Funny about Money

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. ―Edmund Burke

Do You Really NEED a Car?

lightrail-Phoenix_Exterior_7417.2008If you live in the big city that is: how much, really, do you need a car? And if you didn’t need one…how much would not having a car not cost you?

Yesterday I realized there’s no way I can make ends meet with a $385 car payment, not on Social Security and an RMD…even with the market thundering along like a high-speed freight train.

Sure, I could take more out of the stock market to make up the shortfall, over each of the next five years. But that will take a bite out of my long-term retirement savings…and the bite is likely to be a great deal bigger as time passes, since in my opinion we will be seeing a pretty drastic recession in the not too distant future. The Trump recession is likely to make the Bush recession look like small potatoes.

Just IMHO…

At any rate, I do not want to let a car — and not a particularly good one — suck away my retirement.

Applied for a job a friend told me about, one that needs to be filled within two weeks. Department chair said I’m not qualified.

Hee heeee! Nothing like a Ph.D. issued in 1979 and 72 years under your belt to do that for you, is there? 😀

So I’m walking the dog and a thought crosses my mind…

Y’know, when I took the junk in to have its struts replaced, the Toyota service dept. rented me a car for $50. Had the thing for two days, drove it around; topped up the gas tank for $6.25 and turned it back in, no hassle.

I don’t do what you’d call a helluva lot of driving. And in theory I could do a whole helluva lot less: the new lightrail goes right past the end of the street, and an Albertson’s, a Safeway, and a Walgreen’s occupy corners about half a mile away. Even the Walmart is only about a mile and a half from here.

Could one, as a big-city girl and resident of a burg with designs on urban sophistication, could one do without a car? And if one could, then what?

This car is costing me almost $400 a month, and that doesn’t include the gasoline (it gets a munificent 20 mpg) or Arizona’s astonishing registration fees on newer vehicles. Or the insurance, to the tune of $700+ a year.

Registration in Arizona is $2.89 for every $100 the state thinks your car is worth. Since I’m paying $22,0000 for it, I expect they’ll charge me for about 20 grand worth: that will be $576 thankyouverymuch, along about the end of next summer when the utility bills are sky high.

So let’s see: $576 registration + $700 + ($385 x 12) = $5898. That’s $492 a month. Not counting gasoline, maintenance, and repairs.

Uhm… Y’know, you could rent a car for a reasonable number of days at $50/day. Almost 10 days as a matter of fact: 9.84 days.

I don’t think I actually drive 9 days a month. It’s probably more like 6 or 8 days a month.

And how many Uber rides could you rent for that? Uber costs 9 cents a mile here, plus a 40-cent booking fee. According to their website, it’s $8 to $10 to the Safeway: $20 plus tip round-trip. Plenty more than that to get to the doctor…but how often does one go to the doc? The train, which will drop you off in front of the AJ’s, goes right by the dentist, and stops across the street from the Target and Costco: $5 a day.

But it wouldn’t take that many Uber rides to get where you wanted to go.

Usually I run my routine boring errands on the way home from the weekly business networking group meetings. A Sprouts, two Trader Joe’s, three Walgreen’s, a Whole Foods, and a Safeway are right on that beaten path. A Costco and the AJ’s are in the general vicinity. So in theory, I could rent a car the night before, schlep to Scottsdale, and then do all my errands on the way home. Return the car: repeat seven days later.

Incidentals could, in theory, be bought at the neighborhood Albertson’s and Sprouts. It’s not very safe to walk down there, Conduit of Blight Boulevard being the garden spot that it is. But as long as you didn’t carry a purse — I’d pin a credit card inside my jeans pocket so it couldn’t fall out or be pickpocketed — it wouldn’t be too bad. It’s only about a half-mile, part of the way through the residential area.

How would I get to church?

In theory I could ride a bike down there on Sunday mornings. On Wednesday nights, of course, that would be unsafe: you’d have to traverse main drags in the dark, where it would be really hard for car drivers to see you.

For choir rehearsals, I pick up a friend who doesn’t like to drive at night. He lives just about a mile away — an easy enough walk. I could walk over there and we could drive down and back in his car. As long as I had a can of mace, it would be reasonably safe to walk back and forth between their house and mine.

So then all you’d have to cope with would be light emergencies: sick dog, quick trip to the doctor, the trip to FedEx for the last-minute photocopy job, whatEVER. For that: Uber.

Four short car rentals a month would cost me $200. That’s less than half what I’m paying for the pile of metal and plastic adorned with 28 computers sitting in the garage. Not counting the gasoline. At 20 bucks a hit, that would leave enough for 10 Uber rides or 50 days’ worth of train rides.

Soooo…there we have a question.

Why do I have this car at all?


