When car ownership becomes a trap
Some disquieting news in this report, which I’d like to say is surprising but isn’t. I mean, if you’ve ever spent time with people discussing their finances, you’ll know a fairly large chunk of their monthly spending goes towards their car payment (plus insurance, plates, gas, repairs and so on).
Yes, most people today believe they need a car to get to their job, and couldn’t quite make it otherwise. They also believe they need a car to run errands, ferry the kids around, go visit family and friends, go out to dinner once in a while, etc. They may even be right that a car is necessary for them; decades of sprawl-inducing car-first urban planning have created a world where not having a car is, in most cases, detrimental to one’s economic well-being.
I own a car, too. I get it. I don’t commute to work, fortunately (86 per cent of Americans drive to work alone in their car; if that number doesn’t make you shudder, nothing will), which means that with a little bit of a push maybe I could get rid of mine at some point, were it not for the other things I need it for - ferrying the kids around being high on the list.
But a car is expensive. Mine was bough second-hand not quite a year ago. It’s a small, inexpensive model, and I paid cash for it. Which means I only have insurance, plates, gas and maintenance/repair expenses to worry about. And it’s still expensive.
Not only is widespread car ownership bad for congestion and the environment, it can be terrible for people’s finances, especially those who live in somewhat precarious situations already. And some analysts are starting to worry about car ownership being the next housing bubble, especially if interest rates go up.
Turning this ship around won’t be easy. But it is very much necessary.