Cars are expensive
An automobile is very expensive to own and operate. We are likely to think of gas and insurance as expenses. Here's a more complete list:
- Car Payment (average $300 per month)
- Insurance (average $90 per month)
- Gas (8 mile commute = $70 per momnth)
- Maintenance (Average $70 per month)
- Misc. ($40 per month)
Miscellaneous covers parking, parking tickets, car washes, tabs, etc.
Maintenance includes tires, brakes, mufflers, oil changes, regular service and repairs. Of course you only pay for these things very infrequently, but when you do, it is usually $600 - $1200 at a time. We're looking at averages here. This is real out-of-pocket money, and I think I'm being conservative.
This adds up to $570 per month. Sound fairly reasonable?
Where does your paycheck go?
According to the US census, the median household income for individuals over the age of 25, with a high-school diploma, employed full time, is about $45,000. Sounds about right, as an average. After taxes that person is taking home about $34,000 that they can spend however they choose - or about $2,850 per month.
So according to these numbers, exactly twenty percent of an employee's working time is spent in support of the vehicle. Twenty percent! Makes me wonder if we're driving to work or working to drive. My own personal numbers included a higher car payment ($400 per month), which put me at about 25%. That's one week every month - three entire months per year of getting out of bed earlier than I want to, going to meetings, rushing on deadlines, not doing other things that I would rather be doing - so that I can have a car.
This estimate is supported by additional US Census Beurea data (1998). According to the data, expenditure percentages are failry consistent over the decades. This chart, from that same data, shows average American household expenses, by percentage.
Bottom Line - I work too hard to throw my money away like this. I can think of better ways to spend it. How would you like a 20% raise? Or work less and make the same amount of money? Follow your dreams! We don't have to be chained to these vehicles and we certainly don't have to throw away the years of our health and youth to keep them running, let alone our spending money. What would you do with an extra $570 per month?
Your cost to drive
Coming soon right here, an interactive little calculator doo-dad that you can use to estimate your own cost of car ownership.
Getting some money back
Reduced insurance - If you keep your car, but drive less, your insurance company might let you reduce your coverage and pay less! Call them to find out.
Selling your car - Figuring out how to sell my car was one of my biggest hurdles. I owed money and I thought I would have to sell it to a dealer for less than it was worth. Not true! You can sell your car for full Blue-Book value to a private owner even if you owe money to the bank. It's easy. Just place an ad in the paper or on Craigslist. When you get a buyer, explain that they will have to make the payment to your bank instead of to you directly, and tell them it's easy, it is. You will provide them with a legal Bill-of-Sale, so they can rest easily until the title arrives. Your bank can release the title directly to the new buyer.
Call your bank or lender to get the exact payoff amount, this is usally good for 2 weeks or so. You might have to put up a little cash yourself if you sell then car for less than the payoff amount. It's no big deal. It's usually about $300-$900 difference between how much you can get for your car, and how much you owe. A small price to pay for freedom! Think of it as a down payment on your health.
Health insurance - Some health insurance plans give discounts to people who qualify as living a "Healthy Lifestyle". I wouldn't count on it, but it can't hurt to ask.