One of the issues that contributes to excessive car use is that it’s not straightforward to calculate the cost of driving.
Once you have the car, the cost of each additional trip you take in it is obscured. Apart from tolls and fuel costs, many might see an already-paid-for car sitting in the driveway as “free”, making it an easy option. This is why good alternatives are not based around park and ride, but instead aiming to replace the entire trip, enabling households to own fewer cars.
I thought I’d have a go at calculating the total cost per kilometre of my car.
Obviously there are a lot of variables, so each person’s result will be a bit different.
Depreciation:The Lancer I bought last year cost me $18,000 new. If I assume it’ll be near-worthless by the time it gets 200,000 kms on the clock (I’m not actually likely to drive it that much while I have it, but later owners might), then that’s depreciation of 11.1 cents per kilometre.
Some of the other costs are annual fees, so the cost per kilometre will vary according to how much I drive. The Australian average is 15,000. We’re well below that in my family, though it’s increasing a bit since one son got his P-plates last month. I’m going to use 8,000 km as an estimate.
Insurance: $708.20. (It’s definitely gone up since having a P-plater behind the wheel!) That’s 8.9 cents per kilometre.
Registration: having just bought the car, it was paid for the first year, but ongoing annual cost is $816.50. That works out to 10.2 cents per kilometre.
Servicing: This will vary a lot, and will get more expensive as the vehicle gets older. But for now, because I bought a brand new car, this is capped at $230 for each of the first three years = 2.9 cents per kilometre.
Petrol: The car’s got an information display which can tell you various things. One is how many litres per 100 kilometres it’s burning. From my observation this usually varies between 6 and 10, depending on whether we’re driving on country freeways with little traffic, or start-stopping along a busy city road. (On the bright side it never gets driven in commuter peaks.) The official government number for a 2017 Lancer is 7.4, but let’s be a little pessimistic and use 8.
How much does petrol cost? The Australian Institute of Petroleum reckons in Victoria the average price in 2017-18 was 135.2 cents per litre, which seems roughly right, though I wonder if it’s creeping up.
So every 100 kilometres we’re using $10.816 of fuel, or 10.8 cents per kilometre.
What about tolls? We only use tollroads occasionally, perhaps about $50 per year, so I think I’ll exclude this for now.
So the cost for me is: Depreciation 11.1 + insurance 8.9 + rego 10.2 + servicing 2.9 + petrol 10.8 = 43.9 cents per kilometre.
(Contrast: public transport within Melbourne is generally $4.40 for any individual trip of up to 2+ hours, with a cap of $8.80 per day, but it gets a lot cheaper if you buy a Pass and use it regularly.)
Obviously there are a lot of costs that motorists don’t pay for directly. Driving is very heavily subsidised.
But having a number, even if it’s only an estimate, means I can quantify how much it’s costing each time we use the car.
Did I miss anything, or mess it up? What’s the cost in your household? Leave a comment!
Rapaille says women love cup holders because — and this is really what he told her — cup holders mean coffee, and coffee means safety, because of the memories we all have of our mothers preparing coffee with breakfast.
And this: Anthony Prozzi, design manager for Ford in Michigan, explains that “part of a designers job is to play psychologist, anthropologist and sociologist, and knowing those things helps you read consumers and know what puts a smile on their faces.”
My new car has a spot to put a bottle in the door (like my old car did) plus cupholders in the centre between the front two seats. So I can have two drinks within easy reach if I want… while the manual warns you not to actually use them while driving. Plus it’s got a spot for a packet of tissues, in case I have a spill.
I suppose car manufacturers have been at this game for a long time. You’ve bought their product for thousands of dollars – they want you to feel good about it, so that in time you’ll want to upgrade to another one.
The net result is that – even for someone like me, who understands the consequences of driving, and doesn’t like driving – I feel like I want to drive it.
I’d never drive it to work. Parking is too expensive, traffic is too soul-destroying, and (usually) the train is too good.
But it’s tempting to drive it other places where PT options are fewer – and I can understand why some people would be tempted to drive every day, even into horrible traffic. Combined with (Australian) governments who keep building big roads, even though it doesn’t solve congestion (it expands it), the desire to drive is powerful.
Just get in, turn the key and go. It’s so easy. Mostly the noise, air quality and traffic impacts are Somebody Else’s Problem. The motorist doesn’t pay for them; society does.
Governments are complicit in this, especially in Australia, where they build ever more roads as cities get bigger – despite this being not how the world’s biggest cities solve their mobility problems.
So the desire to drive is powerful.
