I’ve been wondering for a while if it would be feasible to sell my car and rely solely on alternative transport. Alternative transport being buses, taxis, trains, Uber, etc. Why would one want to do that? Well, I believe the costs of owning and maintaining a car are a lot more than we realise and so it might be a significantly cheaper to not have a car.

22seven gave me some money-saving challenges for the #GYST (Get Your $ Together) campaign this month, and one of them was ditching my car and using alternative transport options. I was pretty excited to give it a go and see the results…

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Things to consider
Firstly, this is probably only viable if you don’t need your car for work. If you work an office bound 9-to-5, and you can get to work by public transport or by walking/cycling, then it could be worth considering giving up your car.

There is a significant convenience factor that you will sacrifice in giving up your car. The convenience is mainly around time saving, but also includes other things like having to walk or wait for transport in the rain, having to carry your groceries while you walk or ride public transport, etc.

My situation
I live in Sea Point and work from home. So that’s a good start for me. But I do need my car for two aspects of my work. The first is meetings, but that is easy because I have most of my meetings in town and I can catch the MyCiti bus without difficulty. The second is more challenging. I often have to attend events which are out in the winelands. For some I could use the shuttle provided or try get a lift with one of the other attendees, but for others I would either have to skip the event or catch a taxi/Uber, which would be too expensive.

Socially, most of my activities are in town and I already catch a bus out and Uber home so that I don’t drink and drive, so that’s not a problem. The only other challenge is that I attend church on Sundays in the southern suburbs, so I would need to catch a lift or Uber and that could get expensive. But the question is how expensive?

Car expenses
The most obvious and significant expenses are repayments, insurance and petrol. But you’ll be surprised at how much more we spend on our cars without realising when you start adding up things like parking, fines, license and a long list of other car expenses we tend not to consider.

Tracking car expenses is made much easier with the 22seven app. The app has 2 default categories called ‘Transport & Fuel’ and ‘Vehicle Expenses’, but for this experiment I wanted one category for all my car expenses, and another for all my non-car transport expenses so I could compare what they cost me. So I moved all my car expenses into the ‘Vehicle Expenses’ category and renamed the other category just ‘Transport’.

Could You Give Up Your Car?

So what other vehicle expenses, apart from repayments, petrol and insurance, do you think landed in the ‘Vehicle Expenses’ category? Well, here’s a list, along with what each item costs me on average per month. (To work that out, I took the average spend according to 22seven. For annual costs I divided by 12.)

• Parking: R120
Some people rent a parking bay because they work in town, and that would make this a significant monthly expense. I’ve included street parking, shopping centres, etc. And I’ve estimated an amount for car guards because I use cash to pay them. My total is small because I normally catch the bus into town these days.

• Tolls: R20
This will be a bigger number for those who have to pay e-tolls, but I only occasionally pay tolls.

• Traffic fines: R100
I know some people get a lot of fines, and others don’t pay their fines but I pay mine and I get about 2 a year.

• Licence renewal: R50
One of the fines in the item above was for not renewing my licence on time!

• Repairs & services: R100
My car is under motorplan so this is a small number for me, but if your car is older, this could be a big expense. I include body repairs in this, either minor dings or excess on insurance claims.

• Tyres: R150
I want my tyres to last, so I buy a good new set and they last about 50 000km (or four years based on my mileage). It’s about R6000 for a set of four. I also rotate, align and balance them about once a year, which is R300. In Cape Town we have good roads, but people in other provinces might need to factor in replacing a tyre or two now and then.

• Car washes: R300
I try have my car washed once a week. It’s good for the car.

• Accessories: R20
I purchased a charger for my cellphone and a couple of other small things. Some people may purchase a GPS or other more expensive car accessories. For some this can be a big category if they regularly purchase things like mag wheels, spoilers, etc.

• Miscellaneous
I don’t have anything in this category, but petrol heads that spend money upgrading their car engine or body regularly will probably have some items in this section.

So let’s put it all together and see what the car costs each month:

Various (see above): R860

Petrol: R800 (I only use about 1 tank a month)

Insurance: R750

Repayment: R3,500

Total: R5,910 per month.

The Alternative
Now for what my monthly transport costs would be if I didn’t have a car. I’ll have to assume that I have to pay for transport everywhere as I don’t know when I might be able to make an alternate plan like a lift with a friend.

• Business: R2,550
Bus rides into town and back 3 times per week for meetings
Attending an event in the winelands 3x per month using Uber (R400 each way)

• Household: R350
Shopping, etc. Bus twice a week, plus Uber once a month to a big shopping centre.

• Social: R800
Bus out and Uber home twice a weekend, plus Uber to a daytime activity each weekend.

• Recreation: R1,100
Gym 3 times a week, church on Sundays plus hiring a car once every 3 months for a weekend away.

Total: R4,800 per month.

So it’s a potential saving of about R1,000 per month for me. To be honest, that’s not enough to justify the inconvenience. If I didn’t have those winelands visits and if my church wasn’t so far away, the saving would be much more significant. In fact, my total transport in that scenario would only be about R1,500 and that would definitely be worth it.

Conclusion
Each person’s circumstances and scenario will differ greatly, but the basic outline of the calculation will remain the same. Use your 22seven app to get accurate numbers for your vehicle expenses and plug your numbers into the template above and see the result. If you’re a 2 car family and one of you lives close to work, the 2nd car is often an unnecessary expense.

If your car is getting old and you’re thinking of selling it, you could consider not replacing it. The money you save not going into debt will subsidise your transport expenses.

If money is very tight, then rather than taking out high-interest loans, you could consider selling your car and paying off outstanding debts and being disciplined about your travel. You’ll be able to reduce your monthly expenses significantly and that could be the foot up you need to get back on financial track.

Have you switched from having a car to using public transport, or considered doing it? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

Dax Villanueva

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Dax is a lifestyle blogger based in Cape Town. relax-with-dax.co.za