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How giving up car ownership helped us travel

How giving up car ownership helped us travel

It’s been 12 months since we sold our car.

The decision to sell it was an intimidating one. What if we got stuck needing to get somewhere? What if we needed a car for an emergency? How would we go about picking up furniture or getting to a friends house?

Looking back on our first year without car ownership, it has been surprisingly easy. Let me tell you the story of why we decided against owning a car, and how it’s helped us travel.


Why did we sell our car?

The two of us grew up in areas where car ownership was a given. We had a car each. My first car was a little old Ford Laser. I lovingly packed it full of all my things and drove it up to Newcastle when I moved from Hobart 3 years ago.

I settled in and it became apparent that we could get by with only one car, so I sold my Laser and we shared Robert’s dented but drivable Nissan Pulsar.

Over the next few months we realised the maintenance costs of the Pulsar were getting beyond ridiculous. The air con spontaneously decided to stop working just before the summer months, an $800 fix. Then the car broke down on my way to work one day and it was another $400 repair.

So we decided to upgrade to a brand new Mazda 2, a zippy little car that used very little fuel and didn’t take up much space.

Mazda 2

Our beloved Mazda 2, which we owned for just under a year

We moved from Newcastle to Sydney and our need for a car became less and less. The public transport system in Sydney is significantly better than Newcastle and driving in Sydney is a kind of crazy thing to do unless you’re ok with being stuck in traffic jams for 3 hours and getting lost every time you try to navigate the city’s causeways.

As we were about to embark on our 3 month backpacking trip through Europe near the end of 2013, we were faced with a dilemma – do we store the car at someone’s place, or do we sell it?

Keeping it would mean paying for ongoing costs such as insurance and registration that we weren’t using, so we decided on selling it.

When we returned we didn’t want to buy another car as we didn’t know how long we’d stay in Sydney before travelling again, so while looking for an apartment we prioritised rentals that were an easy walk to a train station and grocery store.

Newtown: Sydney's coolest neighbourhood

Our new apartment is an easy walk to the conveniences of Newtown

the costs of owning a car

The annual costs of car ownership were much higher than we imagined. Here’s an average (in AUD) of what we were paying to own the Mazda in the first year.

  • Comprehensive insurance = $812
  • Compulsory Third Party Insurance = $566
  • Registration =  $274
  • Servicing and Maintenance = $600
  • Depreciation of car value at 15% pa = $2250
  • Fuel = $1920

Total = $6422

Your costs might be different depending on the model of your car, how old it is, and how often you drive it, but’s worth doing the math to figure out your total costs and see what you can save.

HOW MUCH HAVE WE SAVED?

Nowadays we spend more money on public transport and occasionally use a car share company to rent a car by the hour if we need to. We also occasionally get lifts with friends and family, or walk/cycle to where we need to go!

  • Public transport costs = $2080
  • Car hire (once or twice a month) = $360

Total = $2440

As you can see, that’s a whopping $3982 we save per year! Even if we count purchasing our bicycles at about $500 each, that’s still a significant saving of $3000.

I immediately translated this calculation into how much travel it will get me. Imagine the possibilities!

Vintage bicycle

My vintage style bicycle, which I bought to get around after we sold the car

the other benefits

  • We burn more calories from the additional walking and cycling. It’s much easier to get incidental exercise when you don’t get straight into your car from your front door.
  • No need to worry about damage. Over my 8 years of car ownership, I had at least 2 drivers damage my car by backing into it while it was parked on the side of the road. It sure is nice not worrying about that anymore.
  • Freedom to travel when we want without having to think about storing the car, or paying for the costs of keeping it when we’re not using it.

Would it work for everyone?

In Sydney it’s fairly easy to get by without a car as the public transport system isn’t too bad (well, better than some other parts of Australia) but I understand that’s not the case for everyone.

In my hometown of Hobart, the public transport system is not great to say the least, and as it’s a very suburban city – not many people live within walking distance of conveniences. However, I’d recommend looking into alternate ways of getting around.

Can you catch public transport or ride a bike instead of driving?

What about downgrading to a scooter or sharing a car with someone instead of having one each? If so, you’ve just halved your costs!

The money we’ve saved over the past year is going straight towards our trip to Central America next May. In my opinion, seeing a part of the world I haven’t explored yet is absolutely worth the occasional inconvenience of not owning a car.

 

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