I am 33 years old and I don’t own a car. Today, let me tell you why.
Of course there are benefits to having your own car – you’re not tied down to public transport schedule, you can go on a road trip as you please and you don’t get have to worry about bad Uber ratings just because you brought your pet for the ride.
BUT these benefits come at a cost. That average cost in the UK is somewhere around £400 per month. Before I get into my reasons for not capitalising on these benefits, let’s clear some things about the infrastructure I am surrounded by:
- my house is located approx 12 minutes on foot from the nearest train station (that’s walking London pace, aka boarderline powerwalk)
- there are 3 bus stops within an easy walk
- the nearest supermarket is located also approx 12 minutes away. The nearest large supermarket is 20 minutes away
- I commute to work, the office is 9 miles away. My work is located in the financial city and within the congestion charge zone
- I live in London, in a neighbourhood served by the Overground, Southern and Thameslink train services
- there are no bike hire options in my immediate neighbourhood
- there is a handful of zipcar vehicles available in the area
It is also worth saying that London, and the UK as a whole, has a well-functioning public transport. I might complain about train delays once in a while, but on the whole it’s pretty good.
So, let’s move onto the key reasons of why I don’t have a car.
Travel to work
The average off-peak journey to my office takes 42 minutes in a car. In peak hours it will take over 1 hour. By comparison, the fastest journey I ever accomplished on public transport was 36 minutes (12 minutes walk to the station, 1 minute wait time for a train, 11 minutes fast transit from my station to London Bridge, 12 minutes walk to the office). My average journey is closer to 45 minutes, because I walk slowly.
Cost wise, my monthly travelcard is £137.10 – it covers unlimited transit from my station into central London stations and back. It also provides a discount for ticket purchases on routes across the UK.
I have not calculated the fuel costs, but given that my work is in the congestion charge zone, just driving in Monday-Friday would cost somewhere around £240 per month. Parking in the car park under my office would cost £1255 per month. This is obviously ridiculously more expensive than most places, but it is how much it costs – a jolly 1/3 of my monthly salary!
Use of a car outside of work
We have established above that I simply cannot afford to drive into work. Instead, if I used the car for convenience such as picking groceries up and taking the cats to the vet, would the average cost of owning one be worth it?
Groceries: I get ‘the big shop’ delivered. The big shop is my large weekly groceries and household goods order. The delivery service costs £5 per month with unlimited pass. Notably, the order minimum is £40 – with two cats and a man under the same roof we meet that easily enough.
The nicest thing about doing my groceries this way is that I don’t have to go into supermarkets unless I want to. And usually I don’t want to, so this works out really well. If I had a car, I’d drive it to the shop. Since I don’t, I have other people do the work and (literally) the heavy lifting for me.
Pet care: My cats visit the vet every 6 months or so. The ride each way costs around £7. So far only one driver docked 1 star out of my rating because he didn’t like animals. The other 9 trips didn’t care. Aside from these rare outings, the cats are homebodies and don’t travel anywhere else much.
Road trips: I hate road trips. The only time I will willingly get into a car for holiday is when I am abroad and in a place where there is no reasonable public transport. So I’d rather take a train anyway. If I can’t, I’ll lean on a car hire such as zip car. Let’s say I do two weekend road trips per year (I don’t TBH) – these will cost me £74 per day with petrol and insurance included. That’s £296 in the scale of the year and no responsibility for the maintenance and permanent parking.
Airport trips: You might know that I am a very frequent flier. I’ve been cutting down last year and am really minimising this year, but even so I am at the airport every couple of months. But, I don’t like being driven to the airport. Instead I nearly always opt for public transport. I learnt that the hard way when some years ago I got stuck in a taxi on a motorway due to an accident. Not only I missed my flight, it also cost me a pile of money. So even if I had a car, I would not drive myself to or from the airport.
The final reason
I don’t enjoy driving, so I live in a place where I don’t have to. Passengerring along, sure, once in a while. But driving? No thanks, I am not attentive, coordinated or interested in the world around me enough to be a really good driver. So I tend to keep my mediocre skills off the road unless absolutely necessary, and pocket the savings of not owning a car.
If you also have access to great infrastructure but have reasons for owning a vehicle, leave them and your point of view in the comments!