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Trying out car sharing!

Usually when you think about moving outside of the city, you think about being more reliant on your car. But one of the best things that has come out of our new neighbourhood is the ability to move down to a one-car household.

Since I switched to our downtown office back in January, I haven’t actually been driving my car. 95% of the time, my car has just sat there unused. And since RD’s work has a very good carpool program, most of the time he wasn’t driving his car either. The only time we actually use our cars is when we’re together on the weekends.

Being within a 5-10 minute walk of a SkyTrain station was a requirement when we started looking for condos, and luckily we now live approximately 10 seconds away from one. So in the next couple of weeks, we’ll be selling RD’s car and putting that money into our joint account (which likely end up as an additional payment towards the mortgage – but that’s another post for another time).

Our transportation expenses will end up going way down because now we’ll be sharing the cost of insurance and maintenance on just one car. We’re still figuring out how we will share gas expenses, as RD will be doing most of the driving with his commute to work.

But of course there’s a downside to not having two cars, and it’s that we don’t have two cars. If it’s RD’s turn to drive the carpool or if he’s working a longer day than normal, that means I don’t have access to a vehicle if I need to go somewhere that isn’t practical by public transportation (for example my doctor is in Port Coquitlam!). So I’ve been contemplating joining a car share program for a while now.

In New Westminster, I had three options to choose from – Modo, ZipCar, or Evo.

Modo

  • $10 one-time registration fee
  • $8 monthly fee
  • $8 per hour (max $64 per 24 hours, $24 max between 7pm-9am)

ZipCar

  • $25 one-time registration fee
  • $70 annual fee
  • $7.75 to $9 per hour ($73-89 per day)

Evo

  • $35 one-time registration fee (waived for BCAA members)
  • $2 annual fee (donated to charity)
  • $0.41 per minute, $14.99 per hour ($89.99 per day)

I ended up going with Evo because even though the hourly rates were better with Modo and ZipCar I don’t think I’ll need to use a car enough to justify Modo’s monthly fee or ZipCar’s annual fee. Plus, I was at an event last night where I got the $35 one-time registration fee waived and 45 minutes of free driving time. :)

A huge bonus of being part of a car sharing program is the ability to drive to the airport without spending a million years taking transit downtown and then back out to the airport, or spending the money for a taxi. And conveniently, there’s an Evo parking lot just outside of our building. I’m really looking forward to seeing how car sharing fits into my lifestyle, and how often I actually end up using it.

Does anyone else use a car sharing program? Any experience using Evo?

Having a car is expensive

carBack in the fall, I wrote a post called How much is your car costing you?, where I calculated that I was spending around $300/month for gas and insurance (11% of my net monthly income). And that didn’t even include maintenance like oil changes, repairs, or the actual cost of buying the car.

Even though I concluded that having a car was a clear “want” and not a “need,” I still depend on my car to lead the lifestyle I want for myself. Deciding to live in the suburbs, that’s the choice I made. And it’s the right choice for me now, but I’m not sure if it’s the right choice for me in the future.

When I start my new job later this month, I’ll be commuting from the suburbs to just outside of the downtown core. In the 6+ years I’ve lived here in Vancouver, I’ve never actually worked in Vancouver before… so I’m not sure what my commute will be like. Based on where I’m located, I think it will be similar to my old job (35-40 mins.). But the big difference is that when I’m over at BF’s house, he lives just 5 minutes away. AND since I’m working in such a populated area, most offices don’t have designated parking – so I had to rent a parking spot for $65/month.

Now that $65 parking stall is almost 50% less than any other stalls I’ve found in the area. That’s because I’m renting a space in an apartment building about 3 blocks from my office, and not in a regular parking lot. But if you combine that expense with having to rent a parking stall near BF’s house, my car costs have immediately risen by 25% to approximately $375/month.

I ran the numbers again, comparing my car costs with buying a transit pass, and my car still wins out even with this added cost. But just barely. If expenses go up again, I’m going to have to make some serious decisions. Even though I love where I live and I love my home, I’ve been spending the majority of my time in the city, and that’s only going to increase with this new job.

So maybe it will mean moving to a more central location down the road. Or maybe it will be as simple as letting go of some of my hobbies and buying a bus pass instead.

How much is your car costing you?