All this means that those of us who believe in the importance of solving those impacts through alternative transport modes have to make sure that they improve enough to fight back. If everybody who could afford to and was able to was on the roads, it’d be a disaster.
Perhaps to an extent cars are self-defeating. The more crowded the roads become, the better the alternatives look.
I also associate the car with first escapes, driving nowhere in particular in the middle of the night with a friend, movement being a goal in its own right. … Countless trips have been made by car since then, and we (still) own a small car today. However, trains became our favorite transport mode a long time ago, and as a family, we nowadays associate highways with congestion and stress, places to avoid. — Stefan Gossling
Ultimately to fight back against the car, the other options need to improve.
Gossling again: There are powerful interests at work to psychologically engineer car addiction—addicts, conveniently, never question their behavior. Other insights pertain to the role of cars with regard to emotions, sociality, sex and gender, speed, authority, and death. We need to understand these interrelationships to unlock the possibility of alternative transport futures.
Can public transport improve?
One could focus on the psychological aspects of public transport, but what about the basics – making the system easy and pleasant to use?
Cleanliness, crowding, information, security and easy to use ticketing all come into it. But seamless connections and cutting waiting times to reduce door-to-door journey times are fundamental requirements.
It would be easy enough to despair. Progress is so damn slow.
Trams have seen capacity expansion (big trams replacing smaller trams) but few route extensions, and remain slow due to a lack of progress on traffic priority.
The noises about public transport expansion are positive, but the actual progress isn’t.
Particularly frustrating is that literally billions are being spent on new rail tunnels to fix peak hour (great!) but most suburban train lines continue to run only every 20 minutes at most times of day, 30 minutes evenings. There are still gaps of 40 minutes on some lines on Sunday mornings.
A few have improved, but on most lines at most times they are much the same now as they have been for 30 years.
Let’s face it, with some exceptions, outside peak, most of the public transport system remains pathetically infrequent and slow, especially for a city of nearly five million people — despite increasing all-day demand.
Really, it’s no surprise that most people continue to drive.
The car industry is doing its best to coax us in, and on the other side, every signal from authorities, every pathetic half-baked public transport upgrade, every poorly-programmed pedestrian crossing, every non-existent bike path tells people to drive.
To curb the many problems of the car, they have to do better.
This is not the first time Target has tried this. They stopped issuing free plastic bags in 2009, but brought them back in 2013. Part of the problem seemed to be that the bags they sold were the same as the previously free ones they’d given away. Other retailers sell higher quality bags.
An outright ban has been in place for all retailers in NT, Tas, SA and ACT, plus Qld and WA joined them on 1st July, which no doubt is why the retailers have pushed ahead. Victoria is set to follow at some stage. Unclear what NSW will do.
I’m happy to see this change. Yet there’s been some unbelievably ridiculous hand-wringing from some quarters:
When scouring Carsales, I had pondered that if I saw the perfect deal somewhere out in the country, I’d be willing to go to grab it. In the end I bought from a local dealership, which will make servicing it with them to maintain the warranty much easier.
In fact as part of the handover, they showed me where the service area is, and how the after hours drop-off/pick-up works. Clever. The chief service guy there recognised me from when he used to work on my old Magna years ago. Heh.
The dealer bloke showed me the basics of the car, then sent me on my way.
Amusingly/horrifyingly I scraped the bottom of the steep driveway just exiting the dealership. Can’t see any visible marks. Also amusingly, I thought the engine was revving loudly on the drive home, until I realised it was in Sports mode, not Drive. Oops.
Today I’ve sat in the car for a while with the manual and figured out all the controls. Or at least, the important ones.
The psychology of buying a new car and wanting to drive places is powerful.
Anyway, I like it so far, though I could do without the spoiler, which I don’t think helps visibility out of the back window. Perhaps I should have asked if the car was available without it.
At the time it had 117,000 kms on the clock; ten years later it’s now at 180,000, and is basically worth almost nothing, which is a bit annoying as about a year ago I spent $500 on brand new tyres for it.
So basically, the two cars I’ve had have depreciated by about $1100 per year.
What other costs? Insurance roughly $400 per year (though it used to be higher when I was younger). Rego about $800 (this is rising, not reducing).
Petrol: I fill up about 4-6 weeks. Looks like I spent $518 on fuel in 2017.
Maintenance and repairs? So far since the start of 2017 I’ve spent about $1600. This is probably going up as the car gets older, so let’s guess an average of $600 per year.
With average annual car travel of about 6300 kms (which is under half the Australian average, by the way) that’s about 54 cents per kilometre.
