≡ Menu

Living footloose and car-free

I was amazed to find out recently that relatively compact Québec City, where I live, has the third-highest rate of car use in Canada (Statistics Canada report here).

I guess that’s why people look at me funny when I mention that I don’t own a car, and haven’t now for over two years. It helps that I live within three to ten minutes walking distance of major local and express bus routes, that the train station and intercity bus station is less than three kms from my home, and that I have the largest shopping complex in Canada (east of Montreal) an fifteen minute walk away. Plus my lifeline, Staples Business Depot, is just up the street.

What this car-free life gives me is a huge freedom as well as direct savings. Did you know that in Canada, owning a small car like a Toyota Echo costs $200/month in depreciation alone, just parked in front of the house, no licence, no insurance, no fuel? Add insurance, maintenance and financing, and you’re looking at a fixed cost of $20.00 a day or more, just to own the car. Then add the variable operating costs (fuel), and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) becomes $0.50 to $0.90/km (depending on car model). (see the CAA Driving Costs report in PDF here, and an overview article here)

Think about it, just jumping into the minivan to get that litre of milk can cost 50 cents to 1 dollar per km…

When I really need a car, I have access to by-the-hour car rental, or carsharing, through Communauto. I pay a nominal per hour ($1.55/hr on weekdays, $2.05/hr on weekends) or per day ($18.60 weekdays, $24.60 on weekends) and per kilometer charge (29 cents/km for the first 100 kms, 19 cents after). Everything is included, gas, insurance, maintenance, etc. There are over a hundred cars in Quebec City, all easily available by bus, I also manage my reservations by Internet.

Tracking my car expenses over the last year, I averaged about $250/month on car expenses, at about 40 cents a kilometer. Compare that with the simple depreciation expense of $200+ mentioned above! Plus none of the hassles of maintenance, etc (which I hate). Factor in all of my other modes of transport (bus pass, intercity buses, trains, etc), and I’ve averaged about $400/month on all transportation.

Not only could I sleep during all that transport time (I tend to nod off quickly, even in a crowded city bus), but the best part, financially speaking, is that given that almost all of my car use has a business purpose, almost 100% of my car expenses are before-tax deductible!

You may say that you can deduct car expenses anyways, but looking at the fine print of the tax return, the government has progressively put so many limits and makes the paperwork so complicated that this benefit is quickly eroded.

Do you have a choice to let go of your car? I know that I fought with the idea myself before going cold turkey. It was the prospect of a large repair bill for a 13 year old car and no money to put down on a new car, that finally pushed me into this situation. At first I felt “poor”, but now I am feel much richer because that’s real money that I kept in my pockets.

Robert Kiyosaki
in “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” defines an asset as something that puts money in your pocket, and a liability as something that takes money from your pocket. So is your car really an “asset”? I now understand what he is saying. I can get all the transportation that I want, with few of the hassles, for a lot less money out of my pocket.

I now get around with smart mix of walking, bus, carsharing, train, and simply choosing not to go (it’s amazing how many car trips can be avoided by not owning a car!). My personal and business activities take me everywhere around the province, and I don’t feel limited in my mobility in any way.

I really believe that in the next 30 years, car ownership will go out of style, just as in the past 30 years smoking became no longer acceptable. Plus I get to be trendy-green!

Take a look at the latest from Sheryl Crow, called “Gasoline”, (off her new album, Detours) imagining what a gas shortage ten years from now could be like:

{ 0 comments… add one }

Leave a Comment