I’ve owned a car for most of the 6 years I’ve lived in the Vancouver area, and it makes up a significant portion of my monthly budget.

Car expenses represent approximately 11% ($275-300) of my monthly spending (or 5% of my approximate gross monthly income) – and that’s just for gas and insurance. These are just my regular monthly expenses, and doesn’t take into consideration oil changes, repairs, wear and tear on my vehicle, or the actual cost of buying my car (obviously). Thankfully, my car is new enough that it hasn’t needed any repairs, but I know it’s only a matter of time until something needs fixing.

So what does that $300 get me each month? Let’s break it down (along with my reasoning):

  1. A shorter commute to work. Taking transit would take anywhere from 2.5 to 3 hours roundtrip. My commute by car takes 35-40 minutes each way.
  2. Access to the things that I love doing. Everything that I love to do in my spare time requires a car, and I do these things almost every day of the week – which is why renting a car or belonging to a car co-op isn’t that great of an answer.
  3. Transit is expensive. A full transit pass for Metro Vancouver costs $170. That’s approximately how much I pay for gas each month.

These are all somewhat valid reasons for owning a car. It’s worth it to me right now, because my car hasn’t needed a lot of maintenance. But will it be worth it in the future? I don’t know. I purchased this car new back in 2009, and the only other car I’ve ever owned always had something wrong with it – so it’s hard to say.

Here are my rebuttals to my own above-reasoning:

A shorter commute to work

  • I could move closer to work. This is a pretty extreme option, but there are definite downsides to living in the suburbs. And truthfully, I’ve thought about moving into the city of Vancouver on more than one occasion. It just hasn’t gotten to that point yet. And I really, really love where I’m living right now.
  • I could find a job closer to home. Not surprisingly, there aren’t many marketing jobs in the city that I live in, but it’s always worth investigating.
  • I could bicycle to work. There are no female shower facilities at my office. But, if I pushed hard enough, wouldn’t they have to provide something? That being said, I’m mostly concerned with the 50km roundtrip commute on very busy roads and bridges. Not that I couldn’t do it physically, but it would likely affect my running. Could I (or would I) really bike 25km in the morning, run 1-2 hours after work, and then bike 25km home? And what if I wanted to go out after work? I’d be all sweaty

Access to the things that I love doing

  • I could find alternate ways to have fun. Playing field hockey 3-4x/week is fun, but excessive and kind of expensive. Especially since the practice field isn’t located near transit (and twice a week, I go to practice straight from work – so no car pooling available). Plus games are spread across a very large area. If I wanted to quit the car, I’d likely have to quit field hockey too. But running is free, and there’s a great 20+km running trail just steps from my office that I’ve been using multiple times a week over the past few months.
  • Hiking could be done with a rental car. True. I bought my AWD car so I could have access to the mountains and ski hills. But really, I only do that once a month – maybe twice in the summertime. I think it would be cheaper to rent a car for those specific times.

Transit is expensive

  • I would save on the wear and tear of my vehicle. By taking transit, I will be prolonging the life of my car. This makes me happy, and it’s actually something I’ve really wanted to do. I love this car – it’s perfect for me.
  • Transit is a green solution. It’s obviously better on the environment if I leave my car at home.
  • I could buy a one-zone pass. It doesn’t really make sense to buy a one-zone pass, since I would need access to all three zones. But maybe it would be cheaper to buy a one-zone pass ($91/month), and then just add on additional fare when I need to cross to other zones. Otherwise a full-zone pass costs $170/month. Which is ridiculous.

I guess the point of this post is that I can justify having my car as a “need” all I want, but based on my own arguments, it’s obvious that a car is a “want.” My car definitely fits in nicely with the lifestyle that I want to live right now, but is it absolutely necessary? Of course not. Who knows if my thoughts on owning a car will change in the future, but I’m actually pleased (and a little surprised) with how easy it was for me to come up with solutions to get away from owning a car. Some of them are pretty extreme (like selling my house, quitting field hockey, or finding a new job), but all options have to be considered whenever you’re dealing with money.

Having an extra $300/month would be nice. But considering a bus pass would eat up half of that savings, I’d be losing many hours commuting by transit, and I’d be forced to quit a lot of the fun things in my life, I’m okay with the cost for now. But just barely.

How much is your car costing you – and could you live car-free if you had to?

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