Going car-free is saving me more than $2,000 per year

Going car-free is saving me more than $2,000 per year

It’s now been one year since I ditched my car, and it turns out that I’m happier, healthier and wealthier.

After scrolling through my bank records and credit card statements, I found out that in my final year of car ownership, I spent $2,566 on my Daewoo Kalos. That included everything related to running the vehicle – insurance, registration, maintenance, petrol, tolls, parking and roadside assistance.

That seems like a low figure, right? Well, that was part of the reason why I decided to go car-free. I was barely using my Kalos, which is what happens when you don’t have children to chauffeur around, don’t drive to work, don’t go out much and live close to public transport.

7 running costs for car owners

  • Insurance
  • Registration
  • Maintenance
  • Petrol
  • Tolls
  • Parking
  • Roadside assistance

I now spend less money on transport…

In the year since I sold my car, I’ve spent $1,030 on getting out and about, which covers taxis, Ubers and public transport.

Does that figure also seem low? Well, I have a guilty secret to confess. I live four kilometres from my parents, so sometimes I’ll walk over to their place and borrow their car.

Another reason I’ve spent only $1,030 is because I do a lot of walking. I walk to work. I walk to the supermarket. I sometimes even walk to the city, which is six kilometres away.

7 health benefits of walking

  • Improved fitness
  • Stronger bones
  • Reduced body fat
  • Better circulation
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower risk of heart disease

…and I also make money on transport

These days, I don’t just spend money on transport – I also make money on transport.

Now that I no longer need my secure parking space, I’m able to rent it out, via Parkhound, for $170 per month.

I’ve earned $780 during the past year. I wish it was more, but tenants have come and gone (I’m now on to my third), so the spot has lain empty for about half the year. If the trend continues, I’ll probably reduce the rent.

My hope is to earn more from my parking space than I spend on taxis, Ubers and public transport.

Old cost New cost (expenses minus income) Difference
$2,566 $250 ($1,030 – $780) $2,316

I’m less mobile, but I’m also less stressed

Saving money hasn’t been the only benefit of ditching my car.

I’ve also eliminated the stress that comes with car ownership – taking it to the mechanic, paying for insurance, hoping it doesn’t get damaged or stolen.

Another benefit is that I now walk more, which means I get more exercise and listen to more podcasts.

Of course, there are negatives. I’m less mobile. I can’t do road trips (unless I hire a car). I have to walk to the supermarket even when it’s raining.

The pros, though, outweigh the cons.

Positives of being car-free Negatives of being car-free
Hello savings Goodbye mobility
Hello exercise Goodbye road trips
Goodbye stress Hello rain

Living a car-free life isn’t for everyone

So, does that mean I’d advise other people to go car-free?

No.

It works for me, but it wouldn’t work for most people.

You probably need a car if you:

  • Have children
  • Drive to work
  • Don’t have good public transport options
  • Have friends and family scattered throughout your city
  • Take regular road trips

However, if you’re in the minority who don’t tick any of those five boxes, it makes sense to at least consider selling your car.

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Learn more about car loans

How much is your car worth?

If you already own a car, you could potentially bring down the cost by selling your car in the process. Before that happens, though, you’ll need to find out how much your car is worth.

One of the first places to find this value is to research the value of your current car, giving you an idea of roughly how much it’s worth in its peak condition.

There are plenty of websites that offer a free online valuation, allowing you to enter your car’s make, model, year, badge and description, with results listing a price guide based on both selling your car privately and through a dealership.

Of course, dealerships will try to profit on your trade-in by buying it for less than they can sell it, making it highly unlikely that you’ll get the same price selling a car to a dealer as you would selling a car privately.

However, private car sales can be costly and can take months to sell, making car trading more convenient with a guaranteed return, even if you may not be able to realise the total value of your car’s worth.

Remember that everything is negotiable. If the dealership is offering you less for your trade than you wanted, try to negotiate elsewhere to gain that money back. Start by negotiating on the price of the trade and then ask them if they can give you a further discount on your new car.

How much is my car worth?

If you own a car, it may be something that can help you bring down the cost of your next vehicle purchase through its sale. However, before you can do that you’ll want to find out how much your car is worth.

Your car’s worth can depend upon various aspects, including:

  • Age
  • Condition
  • Model and make

A great starting place for aspects of this includes websites that offer online valuations, allowing you to enter your car’s make, model, year, badge and description, with the listed results displaying a price guide based on both selling your car privately and through a dealership.

Both have pros and cons, as cars can be very profitable, something that will no doubt impact any chance you have to make the most of your car’s value upon sale. Dealerships will try to profit on your trade-in by buying it for less than they can sell it for, so you shouldn’t expect the same price selling a car to a dealer that you would necessarily get selling a car privately.

What is a car loan?

A car loan, also known as vehicle finance, is money that a consumer borrows with the express purpose of buying a vehicle, such as a car, motorbike, van, truck or campervan. Car loans can be used for both new and used vehicles.

Can I buy a car as a student?

