Does it make sense to own a car if I don't drive much?

used

#1

It looks like my 1992 Civic has reached the end of its road at only 117k. I purchased it new and put most of those miles on it during the first half of its life. For the second half, I’ve averaged about 1500 miles a year. I fear the amount of time it has spent sitting in a carport in Massachusetts has contributed to the short-lived battery, failing alternator, and steady encroachment of rust from the wheel wells and doors. (And who knows how bad the rust is underneath?)
I’m looking at replacing it with a reliable used car that gets at least the 30 mpg my Civic did, running short errands about once or twice a week. I also want the current safety features of passenger air bags and stability control.
While it’s certainly convenient to own a car, there are zipcars within walking distance, and I could rent a car for the occasional longer trip. With my current driving patterns, I think that would be less expensive than paying 10-15,000 on a car, hoping to have it last at least 10 years, only to see it rust out in my garage.


#2

At 1500 miles a year, maybe you don’t need to own a car…Don’t forget license and taxes and insurance…The Zip-car might be considerably cheaper as long as they stay in business…


#3

If you’re only driving ~1500 miles/year, a zipcar would likely be less expensive. I know several who have made that kind of decision and they don’t regret it at all.


#4

If you are going to get a car, don’t worry about gas mileage with so few miles per year. Rust resistance and low operating and cost would be my criteria.

A low mileage used Hyundai Accent can be bought for very little and has low insurance cost. My mother in law drove till she was 92, and put only 2000 miles a year on her 1994 Pontiac Sunbird. But she like her independence.


#5

@“Caddy Man” @JoeMario It was adding up my annual expenses that makes me think twice about buying. Leaving aside the year I replaced the timing chain, I spent about 1000 - 2500/yr on my civic.


#6

@Docnick Are there any cars you’d recommend as being particularly rust resistant?
I just did a quick search on this site, and it looks like anything recently made is going to stand up to rust better.


#7

@92civic All cars are much better than they used to be. Having said that, Nissan has still not caught up to the best Japanese designs. And I just do not trust Mitsubishi.

I would say that Toyota tends to be tops, except for some pickup truck frames. Mazdas are great cars but are not as rust-resistant as Toyotas. Honda are probably just under Toyotas. I have not seen any late model Hondas with any rust. They started out as real rust buckets in the 70s.

I would avoid any European cars such a Fiat500, or any British make. Europeans do not keep their cars very long and they use a lot less salt on the roads.

Korean cars are now as good as any, and I would not hesitate to buy an Hyundai or Kia.


#8

Sell your Civic. Then use the zip car and rental as needed for a year. Then run the numbers to see what you spent on transportation of a year without a car. If the money you saved is significant then you have your answer, don’t buy another car. If you feel you miss having a car in the driveway then buy a car.

If you do buy a car I suggest looking at cars for sale by rental companies; Hertz, National, Enterprise, etc.


#9

Seems like selling and trying out Zipcar + rental is worth a good long try. If it doesn’t work, then you’ll know, and you can find a car to meet your needs. But I think it’ll work.


#10

My son and son-in-law lived in San Francisco for 15 years…never had a car…rarely needed one…and got along splendidly that way.


#11

My sister gave up her car after buying a condo on mag mile, it was an outrageous price to purchase a parking spot in the building, at least 40k I think, but then the taxes on the parking spot were an additional $2400 per year. She rents a car for trips, and uses public transportation or taxi’s for everything else. It depends on where you live and what transportation options are available.


#12

If it’s possible to avoid owning a car, that’s the way to go. In my opinion anyway. You save money not only on the purchase cost of the vehicle and the initial licensing fees, but the periodic insurance payments, yearly registration fees, emissions testing fees and repairs, and to top if all off, no more money spent on gasoline, maintenance, and repairs. Plus the extra space you now have in your carport.

There’s some fringe benefits too. Like today I had an appointment in downtown San Jose. On a Friday afternoon downtown San Jose is pretty congested, and difficult to find a parking place, and if you do actually find one, it’s going to cost. So I didn’t drive my car. Instead I took the bus. What a pleasant trip, just sitting there looking out the window. Plus chatting with a couple of the riders I met on the bus was interesting too. You know, I saw things I’ve never seen driving down that same road, b/c when I’m driving I’m having to watch traffic.


#13

I lived in Montreal, Canada for 2 years in the 60s. Parking was expensive and at a premium, and taxicabs were always cruising. Insurance was very high as well, and this city is the most rust intensive in North America. Three year old cars were already showing rust then.

So, I took a lot of busses and taxis and came out considerably ahead. Dates never gave it a thought that you did not have a car. Similar to New York, I suppose. On dates we always took a cab.


#14

I have relatives in NYC who are in their 60’s and have NEVER driven a car their whole live. No need and too expensive to own a car in NYC.

1500 miles a year - way too few to justify owning one. Maybe for convenience. It’d be cheaper to take a taxi where you need to go…for that matter a Limousine service.


#15

I know of one person who only drives in town to run errands and grocery shopping. He has a LSV ( low speed vehicle ) basically a really nice golf cart ( electric ), the drawback is he has to use only streets with speed limits of 40 MPH .


#16

One thing you should not be concerned about is the MPG if that’s all you are driving. What does it matter? Having a car to me is more of a personal choice than an economic one. If you would rather not have the hassle, go without. Its not something I would do though where I live.


#17

I interviewed for a job in lower Manhattan when I graduated from college. The cost to rent a parking spot in NYC was about the same as a 2BR apartment where I eventually moved. I figured that for the cost of insurance and parking, I could take a taxi 4 times a day and still be ahead.