There are certain things that have always made up rites of passage into adulthood. Your first real boyfriend/girlfriend. Mowing excessive facial or body hair more than once every six months. Things like that. However, no rite of passage is more profound than the purchase of your first car! Wow, the world just opened up! Ridin’ down the road, tryin’ to loosen your load, you’ve got seven women on your mind…or lyrics to that effect. At least, owning a car used to be a rite of passage. But, some Millennials and Gen Z-ers are looking at car ownership in a whole new light. They’re wondering if the expense and hassle are worth it. Are they nuts? Or, do they have a cogent point given the proliferation of other options? Gildshire examines all sides of living without a private car.
Pro #1: Elimination of a Major Budget Item: Well, duh. Taking the average car payment, insurance premium, registration expense, gas, and upkeep, it costs about $7,500 a year to own a car. Since Gen Z is in a higher cost insurance pool, their numbers are likely higher yet. If this was the only criteria, it’s amazing we haven’t all gotten rid of the car.
Con #1: Building and Repairing Credit: The fastest way to build good credit at the beginning of your financial life, or repair credit if things have gone awry is with a successful car loan. Young people starting out should try for a significant down payment to mitigate the expenses we talked about above.
Pro #2: Rideshare Rewards: Most people don’t know about these perks for being a frequent rider. In 2016, Uber started “UberVIP.” To gain VIP status, complete 10 rides in a month, while maintaining high ratings. (For those who may not know,
Uber drivers rate their passengers and vice versa.) Without a private car to carry you around, ten rides in a month is a cinch. Now, for the same rate as an everyday Uber, you’re summoning an “UberVIP” ride! It’s one of Uber’s highest-rated drivers behind the wheel of a nice vehicle. That’s right, VIP Person. You’re in a Buick, Acura, or Avalon. The rest of us get by in Priuses.
Con #2: There is Something to Be Said For Dependability: What if Lyft or Uber decide your trip is “peak time,” and raises rates accordingly? Or, what if you have a bad day and your passenger rating plummets, all because you told the driver he was a witless fool. (For example purposes only. No Gildshire reader would actually do that.) What if the lane stripers near your house slow your driver enough that you’re late. At times like these, your trusty car in the driveway sounds like a pretty sweet deal.
Pro #3: On Average, It is Safer Not to Drive: Be honest with me. You have texted while at a stop light. Heck, I know one guy who texts with one hand, eats a burger with the other, shifts with his elbow and steers with his knees. You are safer in the back seat of a rideshare than driving near a lunatic like that.
Con #3: Distance is an Issue: Lyft has a maximum ride range of sixty miles, while Uber has a “tell the driver in advance” requirement for long trips. Presumably, that’s so you can be summarily turned down. Your car never complains about being asked to go 120 miles for a Fuddrucker’s hamburger. Sure, you can take the bus as far as you wish. But, Greyhound may drop you in a vacant lot at 1 am, and weren’t we just talking about safety?
Pro #4: Productivity May Make You the Boss: Meet Max. When he drove his own commute he listened to Spotify as the landscape slowly rolled past. With an Uber commute, he adds 50 minutes each way to his productive work life. Of course, sometimes Max chooses not to work, instead watching the landscape slowly roll past. Either way, he arrives at work more prepared for the day and arrives at home more rested. Max wishes he had started living without a car long ago.
Con #4: The Freedom That Comes With Solitude: Maybe you use the alone time in your car to crank up that old time-a rock and roll. Perhaps you scream into the steering wheel because your co-worker is a total bully. On a more positive note, the solitude of your own car can be the place you plan that special romantic getaway. You know the one. Yeahhhh…
Pro #5: It Pops Your Bubble: We are an increasingly isolated society, even as we connect with thousands a day through social media. It is a real dichotomy. Particularly if you are an UberVIP you will meet pleasant and interesting people with whom you can have a face-to-face interaction. That may be what you have been missing. In that case, living without a car fulfills another need.
Con #5: What if You Just Like to Drive? Going forward, this may be the question that settles the matter. If you love to drive, selling the car is a non-starter. Sure, you can buy a lot of Uber, Greyhound and even plane tickets with $7,500 a year. But, when you fire up that V-8 and hear the thunder rumble it takes you back to those emerging adulthood days of yore. There isn’t a price tag for your yore.
At the end of the day, there is no Universal right answer, to the question of living without a private car. But, there is a right answer for you.