totally accept not everyone is in a position to do) wasn’t about a sudden, dramatic change. It was about steady, sustained changes in behaviour – bit by bit changing how we got around, so that eventually we were in a position to try to live without owning a car.