Could I get rid of my car?

As the purchase of new tyres and another regular service looms, I’ve been theorising: assuming worse-case scenario, that nothing else changes and there is no great revolution in public transport that sees the whole city given usable services to everywhere, could I get rid of my car without going crazy?

The main thing at the moment is getting the kids to school in the morning, which is far easier by car because of the distance involved and the lack of PT (that is without having to change services between a train and an infrequent half-hourly bus). Once they’re at high school (in 2, and 4 years respectively) they’ll be under their own steam, walking or riding their bikes.

My trip to work is a simple 10 minute walk and a train ride. Assuming that remains the same, no need for the car on most weekdays.

The problem would be evenings (the trains fall back to only half-hourly, most of the buses shut up shop) and weekends (trains barely adequate at every 20 minutes; buses pretty-much unusuable). Most of my family live nearby, or near railway stations, but other destinations would be awkward.

The bicycle’s a goer if the weather’s nice. Cycling and walking more would do my fitness the world of good.

For the rainy or rushed days there’s always taxis I suppose, and even with a few pricey cab fares a month, monetary wise I’d still be in front. Maybe if the suburb gets a little denser (in population growth, rather than mind power) a car-sharing service will open up nearby.

My conclusion is that unless we see much more frequent PT services, I would go crazy on the weekends, thus I’d keep the car for at least some trips.

Now, if we get hit by the sort of price-hikes in petrol expected to be prompted by Peak Oil. Petrol $2… $5… $10 per litre? Ka-ching! That might make a big difference.

PS. Combining both this topic and yesterday’s, I found some stuff I wrote about various “urban tribes” from when I was catching the tram to work ten years ago.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

11 replies on “Could I get rid of my car?”

I live in Hawthorn and could quite easily get rid of my car, in fact have been seriously thinking about it for some time. With insurance, registration, not to mention the ridiciulous cost of petrol, I could easily rent a car every weekend just about and probably still save money. The only thing stopping me is the actual act of selling… I’m completely out of my depth when it comes to trying to sell the car privately, and you can’t sell a car to a car yard and get a decent price without buying another one.

Compromise – get a motorbike. As much as I hate the things, I have to admit they are very economical on fuel consumption and are a good backup, especially since you don’t even usually have to worry about parking (so long as you’ve got a 4′ space).

Taxis would be the way to go, but if fuel costs go up, so will taxi fares. Taxis have the upside of being able to take a load of shopping.

I’ve seen you can buy brand new scooter for AUD$2000, which chews up little fuel – so it’s running costs are pretty low (I was getting 3 or 4 litres/100km on a much larger bike), but you trade that off against a 40-fold increase in risk-of-death and an inability to meaningfully take passengers or significant shopping loads. Add in rego and insurance, and you’re looking at $15-$20/week in owning costs, plus depreciation (a motorbike is good for maybe 60,000kms), maintenance and running costs. You still have to find somewhere to park them, there are constraints even on the parking of motorcycles. Balance against taxi.

I’ve always wondered why people buy 4WDs; if it’s for the outdoor action (maybe twice a year), rent one for that weekend. Otherwise get a people-mover. The tyres on 4WDs can be $1,000 each, not to mention the running costs of lugging several tonnes of truck around.

As for getting the kids to school, I remember a technique we used when I was a child: walking. By ourselves. Without a parent. Perhaps you could use that?

$1000? I think most are $200 to $250. I have a diesel 4WD which I use in the weekends for carting around the windsurfing gear or towing. The rest of the time it just sits in the driveway rusting. I feel a little guilty for owning the beast but make a point of cycling to work each day. We have a people mover too, which we need for a family of 6, but often my partner is driving it around by herself. Roll on hybrids – that’s what I say. In NZ you can get cheap(ish) Japanese second hand import Toyota hybrids. Why doesn’t the Aussie government show some foresight and give a few financial incentives to buy them?

Nathan, I lived in Hawthorn for a couple of years without a car. It wasn’t too bad because the suburb’s criss-crossed with trams and trains, so a lot of trips were do-able on PT.

Sussy, I’m soooo not brave enough to ride a motorbike.

Josh, according to Whereis, walking to school at present would take about an hour and a half. By PT would take 10-15 mins walk to the station plus 5 on the train plus 5 to cross from the station to the bus stop plus 5 on the bus… so about 30 minutes, and then you add the waiting time between buses, which is the real killer. In the car, in peak hour, it takes 10 minutes. (From my old place, it was just the bus trip. Even with a half-hourly bus, it was manageable, since you can easily plan to leave the house at the right time, and we did it that way a few times.)

Getting rid of one’s car would be ideal, but you have to be practical about it. I am sure there will be a time in the future when it feels right to bite the bullet.

I could and I would at least break even cost wise with occasional taxi use, but for the sheer convenience, I can’t yet.

If the area you live in is just not set up for it, it’s very hard to ditch the car. While living in Northcote I only ever seemed to use mine to avoid having to catch a bus to the train station, or for shopping trips – seemed kinda wasteful.

Now living in Cambridge, a village, is utterly do-able with a bike, especially with shopping-friendly panniers. Cycling in the rain is a bugger, but it’s seldom that heavy or lasts that long … and not having a car feels like a huge cash haemorrhage from my wallet has been plugged!

Half hourly late night trains, 20 minute weekend trains, etc…

Good grief you live in a world of luxery – that type of service is what we get during PEAK HOUR… rest of the time it’s hourly and ALL STOPS… #@*&^%#ing gives me the utter sh#ts, have put up with it for a year but I’m mere weeks away from (seriously) tossing PT out the door… I’ve had enough.

Well you could get nearly the same fuel consumption using a diesel small car (like a Polo or a 307 or a Golf) as you could with a decent-sized motorbike. And you could carry more shopping and school bags. And you wouldn’t have to buy special clothing. You’ll get 6 l/100 km in the city with careful driving and one or two passengers. Cost you $22-$30,000 to get into a brand new one.

Well we only keep a car really so my wife can get the kids to school, they’re both special needs so getting them ready some morning can be a chore! and for weekend trips out. Car hire just for weekends out sounds like a lot of effort and is expensive, we compromise by buying cheap old cars and ditching them when they fail to expensively.

I travelled some 40 miles round trip by PT to get to work and am quite happy to carry on doing that, after all, I can read the paper on the train, they get upset if you do that while driving.

Nice to think you can get by without a car, but I don’t know if it would be practical in your current situation. Your car, like mine, is a huge hulk of a thing that drinks way too much. I’m currently looking into leasing a car through work – paying via salary sacrifice (before tax is taken out of salary) but am only interested if I can get something that is going to be small and cheap to run – like Philip comments above, a VW Polo would be great.
I admire you for the amount that you get by without the car. You PT a lot as well as bike/walk. You do a lot better than most!

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