Cars - Can’t Live With ‘Em, Can’t Live Without ‘Em

This article was written by Daphne Dunphy, a travel writer who majored in English. Daphne loves to combine her creative streak and passion for the English language with her love of all things travel.

I have owned a car for about 10 years now. Before that, I had been determined to live without a car, but ever since a friend told me about the incredibly cheap car insurance for women that her firm was offering, I have been enjoying the freedom of the roads. But when I think about the cost of this freedom, I can’t help but wish I could have my care-free, car-free life back again.

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The vow I made to myself that my car wouldn’t cost me more than $2,000 per year fell by the wayside within the very first year that my Ford Focus sedan and I spent together. We were supposed to be a cost-fighting team, my Focus and I, waging war against rising fuel bills and expensive maintenance costs by being fuel efficient and reliable together. Our intentions were good, but how easily we were defeated by the roads, by oil prices, and by what seemed like an ever-increasing need to use the car for everything.

One thing that I certainly got right from the start was my insurance deal. After my friend helped me get access to an incredible deal in my first year as a driver, I then used price comparison websites to make sure that I renewed my auto insurance with the cheapest provider every year after that. I knew that if I stayed with the same company, they wouldn’t put me on their cheapest tariff and I’d end up paying over the odds. So I checked each year, calling insurance firms for a quote in the first year or two and then when price comparison websites emerged I used them to get a clear picture of the market before each renewal.

After securing cheap car insurance, my next priority was to keep fuel costs down. I knew that driving at around 56 miles per hour (around 90 km/h) on the highway was the optimum for achieving the most miles to the gallon, I never made short, unnecessary journeys, and I even turned my engine off in jams, so as to save fuel. Despite my journey to work being a 40 mile round trip, I kept my fuel bills below $100 a month for the first few months.

But soon, that cost started to rise. I found myself using the car more and more, offering people lifts when they needed them – especially the kids – and my good habits with being fuel efficient soon got forgotten about.

Then maintenance bills started to ramp up. I didn’t know what a drop-link was, but two of them broke on my sedan within six months of each other, costing me about $800 to replace, and new tyres didn’t come cheap either. I had always said I would clean the car myself and carry out general maintenance, but during the cold winter months I began paying to have it cleaned at the car wash and I didn’t often get under the hood on cold mornings.

Fortunately, things have improved since I started sharing a car with my husband. Our insurance costs have both plummeted, and we share the responsibility of running a fuel-efficient, clean, well-maintained car. But I do miss the days when my transport costs amounted to little more than a bus fare and a cup of coffee to warm my hands!

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  • Shaun

    So you are saying that per person, your car costs are lower now that you are sharing with your husband or you just haven’t unusual expenses? I’d love to go sans car myself, but where I live, everything is far, far away and there is little public transportation. My big highlight is that I can walk to the grocery store though.

  • Shaun @ Money Cactus

    We are a one car family. It can be a pain at times, but it is rare that we miss a second car these days. Cars are a huge money pit, so I like the idea of minimising the cost as much as possible.