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Is Your Car a Luxury or a Necessity?

by KNS Financial on November 1, 2010

Can You Cut Car Costs by Going Car-Less?

When we typically think of needs, food, water, and shelter comes to mind.

However, many will also list a car as a need. I’ve never really questioned that assumption, until recently.

Since I began writing about personal finance, I’ve come across a lot of articles that suggested that you can save a lot of money if you just get rid of your car.

I’ve even written about cutting car costs, but never to the point of becoming car-less!

Is it really a viable option?

Reasons to give up your car:

Get rid of your car note – Probably the biggest car cost there is – because so many people take out loans to do so.

The absence of a monthly car payment should have an immediate impact on your budget.

No more insurance premiums – Insurance premiums are a large part of the car costs as well.  At one point my monthly premium was $351! At the time my car note was only $241, so this was especially devastating! [Here are some tips to reduce your auto insurance]

Free from maintenance – Being that I just spent $1,200 on repairs and maintenance on my car, I can attest to the fact that caring for a car isn’t cheap!

No more pouring dollars into your gas tank – This car cost can easily run up to a couple of hundred dollars each month (depending on your car and obligations)! Here are 9 tips to save money on gas without buying a hybrid.

Your car is destroying the environment – Honestly, this isn’t a huge issue for me; but it is for many people. It may be enough to get you to look for alternatives.

No more tickets – I’ve received a “ticket or two” in my life, and I know how annoying this can be. This is especially true if you live in a large city where parking is at a premium; or if you use highways for the majority of your travel.

Alternatives:

Use public transportation – Even though Homer Simpson says that public transportation is for losers, many people rely on it to get around. If your city has an organized, and full system, then this can be a great option.

Ride a bike – Kill two birds with one stone (Seriously, who came up with that saying?) – get to your destination, while getting exercise at the same time! You can even get a basket for small trips to the supermarket.

Rent a car – If you still need to drive infrequently, then renting a car may not be a bad idea. Think about it, if you only need a small car for a couple of days out of the month, that may only cost you $60 to $80 plus fuel.

Taxis – Same concept as renting a car. Using a taxi everyday probably wouldn’t work for most people. However, if you only need to have a car for a few days each month, then taking a taxi can be a great option!

Reasons to keep your car:

Lack of a viable public transportation option – Most people don’t live in an area that has a thriving public transportation system. Therefore, they cannot rely on it to commute to work, church, and to family gatherings.

You don’t live near your job – Walking or riding a bike to work sounds nice, but if you live more than a few miles away, then this option goes out the window. Even if you live very close, but your area is plagued by bad weather (like my home state of New Jersey), you’ll probably want to have a car!

Your family & friends aren’t close by – For the same reasons as above, this may cause you to rethink selling your car. If you just go to work and come home, or pretty much keep to yourself, then you might not have a problem. However, a car quickly becomes necessary, the more often you like to hang out!

You have to run errands – Again, if you live in a community where everything is within a mile of your house, then this won’t concern you. Unfortunately, most people aren’t in that situation. It can be such a pain to take care of your obligations without a car! Sometimes it can be downright impossible.

Taxis are much too expensive – If your circumstances call for the use of an automobile fairly often, then using taxis won’t make much financial sense!

The choice is yours:

For some people the alternatives listed above are enough to allow them to go without a car. However, there are a large number of people who cannot take full advantage of these options. Either distance, number of obligations, or weather keeps them from being able to ditch their car.

It’s not a matter of calling a luxury a necessity, but it’s a matter of the American lifestyle being tailored around cars. People live in the suburbs and work in large cities or industrial parks. Many communities have little to no public transportation, and there are even some cities that don’t have a local taxi service!

In those conditions, it would be next to impossible to function without a car.

What About You?

Do you “need” a car, or is it just a luxury?

Would you be able to function for the next year without a car?

How much would you be able to save if you didn’t own a car?

Are people who claim they “need” a car just spoiled brats?

photo credit: UggBoy♥UggGirl

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