DAY 8: The real cost of car ownership

I’ve learned to never use the words “new car” and “investment” in the same sentence.

Raise your hand if you ever sold a car for more than you paid. That’s what I thought.

That’s just the first clue that automobiles—with the exception of collector cars—are not investments. Clue No. 2 comes from an Edmunds study reporting that new cars can lose over 20 percent of their value in just the first year.

“If you commute to work by car, figure about $58 in total vehicle expenses per 100 miles.” — American Automobile Association

How can I earn your business today?

In your dreams.

Clue No. 3: “total cost of ownership” numbers. The American Automobile Association says that for an average vehicle that’s driven 15,000 miles a year, ownership costs are $8,698 per year over five years. That includes fuel, tires, maintenance and repairs, insurance, depreciation, financing and taxes, and license and registration fees. That’s $725 a month. Whew!

Your numbers could be higher. NerdWallet says that Greater Houston residents pay over 20% more for car insurance than other drivers in the U.S.

Needs vs. wants vs. budget

When I go new car shopping, it’s tough to keep my lizard brain in check. Who doesn’t want a car with a 55-inch infotainment system, ejection seats and an interplanetary hyperloop?

In your budget.

On a Sunday three months ago—long before our car-free experiment began—we started car shopping online. I binge-read Road & Track, Consumer Reports, Edmunds, etc. So many choices: gas-powered, hybrid or electric, a sedan or SUV, foreign or domestic? Then we dared to window shop for cars.

Fortunately, it was a Sunday, and Houston car dealers were all in church praying that an errant SpaceX rocket would take out Elon Musk and Tesla. Our brief excursion onto closed car dealer lots left us confused, frustrated and depressed—which was wonderful. A perfect setup for me asking Stephanie: “what if we didn’t own a car?”.

Photo credits: Renault sport RS 01 by Ben, California T by Ben1951 Buick by John Lloyd, licensed under CC 2.0