I’ve decided to get rid of my car at the end of the summer. Years ago I was car free as well, but I took a job at the south end of Richmond where there were no reasonable transit options and I broke down and picked up a ’97 Honda Civic to get me to work. I discovered that I hated commuting. Being stuck in traffic for 45 minutes makes one’s blood boil over and you get home all wound up from the drive. Even now I find driving in the middle of the city gets my stress levels up. Sharon has been enjoying the creative expressions I yell when I’m stuck behind some monkey on the road. “You goddamn **** donkeys!” I’ll hollar at someone who doesn’t notice the green light.
Stress levels are managable now that I don’t commute anymore (30 minute walk to work!). The big reason is cost. I’ve been opening a number of savings accounts at ING Direct so that I can have automated savings plans for my yearly expenses. For example, if I have $130 automatically put away every month for car insurance, then I can pay cash when it comes due in November. I have a number of these accounts and it allows me to break my yearly expenses down into monthly payments and never have to swallow a large expense all at once.
Once I saw how much I had to save for the car insurance, maintenance, and replacement cost, it became clear that I was going to be diverting a huge sum of money towards keeping a car. Here are the numbers:
Replacement assumes I’ll need to replace the car in 4 years at an approximate cost of $10,000 – $12,000 dollars. Saving $3,000 a year ($250 per month) for 4 years will ensure I have the cash on hand when the old Civic finally dies. It’s a ’97 with 230,000 km on it and it’s reasonable to expect it will get near 300,000 before things start to really go wrong.
Maintenance has cost me, on average, between $800 – $1000 per year. It’s an older car and I make sure everything’s kept up on it which means it’s never broken down on me. There is a cost to preventative maintenance on an older vehicle though. I budget $100 a month ($1,200 per year) for this.
Total cost each month is $520 which is $6,240 every year! Given I have back contribution room in my RRSP then I should be putting the money there instead of a car that I rarely use.
How am I going to get around without a car? I live in Vancouver so that’s not much of a problem. I’m a 15-minute walk away from the Waterfront Station skytrain which is our main transit hub. From there I can go directly to the airport, or to the suburbs, or take the Seabus to the North Shore. There’s also the Westcoast Express should I need to make a trip to Mission.
Mostly I plan to start biking more. A couple of years back I bought a nice commuter bike that’s light and has 18 gears on it. It’s a great bike to ride and with the Vancouver weather I see no reason why I can’t ride year round. I’ll have to pick up some rain gear as well as some proper bike shorts but given I’ll be saving over $6,000 a year, I’m not worried about those costs.
I’ve already started moving away from using my car to make sure it’s going to work. This weekend I loaned it to a friend of ours whose wife was heading into Seattle with their car. I knew I had some things I needed to run around and pick up so this would be a good time to find out if the bike was going to work or not. Turns out it’s no problem. Most of my shopping happens downtown anyway and I have discovered that I can carry groceries AND beer on the rear bike rack.
One can also transport a Dairy Queen log cake if need be:
The DQ cake was a bit ridiculous but I wanted to prove the point to myself. Worst case if I need to pick something up that’s difficult to transport I can hail a cab. $500 a month pays for many, many cab rides.
Really the only thing I like having the car for is to go hiking and camping. What I did when I was previously car-free was to rent a car for doing those things. It’s a bit of a pain in the ass and you have to plan things in advance more, but it’s easily manageable.
I’d also like to get into bike touring. My bike will be adequate for the next couple of years while I get started but I suspect I’ll want to buy a proper touring bike in the future. Again, $6,000 a year would let me buy 2 touring bikes every year so I don’t expect cost to be an issue. I’ll be saving on ferry fees to get to the Gulf Islands too. $14.25 for a walk-on vs. $61.50 if you take a car! Sharon, who’s an avid biker, and I will probably do a bunch of trips from Horseshoe Bay since it’s close. From there we can go to Bowen Island or over to Nanaimo. Tsawwassen is painful to get to by bike since you aren’t allowed to ride through the George Massey Tunnel. They have a shuttle that runs every hour or so during peak hours and I think you can put your bike on the 620 bus to get to Tsawwassen, but it’s still not easy. I’ll have to experiment over the next few months and see what works best.