Have you ever sat down to weigh the costs of owning your car, against how much you use it?
That’s the question Pippa and Jason Van Dam asked themselves when their car broke down. With a 3-year-old daughter and a baby on the way, they wondered if they needed a car at all.
They both take public transit to work and walk their daughter to daycare. They shop for groceries at stores within walking distance of their home. And, they only used their car on weekends to visit family. Why spend money for something they barely used?
The solution for the Van Dams was to join a car-sharing program. Now, they rent a car only when they need to. “It’s a way for us to save money and reduce our level of stress,” explains Pippa.
Why give up your car?
There are 4 good reasons to make the move.
1. Huge savings
According to CAA, car ownership costs in Canada run from $8,600 to $13,000 a year, depending on make and model. Those costs include:
- Monthly payments
- Driver’s licence
- Traffic tickets
- Oil changes
- Tire changes
- The rising cost of gas.
Simply put, owning a car is expensive. For some Canadians, there isn’t the option to rely on mass transit. But if you live in an urban area, it might be worth considering. It’s more affordable to buy a monthly transit pass, bike, or walk. And that’s true even if you rent a car or take a taxi once in a while.
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2. Reduce your carbon footprint
Driving a car can have a big impact on the environment. It increases greenhouse gas emissions, which is a large contributor to climate change.
In Canada, emissions from the transportation sector rose 32% between 1990 and 2020. Canada is also a large producer of transportation emissions, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The environmental impact of driving a car includes:
- Air pollution
- Noise pollution
- Loss of urban space
When you choose other forms of transportation, you reduce your carbon footprint and help protect the environment.
3. Boost your fitness
Without a car, you may end up walking or biking more often. That makes it easy to get the recommended 30 minutes of daily exercise!
4. Reduce your stress
When you give up your car, you can also say goodbye to some of the frustration that comes with driving. Gone are the days of being stuck in a traffic jam or, trying to find a parking spot,
While it may take longer to get where you’re going on public transit, you don’t have the stress of driving when you take the bus, train or subway. You can use that time to read, meditate or even do some deep breathing exercises.
How hard is it?
When you don’t have a car, it’s harder to go on spontaneous trips far from home. You have to do more planning ahead of time, notes Natasha MacFarlane. When she had a car, she would frequently drive her kids down to the beach.
Now, it takes too long to do that on transit. “We’ve changed what we do recreationally. We discover more things in our neighbourhood now, and we do something that’s close by,” says the Toronto-based mom.
Think you might be ready to give up your car for good?
Here are some questions to yourself first:
- How often do you use your vehicle?
- How much do you pay for car-related expenses?
- Do you live near reliable public transit?
- How much is a monthly transit pass?
- How long does it take you to get to work by bike or public transit?
- Is there a car rental or car-sharing service in your area?
If you’re considering saying goodbye to your car, Pippa Van Dam recommends experimenting for a month before committing. “It’s interesting to see what impact it has on your life,” she says. “We find not having a car makes us a little more active. If it’s cold weather or raining, we might have driven our daughter to daycare. We can’t do that anymore... but you get used to it, you find other solutions.”
What are the alternatives to driving?
As well as being good for your health (both physical and mental), walking is eco-friendly and free.
You can buy your own bike or rent a bike from a program like BIXI Montréal for $92/year or Bike Share Toronto for $115/year. Travelling on two wheels is affordable and enjoyable, especially with children!
The bus, train and subway are all fast and safe ways to get around. Best of all, it costs only a few dollars a trip!
Taxi and/or Uber
This is the most expensive option, but it's still very convenient when the weather’s bad or you have a lot to carry.
Another option is to rent a car. You can rent a car for about $250 for a long weekend. It’s an ideal solution for out-of-town excursions.
Car-sharing services like Zipcar or Communauto can save you a lot of money. It costs about $0.40/minute, $12.75/hour or $50/day to rent a car-share vehicle. And if you’re a frequent user, you may qualify for special deals. Gas, maintenance and insurance are included in the price.
Does a coworker drive by your house on their way to work every day? You could arrange to share a ride with them. Sharing a trip is more fun, right?
Need more advice?
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- How to save for retirement if you don’t own your house
This article is meant to provide general information only. Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada does not provide legal, accounting, taxation or other professional advice. Please seek advice from a qualified professional, including a thorough examination of your specific legal, accounting and tax situation.