My usual driving pattern is that I use the car on the weekends, but rarely during the week. Mostly those weekend drives are around the suburbs, but a few times a year it’ll be a longer trip to visit relatives in the country.
What if I didn’t own my own car?
The only car share scheme in my area that I know of is Car Next Door – vehicles cost about $20-30 per day plus about 33 cents per kilometre.
Based on my annual kilometres, that works out to be roughly 20% more than paying to own my own vehicle. If my weekend drives were occasional, it’d probably be cheaper, but not if driving a bit almost every weekend.
Of course if using car share, you’re likely to make more of your trips using other modes. Countering that: my sons are about to learn to drive, so demand for a vehicle may go up a bit.
So for now, I’m thinking I need to continue owning a car, at least until PT is so good that the PTUA has no purpose!
What I want in a car
So I got to shopping. What did I want?
5-star ANCAP rating – Nothing gets you thinking about safety like your offspring learning to drive
Automatic — after 20 years of being intimidated by hill starts, I think I’ve had enough of Manuals (and my sons don’t seem interested in learning on one)
Cruise control for country driving
Something a bit bigger/roomier than the Astra, but not too big, so it’s reasonably fuel-efficient. Small to medium-sized, while noting that small cars are now about the size of that Magna I used to own
Reliable/as new as possible, of course. (Just to filter down the options, I decided to stick to Japanese brands, as a synonym for reliability)
Nice to have: alloy wheels make the whole car a bit lighter, which may be more fuel efficient, or so they tell me
I’m quite enamoured of indicators on mirrors. Possibly they are more visible to pedestrians, but in any case I just like them. I’m not sure why. (Apparently they’re officially referred to as “door mirrors with integrated turn indicator”)
Daytime running lights are now a mandated European standard, apparently help safety, particularly with visibility to pedestrians. (I have fog lights on my current car. I don’t think I’ve ever used them.)
Working out the costs of motoring, above, especially the real costs of purchase back in the day, and the money lost in depreciation, made me feel a lot better about shopping for a car in the $15,000 range, to get something as new as possible, and of course with a 5-star ANCAP rating.
After talking to relatives, I concluded that everybody likes the car they drive. Stepfather likes Subaru; sister likes her Mazda 3; cousin likes his Mitsubishi Lancer. (All Japanese brands. Hmm.)
After noting the high safety rating, I did start looking at Subaru Impreza for a while, but there aren’t that many of them about for sale, and you have to spend well over twenty grand to get an almost new model with those nice indicators on mirrors and daytime running lights. Not that they’re essential by any means.
I was also a little nervous about reviews which remarked that Subarus can be a little fussy on maintenance. Which means to minimise risk it’d be a pricey dealer service every time.
So, back to the Carsales web site to do some more searching and researching. (By the way, the Carsales mobile web site lets you search for specific feature in a car, such as Cruise Control. I can’t see that feature on the desktop/standard web site.)
I just bought a new car
While out for a walk the other morning, looking at various cars I saw along the way, I wondered:
Considering I spent over $19,000 (in 2018 dollars) on my first car, back when I had relatively little money, what about upping the budget a bit so I could stop compromising so much and get everything on my list?
I am lucky enough that I can (just) afford to do this.
An ad caught my eye: a demonstration model 2017 Mitsubishi Lancer for $18,500 (drive away price). Retail price for the 2018 model (in automatic) is $21,990.
I like the size and the style (though I could do without the “bum enhancement”).
$18,500 is more expensive than I’d like, but let’s look again at the maths:
Servicing on a used car could easily be $500-800 per year, and is often wildly unpredictable, especially the older the vehicle gets. But many brands of new car have capped price servicing. In this case, it’s a maximum of $230 per year for the first three years, so potentially a saving of at least $750 over three years, but even beyond that, repairs are hopefully going to be cheaper on a newer vehicle. (Plus warranty.)
A new car also comes with a full year of rego, saving up to $800 — many of the used cars available only have a few months
It’s new, so there’s no need to pay for a pre-purchase inspection, saving about $225-250
So in the first four years, potentially a saving of around $2000. And given how much I hate buying cars, I can keep a brand new car for longer.
Suddenly buying a discounted demo car at about $18K seems not a bad proposition compared to a used car at $15K, so I went and test drove it. I quite liked it. It seems odd that the Lancer is being discontinued (and not replaced) at the end of 2018.
Anyway, I decided to go for it. Although it was a demo car, the dealer said it’s actually brand new, sitting in a holding yard somewhere until it can be delivered.
