Let’s Talk About Your Lover

If you’re North American, which the vast majority of my readers are, you know to whom I’m referring. Or rather, I should say to what. Let’s talk about your and all of North America’s torrid affair with the car.

Like many a star crossed lover, all of us are blind to our dear one’s faults. Specifically, your car’s habit of draining your bank account. Now before you go on about the amazing mileage your hybrid/Civic/motor home gets, let me be clear- fuel is just one piece to that expensive gold plated puzzle.

Jeff Yeager, a dyed in the wool cheapskate and an avid cyclist estimates that every kilometer driven costs a person between fifty cents to a dollar over the life of their car. The average person drives around 20,000 kilometers a year, which by Jeff’s calculations means that you are spending at least ten grand on your beloved every year. Makes your spouse’s request for that fancy pants new television seem reasonable doesn’t it?

Now before you throw up your arms and recommend Mr. Yeager move to the backwoods with all the other crazies, hear me out. While I’ve gone car free, ultimately I found the experience too limiting once my son came on the scene, so I purchased a van, so I’m just as curious if Jeff Yeager is correct as his calculation is based on the notion that people buy a new car every six years. Let’s walk through the math together shall we?

I purchased the van for $35, 880. My previous truck I drove into the ground. My GMC Jimmy was old enough to vote when I finally retired it at my mechanic’s behest. The odometer read over 400,000 kilometers. I had planned to take my truck out for its first legal drink at 19 years of age, it didn’t make it quite that long but it was close. For the purposes of this calculation, we’ll assume that most people aren’t aiming for their Ford to pony up to the barkeep for a state sanctioned brewski. According to the Fiscal Times, the average person keeps a car for 11.5 years. To me, this seems short so we’ll choose lucky number 13.

My driving record is the squeakiest of squeaky clean records, partially because I drive slowly but mostly because I don’t actually drive, making it difficult to get into accidents. Thus my insurance is relatively low, coming in at around $1,350 a year. Multiply that by 13 years (17,550) and already between the purchase price of the vehicle and insurance, we’re at a total of 53,430- I haven’t even driven the darn thing yet!

But before inserting the key in the ignition, don’t forget, the government needs in on some of that fiscal action so add in 50 each year for plate and or license renewal. Total 54,080.

Ok, time to drive this bad boy. Tragically cars don’t run on unicorn farts and cotton candy, so we’ll need to purchase gasoline. Let’s conservatively say you fill up twice a month. That mileage you mentioned before really adds up huh? With an extra fill up a couple times a year for those long holiday car trips. So fifty-five dollars twice a month, multiplied by twelve months with a couple fill ups throw in on top, multiplied by sixteen years that’s … that’s…. $21, 120. Sweet Jesus! And I thought the car was expensive! Clearly gasoline’s costs aren’t limited to the environment.

All of that is with my nice math and conservative estimates. Because if 20,000 kilometers a year is actually divided by your car’s mileage; let’s be generous and say that your vehicle gets 650 kilometers to the tank. (At the end of its life, my truck got a sad 300.) The average yearly mileage, divided by 650 then further divided by twelve, the tanks of gas per month actually equals 2.564, which doesn’t seem like that much more than twice a month but comes out to $27,076; a difference of $5,956! I could go on a cruise for that kind of money!

Let’s all pretend we’re going to take the bus to work once a week and make the kids walk to school so we can choose the first number for fuel. What’s our total now? $75,200? Geez Louise, that’s a sizeable down payment on a house.

Repairs. I’m assuming all of you don’t like to incur the wrath of your mechanic, so you probably change your oil a couple of times a year. Since we were chintzes with fueling up, I’ll have us change our oil 3.5 times a year (don’t tell my husband or my mechanic). So if we patronize one of those quickie oil places that brings us to $77,475. Phew, that wasn’t too bad. Bring on the broken alternators.

According to the Globe and Mail, after a car is seven years old, a person can bank on spending $1,100 on repairs annually. Before then, it’s lower, but not much. This leaves our final total at $ 84,400. Yeesh.

Taking that total and dividing it by 260,000 which is the projected distance after 13 years, each kilometer costs 32 cents per kilometer driven. So while not quite the fifty cents to a dollar per kilometer cost proposed by my favourite cheapskate, car ownership is by no means cheap, for you or the environment.

$84,000 over the course of your car’s life or 0.32 cents per kilometer and those are with conservative estimates. How are you feeling about your demanding and costly lover now? Imagine how your life would look if instead of working to pay for your car, you invested that time in your kids. How would you feel physically if you walked most places? What type of model would you be within your community if you biked everywhere?

A reality of living in a rural area is that car ownership isn’t optional. Car use however, is. The odometers on mine and my husband’s bikes read 1300 and 600 kilometers respectively. According to our calculations above that translates to just over $600 dollars in savings.  I didn’t even mention the effect on my husband’s pant size – it’s shrinking. Also that doesn’t account for the carbon emissions saved. This is what we’ve accomplished in six months; imagine the impact and the total after a couple of years. Just some food for thought.

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