The city that I live in is a metropolitan city. Public transportation is efficient, clean, and affordable. You could get to places conveniently and quickly, and very much on time as well. With such a great public transportation system, I decided to do what made sense – buy a car. Looking back, it wasn’t a rational decision, and I wouldn’t have done the same thing if I had known the things I know now.
Reasons To Buy A Car
Sometimes you can’t move your home to somewhere nearer to your workplace, or change your job to somewhere more convenient. Or you might be in a position in life where you have certain restrictions imposed upon you. For instance, if you live outside of a metropolitan city, then you might not have access to an efficient public transport system. If you have to transfer buses and trains, and spend ages waiting, then a car makes sense, because it saves you a lot of time every day.
If you are a salesman meeting many people in various locations, it is definitely a lot more convenient when you have your own transport. Going from appointment to appointment, when they’re far apart, can be a hassle if you don’t have your own vehicle. Maybe you have a large family, in which case, you might need to ferry your grandparents or kids around. Then, depending on your usage, a car would probably make sense for you too.
If you have a real need for a car, then what I’m sharing probably won’t apply to you. However, if you find yourself wanting instead of needing a car, then perhaps you might need to relook at your reasons again. Hopefully, some of the experiences that I share will be relevant and useful to you.
Do I need a car?
Owning a car, in my situation, was more of a status symbol than a convenience. It was always a goal created from what I thought were measures of success. After all, only the people who were rich enough could afford cars, right? People would look at drivers enviously, while the rest of the people had to stick to public transport. It didn’t help that my peers were buying cars too, and I wanted to be just like them. This mindset of keeping up with the Joneses was draining and tiresome, and I’m glad that I know much better now.
It would have been great if I found myself mostly happy, but alas, that wasn’t the case after the euphoria of having a car faded away. I found that owning a car was adding to my unhappiness rather than my happiness, and I found out the hard way that buying a car wasn’t the right decision after all – at least, for me. With the convenience and affordability of public transport, I didn’t need and shouldn’t have bought a car. I know other people who LOVED the experience of owning and driving a car, but that’s a passion that I, unfortunately, do not share.
Hidden Costs of Car Ownership – Knowing the Total Cost of Ownership
Besides up-front costs, i.e. the sticker price of a car, there are running costs and any other costs that you need to be prepared for. This is commonly known as the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), and it applies to any purchase you make, and not just cars.
Unlike how I’d handle my business expenses, I had justifications for all the potential costs of owning a car. I thought to myself, “no choice about it, that’s just the cost of a car!” Besides the obvious monetary costs, there was also the costs of maintenance. Maintenance comes not just in the form of money that you have to fork out, but more importantly, the additional hassle that you’ll need to go through. This is where a lot of the pain of car ownership for me was.
Spending hours every few weeks to take care of something that the car needed started to get tiresome really quickly. I had so many other things that I could be doing besides sending my car to the workshop. Even if I could find someone to take care of this for me, being at the mercy of mechanics and auto workshops was frustrating and annoying. Finding good people for the various services that I needed (paint jobs, dent repairs, air conditioning issues, upholstery, and so on) was difficult and typically a journey fraught with disappointment.
I could name countless issues. There was one time that I got my car’s paint touched up at a workshop recommended by a friend, because it was cheap and fast. When my car was “done”, I could tell that the paint wasn’t applied properly because you could see paint trails that dried in place. Granted, this was under the grille, but it still was pretty disappointing.
There was another time that I wanted to install an in-car dashboard camera. The workshop that I used ended up breaking a few clips on my interior trimming, so I had to solve that with double-sided tape. I didn’t notice a missing panel cover too, and I had to go back to the workshop the next day. Thankfully it had just dropped during their work and they put it back into place.
For someone who finds it a chore to spend time going to get his hair cut, having to keep my car in a good operating state (tyre pressure, oil levels, adhering to servicing schedules) was an additional burden that I didn’t want to bear.
Other Risks of Owning a Car
An example of a high-risk, low-probability event for a car owner would be an accident. As an owner, a car accident is one of the most painful administrative nightmares, and that’s assuming that there was no human harm. You’re talking about potentially dealing with insurance, the police, the other parties involved, tow trucks, legal processes, the car workshops/mechanics, car rental companies, etc.
I was personally involved in two accidents before. One was a major accident that happened because my car spun out on a wet road. The damage was extensive and took 8 weeks to repair. I also had to deal with the police and the insurance surveyors because my car hit a railing, which was public property. Another accident was less major – I was waiting at a traffic junction in my car when I got rear-ended by a motorcyclist who wasn’t paying attention to the road. He was a teenager and the accident was relatively minor, so I didn’t pursue that matter. However, it is easy to imagine how much more hassle these accidents can potentially bring.
Even if you didn’t get into a collision, there are also many potential instances where you can face unexpected problems. For example, I had two incidents that I vividly remember: once where my tyre blew, and another time where my radiator blew. The tyre was especially bad because it was in the middle of the night, and I had to leave for a business trip in a few hours. Needless to say, I had to frantically try to get everything in order and nearly missed my flight.
The other time where my radiator blew was in the middle of the night as well. It took hours for the whole process: to wait for a tow truck to come, send the car to the workshop, and then find a taxi to get back home. By the time I got back, it was nearly dawn.
Bottom Line – Do You Really Need a Car?
I feel owning and maintaining a car is a full-time job in itself, which is why I appreciate the work that drivers do, be it regular taxi services or more modern services such as Uber. I bought a car for the wrong reasons and I soon realised the folly of it when I couldn’t stand the problems and hassles anymore.
These days, I’m a huge proponent and user of the public transport system, and very happy that way because of the more efficient travel, zero maintenance required, and lower transportation costs. If, however, you require a car, then try looking at how you can own a car at the lowest Total Cost of Ownership possible, and invest the rest of your money elsewhere.