Buying a car is a huge financial decision, and shy of marriage and purchasing a house (or perhaps around the world travels), it may be the biggest financial decision you make. But if you’re looking at your empty pockets, don’t despair! Your dream of owning your own car could become a reality, if you look for and compare the right car loans for your circumstances.

How do you get a car loan?

There are four different ways you can get a car loan. You can go straight to a lender. You can get a finance broker to organise a car loan for you. You can get ‘dealer finance’ – which is when the car dealer organises a car loan for you. Or you can organise your own car loan through a comparison website, like RateCity.

Whichever method you choose, you will need to provide proof of identification, proof of income and proof of savings. So you may be asked for any combination of passport, driver’s licence, bank statements, payslips, tax returns and utility bills. You might also be asked to provide proof of insurance.

Should I service my own car?

There are also costs associated with vehicle ownership, such as paying for petrol and the obligatory ongoing maintenance. But should you cut down on costs by servicing your own vehicle?

If you’re considering getting out the tool box, spanner, and grease-laden towel, you need to carefully weigh up the risks and benefits. A trained mechanic will need to complete certain tasks, while you may be perfectly capable to handle other aspects yourself.

If you’re short on time, it may be worth paying for the convenience of a full vehicle service. However if you’re trying to slash your expenses, there are some basic maintenance tasks that you can complete yourself.

You should call a mechanic if you’re unsure about a vehicle maintenance task you’re about to take on. However there are a number of maintenance tasks that you may be able to complete with your own two hands including:

  • Replacing your car battery
  • Changing the oil
  • Replacing worn windscreen wipers
  • Replacing blown fuses

Remember to keep your car’s body in good condition, by washing and applying a protective wax on a regular basis, too.

Always check your car warranty agreement as some new car purchases come with an extended car warranty provided your services are conducted at the vehicle service centre where you purchased the car. In these circumstances, you may find the service fee is capped, alleviating some of the maintenance woes.

What is a CHP?

A CHP, or commercial hire purchase, is an arrangement by which a finance company buys a car on your behalf. You get to borrow the car in return for making regular payments to the financier. Once the final payment is made, you take ownership of the car. 

Can I get a car loan with poor credit?

Poor credit doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to get finance for your car purchase, though your options aren’t likely to be the same as someone with good credit.

In fact, a number of specialist lenders exist offering car finance for customers with poor credit, able to provide access to bad credit car loans.

However having a history of poor credit will likely mark you as a potential risk to lenders, so your car financing needs could see higher fees and interest rates. Alternatively, consider a secured car loan, which is a type of loan that uses the car you purchase as collateral, reducing the risk.

Other options include getting someone close to act as a guarantor for your car loan, or to talk to a broker about a personalised rate specific to your circumstances.

What is a car lease?

A car lease, also known as an asset lease or finance lease, is an arrangement by which a finance company buys a car on your behalf. You get to borrow the car in return for making regular payments to the financier. At the end of the lease, you can either buy the car or hand it back. 

What is a secured car loan?

A secured car loan is a loan that is connected to a form of security, or collateral. Generally, the security for a car loan is the car itself. If you fail to repay the loan, the lender might seize your car, sell it and then use the proceeds to recover their debt.

What is the luxury car tax?

The federal government imposes a luxury car tax of 33 per cent on the value of a car above a threshold. As of the 2017-18 financial year, that threshold was $75,526 for fuel-efficient vehicles and $65,094 for other vehicles. So a fuel-efficient car worth $80,000 would be taxed only on the difference between the threshold and the value of the car ($4,474), rather than taxed on the entire $80,000. Similarly, an ordinary car worth $70,000 would be taxed on the $4,906 above the threshold, rather than the entire $70,000. The luxury car tax is paid by dealers that sell or import luxury cars, and also by individuals who import luxury cars.

What is an LVR?

The LVR, or loan-to-value ratio, is a percentage that expresses the amount of money owed on the car compared to the value of the car. For example, if you take out a $15,000 loan to buy a $20,000 car, you have an LVR of 75 per cent. LVRs change over time as you pay off your loan and your car depreciates in value. For example, two years later you might now owe $10,000 on your car, which might now be worth $15,000. In that case, although there would still be a $5,000 difference between the size of the outstanding loan and the value of the car, the LVR would now be 67 per cent.

I’ve been denied a car loan before; can I still get car finance?

Even if you’ve been denied a car loan before, you might still be able to get car finance. The key is to make the right application to the right lender.

The ‘right’ application is one that makes you look like an acceptable risk, which might include things like improving your credit score, increasing your savings rate and accumulating a bigger deposit.

The ‘right’ lender is one that deals with borrowers like you. For example, while some car loan lenders only deal with good credit borrowers, there are others that specialise in bad credit or poor credit borrowers.

Can you get a car loan as a single mum?

Getting a car loan can be tricky if you’re a single mum, but it’s not impossible. Juggling your finances can be difficult, particularly if you are reliant on a sole income or on Centrelink payments (or a combination of the two), and having a car is a necessity rather than a luxury for many who have to look after children. Luckily there are specialist providers and services that can help you get the loan you’re after, even if you’re in a tough spot financially.