Trade-in? Worth almost nothing, unfortunately, a couple of hundred dollars. But I knew that going in, so at least I wasn’t disappointed.
But we did that little haggle dance around the final “changeover” price, and I did manage to get a bit of a discount, and floor mats thrown in.
The main guy handed me over to a lady who organised payment and delivery, and also offered some extra options like tinting, paint protection… They made the mistake of giving me a minute or two to Google and find this Choice article: Useless car extras revealed, leading me to opt out of those.
So anyway, I’m getting a new car. And not just a new car, but a new car.
It arrives in about two weeks.
Hopefully by the time I’m done with it in a decade or more, electric cars will be plentiful and cheap, and/or public transport will be at a standard where I don’t need to drive regularly on the weekend.
Niggling doubt: rather than a sedan, should I have bought another hatch? Will I be cursing myself the next time I need to bring home flatpacks from Ikea? Mind you the specs say it does have the 60/40 split folding seats
Of course, having been researching cars for months, every online advert I now see is for cars.
…That said, it’s notable that older cars often have poor safety ratings now, but did well in ANCAP tests at the time. They don’t have the 1998 Corolla ANCAP results still available, but the 2009 model scored 5/5 at the time, but only rates 2/5 now based on accident statistics.
But given how little I drive, I’m also on a budget. So a 5-8 year old car is probably the target.
Here’s where things get interesting. How Safe Is Your Car provides ANCAP ratings of vehicles going back about 5 years.
Older than that, they give you “Used Car Safety Ratings”, which rather than being based on crash tests, are based on actual crash statistics: “Driver Protection rating based on analysis of real world crashes.”
And these show the Corolla rankings dropping markedly: a 2012 Corolla got five stars for ANCAP, but only rates 2/5 on the crash statistics — no better than my old 2000 Astra, or indeed the old 1993 Magna.
What I’m not clear on is whether there’s a difference between the hatch and the sedan. It doesn’t distinguish. The sedan is a bit bigger, and might perform differently in real world crashes.
In contrast to the Corolla, the 2006-2011 Camry got a four star ANCAP rating, but rates 4/5 on crash statistics. (Camrys from 2012 onwards have five star ANCAP ratings.)
I wonder if driver behaviour is a factor here? Camrys are not a very exciting car…
Finding the dealer
Last Monday afternoon, before I’d twigged on the real world used car safety ratings, I went to test-drive a Corolla I’d found on Carsales. Just getting there was a slightly torturous drive.
The car dealer was on a busy divided arterial road. I was approaching from the wrong direction, so I did a U-turn. It was about 3pm, and the road was very congested, but a kind motorist let me in… into her lane… the right-hand lane.
None of the other drivers were that considerate, and as we all crawled along, none would let me merge left… so I missed the car dealer.
Okay. I’m still in the right hand lane. I found the next U-turn point, so I could try another pass.
Ahead of me at the lights was a red car. When the light changed, we both did U-turns and headed back the way I’d come.
I noticed the red car also did another U-turn. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who’d been unable to merge across.
What fun. We’re all going around in circles.
I didn’t see if they made it a second time; I went a bit further down the road to where there was slightly less congestion, and managed to get into the correct lane this time and hit my target.
Test the right car, dummy
Having eventually made it to the car dealer, I chatted to the bloke and looked at the car.
A splendid beast indeed. I took it for a drive around the (large) block while he checked out my old Astra as a trade-in.
The Corolla was lovely. Good size, drove smoothly, not too many Ks on the clock.
I was even (perhaps overly) enamoured of the indicator lights on the wing mirrors.
Then I noticed it doesn’t come with cruise control. I hadn’t even thought to check. Only some models of they year’s Corollas come with it.
If I was just driving in the city, I wouldn’t need it. But I don’t actually drive much in the city. A few times a year, I drive to the country to visit the in-laws, and it’s incredibly valuable to have it.
Apparently you can get kits to fit cruise control afterwards. They’re not too expensive. But isn’t this just the type of after-market modification that messes with your insurance premiums?
And I’m likely to only get a pittance on the old Astra, at least from that dealer. I wasn’t expecting much, but 4 digits would at least be nice. He actually suggested I simply keep it. Yeah nah. Presumably it’s only value is parts.
Update 22/5/2018: I had been considering a Mitsubishi Lancer. Recent models are five star safety rated, and according to my cousin who has one, they’re made in Japan and very reliable, while being a bit cheaper than a Corolla.
Mitsubishi are discontinuing the Lancer in the next year or two, so the basic model hasn’t changed in some time — not that it matters. I think I’ll take a look at one.