When we first moved to Bristol we decided to keep Jools the Peugeot. We thought that the high cost of train fares home would go a long way towards balancing out the cost of insurance and road tax.
Jools is an old car (T reg/1999), so we have been saving a fair amount each month towards repairs or replacement. He had been doing quite well lately, but his power steering system was an expensive repair in December and his clutch cable had to replaced this month too! (The Boyfriend was driving, not me!!)
Here is a breakdown of what we budgeted for the car:
- Insurance - £420 - likely to go down this year, but not by very much.
- Road tax - £220
- Fuel - £570 - £60 each time we go home to Cornwall (estimated four times) and another £20 or so of fuel each time we are there, plus another £50 to visit The Boyfriend's family in Coventry, plus a miscellaneous £200 per year (supermarket trip, travel to friend's, trip to Cardiff, etc.)
- Maintenance and replacement - £1000 - this is the biggie. I have spent a lot on repairing this car in the past year, so we set a large budget to cover any repairs whilst hopefully saving for a replacement car.
Of course, if you have a newer car then the cost of repairs would be less, but you may have higher insurance, car payments, and of course, you would have to save more to buy another car of the same quality when your car dies.
As you can imagine, £184 is a massive chunk of our postgrad student budget! I decided to work out how much it would cost us to get by without the car.
Annual costs of car-free living:
- Young Person Rail Cards - £56 (for two) - These would save us a third off most rail travel, which is reflected in the prices below.
- Trips to Cornwall - £480 - four trips budgeted at £120 for a return ticket for two people in case we need to travel home at short notice, however the price is £93.10 for both of us if booked in advance.
- Insurance whilst in Cornwall - £120 - It costs £30 to insure myself on my Mum's car for a week. I can then proceed to steal her car in the evenings if she doesn't want it! :)
- Fuel while in Cornwall - £80 - same as before, £20 per trip.
- Train to Coventry - £100 - budgeted at the expensive short-notice price, however a ticket for two is £62 when booked in advance.
- Food shopping - £150 - this is £3 per week get Tesco to deliver groceries. We might only need to order food once a fortnight, so it could be only £75.
- Bus fare to Portishead - £150 - our good friends live in nearby Portishead. The bus costs us £24 for both of us, because we tend to travel back the next day and would have to buy another ticket.
So by getting rid of the car we could save £90 a month or over £1000 a year! But is it worth it?
Pros and Cons of Cars
Initially The Boyfriend was dead against the idea of getting rid of the car. He said it was a luxury worth keeping. With over 31 million cars on the road in the UK, maybe the general public agrees with him.
Advantages of owning a car
- Extremely convenient - don't have to rely on timetabled public transport so can travel whenever you are ready.
- Easier shopping - you can buy in bulk and take it all home with ease (although you can also get this delivered when shopping online).
- Faster than public transport - inter-city travel usually takes longer by bus or train.
- Able to reach remote areas - this is a big one living in Cornwall, where public transport is sporadic at best. Many people live miles from the nearest bus stop.
- Groups can travel more cheaply - a group train ticket costs more than a road trip where fuel costs are shared.
Disadvantages of owning a car
- Expensive - insurance, road tax, fuel, maintenance, MOT, breakdown cover and eventual replacement. As you can imagine, it all adds up to a massive amount.
- Source of worry - I have to worry about when my car will next break down. You might worry about your nice new car getting stolen or dented.
- Bad for the environment - I'm a biologist, and I worry about the effect we are having on the planet. Cars are a source of pollution and greenhouse gases. Of course, buses and trains pollute too, but per traveller the emissions are much lower.
- Dangerous - You are much more likely to be killed in a car than a bus/plane/train. On the other hand, cycling is even more dangerous.
- Driving is stressful - As you know, I'm a country girl at heart. I don't like driving in cities and especially not at rush hour. Reading a book on a train is a far better way to get around!
I eventually persuaded The Boyfriend that we really don't need a car while we're living in Bristol. We live a 20 minute walk (or 5 minute bus ride) away from the train station and neither of us use the car to get to University anyway!
I think the biggest factor for me was that Jools is an old car and eventually he will need to be replaced. Would we get a newer car? (But why, when we rarely use it?) Or would we get another old banger? (Another hole to throw away money on repairs!)
I've mentioned before that savings are really only savings until you spend them. It didn't seem right to me to be spending so much on a car whilst we are at Uni instead of saving for our futures (for example, a deposit on a home when we graduate).
I am currently in the process of trying to sell my car. It's not worth much, but it will stop the drip drip drip of unnecessary spending!
Take home message for students and new graduates: work out the cost of car vs car-free living. Is the hassle worth the cost-benefit of going carless in your case?
What about you? Do you need a car for your work? Do you cycle miles each day? Do you get the bus? Have you compared the costs?