Could you manage without a car?

A little while ago the BBC did this short piece on envisaging towns without cars. Here in Cardiff people are quite attached to their cars, but times are supposed to be changing.

This motoring fixation, as we’ve discussed many times before, has a cost –aside from spending nearly a week sitting in traffic jams every year. It has a financial cost for all of us, but also an environmental and societal one as well. As you know, we try to provide practical and positive solutions to problems wherever they present themselves, so we thought we’d have a crack at this one.

The financial cost to you…

Cars are not cheap. Whether you buy brand new or pick up an old banger from the back of the Echo, there’s going to be a financial cost. As someone who has done both over the years, whichever option you choose the cost isn’t that all that different when maintenance and MOT’s are taken into account.

Let’s take a £10,000 car as an example. A £10,000 car with a £500 deposit will give you a hire purchase agreement of around £200 per month over 5 years, depending on the interest rate. Add onto this the cost of insurance, which for youngsters is likely to be over £100 per month. Add to that the car tax (note, not road tax, that doesn’t exist and hasn’t since Winston Churchill abolished it), servicing costs and petrol.

If you are paying any less than £400 per month for all of that, consider yourself very lucky.

Now, every month (apart from two months at the start of the year) you pay a council tax bill. Driving your car causes damage to the roads and creates potholes. These have to be repaired by the council and this pushes all of our council tax bills up.

The alternatives

By not having a car of your own, you could be saving upwards of £400 per month. But how do you get around then?

For your £400 per month saving, you could:

  • Buy a bike to get around town.
  • Buy a monthly rail or bus ticket for about £50 and travel as much as you like.
  • Hire a car for around £40 per day for those days you definitely need a car.
  • Have your supermarket shopping delivered.

The bike option

Ok, let’s get this out of the way now. We’re a pro-cycling site, so we are obviously going to recommend this one. £400 is a good amount to spend on your first bike, but a £400 saving per month adds up to £4,800 per year and will give you the option to buy something really nice for the weekends as well. We’re talking carbon or titanium frames and electronic shifting sort of nice, here.

Yes, you may not feel as though it is safe on the roads, but every car that is removed from the roads is arguably one less accident waiting to happen. It just takes a few people to take that bold step.

The season ticket…

Even if you do make the bulk of your trips by bike, having a season ticket gives you additional options. We all need rest days, particularly if our commutes are long, or perhaps you feel like letting your hair down on a Friday night. The season ticket will make that very easy.

A season ticket from the edge of Cardiff, or even into Penarth will set you back around £50 per month, but you’ll no longer have to worry about finding or paying for parking, which can be upwards of £10 per day in Cardiff now.

The hire option…

By buying a car, you are taking a chance that the car you buy will meet all of your needs for the time that you own it. If you buy a small car, but find you need to carry a wardrobe one day, it may cause a problem.

If you hire, you can pick and choose the type of vehicle you need for that particular occasion. Be that a small car, a people carrier or even a van.

You could even hire something exciting from time to time and not have to deal with the often crippling ongoing costs.

Shopping online

A great option, particularly for meal planning and for sticking to a budget. Having the app for your favourite supermarket on your phone, you can just add items to your basket as you discover the gaping hole in the cupboard where it should be and have it delivered at a time convenient for you.

Granted, the fresh produce they’ll pick for you isn’t always the best, but you could –and this is something we’ve been finding really enjoyable lately, is to buy the heavy, branded items from the supermarket online, but pick up the fresh food from your local butcher or greengrocer by bike.

It’s not just theory…

All of the ideas included here are ones that we’re either doing already or planning to do. There’s still a car on the scene, but there’s still a finance agreement to conclude before it’ll be sold.

The process of removing it from the equation has already begun, albeit purely in psychological terms. It is no longer used for commuting, and it hasn’t been for some time. Riding to work is so much less stressful, so much cheaper and much quicker despite being 10km away. Yes, it requires a little more effort and a lot more laundry, but it is worth it for the mental and physical health benefits alone.

Our poll

So, our question to you is, could you manage without a car? Is it something you have or would consider?

Perhaps you already do live a car-free life? We’d love to hear about how that is going.

Finally, if the idea of being without a car is definitely off the table, what would it take to change your mind? Perhaps there are trips you currently do by car that could be done another way?


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