Save $12,000 – and the Planet!

 Want to Save $12,000 a Year?


cars take space and costQuestion:  Have you ever thought about these?

  • Why do car owners get so much more public space than bus riders, cyclists and pedestrians (walkers)?
  • How long does your car stay parked every day?  (Parked at home, at work, while shopping)
  • What does it cost you to park your car?
  • Does building more roads and parking make people happier?

I was reading an article by environmental journalist Stephen Leahy which asked these questions, and it got me thinking.

Let’s look at these in more detail.


If we’re all equal, why do car drivers get wide roads and parking spaces while pedestrians sometimes face narrow and sometimes poorly-maintained footpaths or sidewalks?  Cyclists face grave dangers on the roads, unless there are dedicated cycle lanes, which are not common.

I hadn’t really given it a great deal of thought before, other than often reflecting on the dangers that cyclists face. We all seem to accept it, because that’s how it is in most countries – but is it right?

What do you think?  Let me know in the Comments below.


car park costsHow long does your car stay parked each day?  Many car owners drive to work each day, park at work, drive home again, and park overnight.  Of course there are exceptions, but the global average is that car owners leave their cars parked for 22 hours out of every 24-hour day.

Isn’t that just astonishing?

Then that got me wondering about how much it costs to keep our cars parked.

The true costs of owning a car

To find out the full, total costs of owning a car, you need to consider

  • Parking (not including the cost of a garage at home)
  • Fuel
  • Wear and tear
  • Insurance
  • Depreciation
  • Repairs

According to auto clubs, the true cost of owning and operating a car in the USA is $9,000 – $14,000 per year.

In the UK the RAC says it costs about 6,000 GBP per year (2010 figures).

We spend that much each year, just to keep something parked for 22 hours out of 24?

(Not to mention causing pollution and using fossil fuels).

So, what can be done?

Because of the high cost of owning a vehicle which stays parked for most of the time for most people, you could look at ways of saving that average $12,000 per year and consider

  • Lend your car (yes, really!)
  • Rent a car
  • Buy or use a bicycle or scooter

Now of course these are more effective when you live in a city:

Lend your carBuzzcar is smartphone based.  You either offer your car, or look for a car in your area.  Bookings are made online via smartphone, the time and rental price are agreed, as well as safety.    Their slogan is “borrow the car next door” and I think it’s a great concept.  It’s local, it ‘s easy, and you pay only for what you use.  Or if you’re the car owner, you get some value from your car while you’re not using it.

Rent a car: services such as Zipcar let you rent a local car by the hour from easy-to-access neighbourhood lots or stations.

rent a bikeBicycle – Paris is a city which seems to have truly embraced the concept of cycling.  Velib has been wildly successful there – thousands of bicycles are available for one-way rides for a small fee.  It’s planned to expand the network into offering a similar system with small electric cars for suburban Paris.

A 100 km total trip in your own car costs between 65 and 80 dollars when all costs are included such as parking, fuel, wear and tear, insurance, and repairs

UK Automobile Association.

Some interesting facts have been noted when people rent cars by the hour.

  1. People drive 40 to 80 percent less
  2. They choose other modes of transport like walking, bike or taking transit when it’s more cost effective, efficient and appropriate.
  3. People are more conscious of ‘right-sizing’: choosing the right mode of transport to match the need.

Car sharing is an efficient way to reduce carbon emissions in the transportation sector, as well as freeing up huge amounts of space currently occupied by parked cars. That would create more space for wider sidewalks, bike lanes and even parks.

These innovative concepts should help to reduce overall car ownership once they become widely adopted.  I know we’re all very used to the idea of a car of our own, but with a small mind-set change, we can all save money – and the planet!

Are we Happier?

“Building more roads or parking is not what makes people in cities happy”, says Enrique Peñalosa, a former mayor of Bogota, Columbia and an influential thinker on urban issues.  (He started Bogota’s famous car-free Sundays).

people walking“Public spaces where people can see other people and talk to each other is what makes people happy.  High quality sidewalks are more important to a city than roads.”

However, he acknowledges there is a powerful car-owner lobby who are any city’s wealthiest and most vocal opponents to any restrictions on cars. They are often supported by the construction industry, bankers and oil companies, he notes.

“You can never solve congestion and traffic problems by giving cars more space. Reducing parking reduces congestion and frees up space to create public space”.   He suggests using the money from making cars pay more to be in a city, to set up more efficient public transit options.

I found the thoughts on happiness particularly interesting.

What do you think?  Is it time for a mind-set change?  Or is it just too difficult to live without a car, or to make some changes to how we currently drive?  Let me know in the Comments below.

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  • Easier to do without a car in cities but in rural areas with little or no public transport and as medics we need to be able to get to patients who need us quickly when they need us – a car is essential. The mind change necessary is to realise that not everyone lives in London, Paris, New York…………… I would love to be able to walk/cycle everywhere but I live in the real world

    • Clare Delaney says:

      For sure Carol, it’s much, much easier to do without a car in a city. Like you, I live in a rural area – although I don’t need to get to patients quickly like you do as a doctor.

      I was quite taken aback when I researched the article at just how much it costs to “park” a car, and as a result I made some changes to the way I use mine. Uncovering the true cost of owning a car was quite an eye-opener.

      I’m not too sure I understand your comment that you live “in the real world” – we all do, but because we all have different needs, values and options, “reality” is different for each of us.

      For example, as a doctor you know that it’s important that everyone gets some physical exercise. The exercise that I get is probably different to the exercises that my neighbour does. Even though it’s different, it doesn’t take away from the basic principle that we all need some form of exercise to be healthy.

      We all live on a finite planet and we are over-using its resources – we need to reduce our consumption. There are many ways to do that. For someone who lives in a city, perhaps this article may cause a re-think about the true cost of car ownership where there are viable alternatives. It’s good to know just what something is costing us (and the planet). But if a car is a requirement, then no problem, there are other ways to reduce our footprint. Jogging is not for me, but I have friends who swear by it. When I see an article on jogging, I skip past it – not because it’s wrong, but just because jogging doesn’t work for me – yet it’s a valid fitness option for many.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment, and enjoy your peaceful rural idyll!

  • What a great post. I am so glad that I discovered your blog. I found it through the Change the World Wednesday post.

  • Will says:

    The congestion tax in London seems to work quite well and I am sure it would also in other big cities. Personally, if I lived in London or New York I probably would not own a car at all. Living where I do however, it is essential to have a car. I do like the idea of reducing parking to create more public space but I wonder how long it would take greedy developers to get in on the act.

    • Clare Delaney says:

      Yes, I gather London’s congestion tax is generally viewed as a success, and is studied closely by other cities. Ditching the car is definitely easier in cities (when I lived in London I certainly didn’t have a car, the public transport was great). “Greedy developers”, yes, they’re everywhere I suppose, however, I wouldn’t like to stop doing something just because some developers might take over formerly public space. I’d far rather see a green park than a car park.
      Thanks for your comment!