Childfreelife’s Weblog

{June 19, 2008}   Big Chunk 3- Downsizing Your Transportation

I am considering the issue of downsizing your transportation for this edition of Big Chunk because a fellow blogger The Simple Dollar wrote about this subject today and he decided against downsizing because of his need to have a spare car for emergencies with his small children. And I am wondering, once my husband is working again if we will need to run two cars. As a childfree partnership we certainly don’t need a second car for emergencies with children during the day. Also I live in a suburban area and public transport is readily available and all necessary services are within biking distance. In a medical emergency, honestly I would call an ambulance or ask a friend or neighbor for a ride. Having a second car around just for emergencies is unnecessary.

My husband and I have two cars. And recently, because of his layoff and the tire popping on his car, we have temporarily downsized to one car. We took that car off the insurance. I leave my car home with him most of the time and I take the bus. Downsizing one car can save you several hundred to several thousands a year on car insurance. You might end up with less car payments, if you were making payments on two cars. If you owned one of your cars and you sold it, that is cash in hand that can go towards debt reduction or savings. Furthermore, ditching one car and driving less often decreases gas and repair expenses. I know my husband and I save over $160 a month on gas with this arrangement. This is a big chunk savings issue similar to downsizing your housing and the savings can be just as significant as downsizing your housing. The monthly savings can be from several hundred to a thousand a month depending on your transportation expenses.

My savings without a car are smaller, because my expenses were low to begin with. I own my beater car, my husband and dad fix it once very three months for usually around $300.00, Gas is about $160 a month because I work in town, Insurance is about $25 per month, I have the highest liability and medical coverage on my insurance but no comprehensive on my little beater, I am over 25, own my home and I am married, I have a decent driving history, and I get a discount for paying a lump sum every six months. My insurance could barely get lower. Cutting out one car costs me a bus pass fee. Assuming I still work in my same town and go to the same school, my bus pass is about $5 per month. My savings are $280 a month right there.

The further you drive a day, the nicer your car and the more expensive your insurance coverage, the more you save by cutting out a car (also the cheaper your repairs because the car is new, so I left repair costs out of this formula). I know people who easily have a $300 dollar car payment, $150 monthly comprehensive insurance, and work across state lines spending $320 a month on gas. If they replaced their car with a interstate express bus pass which runs $100 approximately a month (no student discounts), their savings would be a real Big Chunk, $670.00! Now I have heard that time is money, assuming taking the bus is two hours a day, and you work 20 days a month, you are earning $16.75 an hour by taking the bus and getting rid of your car payments. If you can utilize your bus time listening to books on tape, reading, or writing, you are getting paid to invest in yourself. My second job only makes me $8.00 an hour, and I have to work a lot harder than just sitting on a bus.

So now to consider if you or I can sacrifice a car:

Can you take public transportation, is it more or less reliable than driving?

In my case public transportation, as long as I keep up my end of the deal (showing up to the bus stop early) is more reliable. Should the bus break down, another one comes along to save you within an hour and takes you straight to your location. When my car breaks down? I wait an hour or more for a tow truck which takes me and my car to a mechanic or my home. When it snows or ices? The buses put chains on the vehicles at something like 4 in the morning and get to running. I still make it to work, would I logically drive in that weather? Less likely. True I will have to wait for the bus in the snow, but if I get some good winter ski clothes, I can manage that. My city and neighboring cities have great public transport and I live very near both an interstate bus and an in town bus stop, if your city has more spotty service, this might be a “no” for you.

Can you carpool?

Whether you can carpool largely depends on the stability of your schedule and what you do after work. I tend to go to school after work some days, home other days, and to friends houses other days, I really doubt carpooling could work for me. If you have a predictable week that is the same every week day or nearly every weekday, carpooling could be an answer for you.

How far is your work, school, regular activities, store, etc?

I live less than a mile from a mall, a block from a corner store, and half a mile from a grocery store. Movie theaters and libraries are both at the mall. I can bike to most anywhere I need to be. School and work are both on the same bus route as my house. My new job is a little bit more of a challenge, but the offer I am hoping for is also on the same route as my house. Lets keep our fingers crossed on that one. If you work at home, you might be able to wait until your partner gets home to use the car, or you might just use public transit or a bike to get around. An option that I keep thinking would be great for a single childfreebie would be a Vespa scooter (or another type of scooter, I just think Vespas are cute).

Where is your spiritual, religious or philosophical meeting place and what is transport to it like on weekends and holidays?

My religious meeting place is in a rural area outside my town. Public transport on weekends and holidays is pretty spotty out there. However, my husband usually is sleeping in on Sundays, and for the bi-monthly evening activities he tends to not mind lending me the car if I drop him off at a friends house and pick him up on my way home. It is too far for me to bike.

Do you like driving?

I hate driving, I would rather do most anything else. I like reading on the bus, or watching the landscape while I bike ride. When I can walk, I love to stop and smell the roses and look at birds and rabbits. If you love driving, giving that up to be a passenger on a bus or to brave the weather on foot or a bike might just be a no-no for you.

Are the other options safe?

Without a car or two cars in your household, how would you deal with emergencies? Do you need to get around by yourself at night in parts of town you don’t trust? Are your bus stops and biking trails well lit? Is it safe to bike in your town? Do drivers give the right of way? Is the weather to severe for you to deal with waiting or spending significant amounts of time outside? If one of the partnership does drive to work, and you get rid of the second car, what would you do so s/he can get to work in the event your one car breaks down? I feel safe in my town. There are bike trails, the buses are clean and safe, the stops also clean and safe. The weather is relatively mild. There may be one week a year I might have to really bundle up and put on treads to get to a bus stop safely. If you live somewhere more arctic, eschewing one or both cars might not be an option.

For us, I think downsizing to one car could be a permanent situation. I can take public transport most of the time, especially if I get that in town job I want so badly.


Mike says:

Great post! We’ve thought about getting rid of our Jeep Grand Cherokee and getting a Vespa as well. It beats riding the bus!

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