Everyone Is Spending Too Much On Transportation


No matter if you’re rich, poor, or somewhere in between, you spend a lot on transportation. The WSJ has some great data on how people across income levels spend money. The whole post is worth reading (it’s here) but I wanted to pull out the chart above as it supports my ongoing series on not owning a car.

In short, this is one of the core reasons being car-free rocks. No matter how much money you make your car is likely your highest consumer expenditure (outside of rent or mortgage). Knocking this down is in your interest from a financial standpoint, pure and simple. I’ve already documented the social and stress / health benefits of not owning a car above (I get over 10,000 steps in every day whether I consciously exercise or not, for example).

But let’s keep this post focused on financials. I’ve run the numbers and no matter how I slice the data or how many Ubers I take in a month – it’s far cheaper to not own a car and to bike/walk/use shared & public transit everywhere.

My expenses for the past 5 years of living in San Francisco work out about like this:

  • Bike: $1500 (so that’s averaged out now to costing me $25/mo for a really nice bike)
  • Zipcar: as-needed (likely I spend $300 in total / year here if that, purely for weekend trips, so let’s call it $25 / month)
  • Bus / light rail: between $0 – $10 / month (I almost never use this because I love walking, have a bike and SF isn’t that big)
  • Uber: between $0-$50 / month (on occasions I don’t want to walk or bike home at night)
  • Walking: free & healthy! (San Francisco is very walkable and I try and use this as most frequent option)

So on a given month, at the very most, I spend at the high end $110 on transportation. Note, some months I don’t even spend anything. For work, I walk or bike to my office in San Francisco, work from home, or yes, I am lucky my employer provides free transit to our offices down the Bay. But even still most companies in Bay Area help offset commuter costs, many have a commuter shuttle, and if not the light rail / CalTrain are reasonable options.

Owning a car is just a bad idea (I’ll add some disclaimers: IF you’re childfree and live in a city – but also becoming true for many people outside of cities). I can’t speak for people with kids or those that live in suburbia with poor public transit. Or people with a long commute (ps, you should move closer to your job, science says this is making you unhappy). But if you live in San Francisco, New York or a city with proper public infrastructure and own a car, it just isn’t worth it. Parking, insurance, payments, upkeep, gas. After 5 years without these expenses they seem crazy to ever return to.

So ditch owning a car and be happier, healthier, spend less $, be less stressed, see more of your world, be more social, get more fresh air, make new friends, and decrease your carbon footprint. Don’t be afraid. Join us! #carfree

Or sure, go ahead, own a car in San Francisco and enjoy paying reasonable rates like this just for the privilege of parking it at a game:

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 4.07.02 PM

Image via /r/sanfrancisco