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Author: funny

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  1. Wow….”Buyer’s Remorse”…Never Good. You wanna get really crazy? Keep track of how many miles you drive the new vehicle in a month and add up the expenses per month. Divide the expenses by how many miles you drove. This will give you how much it cost to drive your car each mile. I’ve done this …it’s sickening. I have begun sorting receipts for income tax and that’s when these “glaring numbers” surface. In this neck of woods….cars have almost become a luxury. A gentleman I manage property for has several junkers and his everyday car which has over 300K miles on it. He has begun renting vehicles from Enterprise when he takes out of town trips for fear of breaking down with his clunker. Which makes me think I MAY be on the right track keeping my “geriatric truck” going. My Dear Brother is in the market for a “new work truck” as his has dropped dead. He figured it would require about $3K in repairs…Then he looked around at trucks…NEW = $30-40K…5-6 yr old = $15-20K….He’s thinkin’ maybe $3k in repairs ain’t so bad….This is with gas @$2.50….goes to $4-5 and it’s “Crazy Town”…..

    • Hm. When you get older, too, you drive less and less because you don’t have to commute. By your theory, that would madly drive up the cost of a car, even if it’s paid off. I wish I’d kept the Sienna…but really… Getting stuck in a bad part of town (a guy was murdered right across the street just a couple of weeks later) for FIVE HOURS, and spending the time watching a couple of drug addicts tweaking…that’s just not gonna make it.

      Yes, when you look at the cost of these damn cars, three grand to keep a clunk running looks GOOD. Especially if your state does what AZ does: drops registration charges as the vehicle ages.

      I suppose if I’d kept the Dog Chariot, I could’ve just refrained from driving through bad parts of town. Easier said than done in these parts, though: about two-thirds of the metropolitan area is drug-infested blight. If you insist on staying out of those districts, well then…wherever you are, you can’t get there from here.

  2. Way back when….. when DW and I were just starting out in the 2 apartment house we had a …”mature” tenant on the 2nd floor. She actually “came with the building”…another story. Anyway this gal was retired and had done the “math” on autos and declined ownership. She walked everywhere, road the bus, got rides from friends and would pack up her laundry on Saturday and go to her DD’s for lunch and to use the facilities. When I asked about not having a car she was “happy as a clam”. It’s also fair to point out this gal “did the math” on investing….in the likes of IBM, 3M, GM and numerous mutual funds. She stayed with us for 10 years at the ol’ place….we lived there 6 of those years. She left our place and went into a retirement community…..”and lived happily ever after”……

    • I don’t know. It would depend on how much public transport was available and how safe it is — the Phoenix area has never had a great track record in either department. Also, I suppose, on the weather…waiting 45 minutes for a bus in 100-degree heat is not very desirable. Your mobility would really be very restricted here, without a car. As a practical matter, a person who lives alone really would have to rent now and again — probably about once a week.

      Interestingly, though…there’s an Enterprise Rent-a-Car right up at the corner, just the other side of Conduit of Blight Blvd. Hm.

      I wonder what would be entailed in returning this vehicle? Or selling it back to the Toyota crooks?

  3. Maybe giving up the car isn’t such a bad idea. It can be quite an adjustment to live car free if you’re used to having a car at your disposal, but any type of changes takes time to adjust. My old MIL gave up driving eventually after she had many problems renewing her license. She was well into her 80s by then, was hearing impaired, and had been in several minor accidents. Her condo was located in easy walking distance to a vibrant town center (cafes, bookstore, restaurants), and she was able to take public transit or a cab (using senior taxi vouchers) when needed. Overall, it was the best thing for her and other drivers on the road that she give up her license, and ex-husband and I were glad. When she wanted to go to specialty stores that weren’t located in her city, she would get a ride with a friend from her condo building or I would pick her up and take her there on a weekend.

    Phoenix does seem to issue taxi vouchers for seniors:

    If you have a flexible schedule and the weather is fair, commuting via public transit, walking, or biking is a great option.

  4. Take a walk up to Enterprise for a chat. Around here our guy is great….got to meet and deal with him and Dear Mother ….another story. Anyway not so long ago I got a notice for a “special” for $9.99 a day with unlimited mileage….Soooo upon inquiring I found that I could rent a “clown car” for a 3-day weekend…..and pay right around $30 plus gas and NO MILEAGE. Don’t know if that was just for me or what. BUT $30…MAN… Might be worth a trip…..maybe even score a free calender!

  5. I would expect that your registration fees would be quite a bit lower than the amount you’ve calculated. The tax base for the vehicle license tax is not based on purchase price or current fair market value. The tax base is calculated using 60% of the manufacturer’s base retail price, and further reduce 16.25% for each year additional year. So assuming a new base retail price for the Venza was $30k (I just pulled an MSRP), the 2017 value should be in the neighborhood of $10.5k which would put registration in the $315 ballpark.

    Also, I would recommend tracking, for a few months the number of trips and stops and miles you drive for a few months. There may be more unexpected car jaunts in there than expected, and those costs could creep up if not planned for in the analysis. Also, I know my relatives run into the issue sometimes when traveling internationally of being too old to rent a car (they’re 75). I know many rental companies in the US will not rent to someone under 25, but do not know if they also have maximum age limits or restrictions.

    • Yeah…i got that but couldn’t even imagine what they think a used car is worth. The rate per $100 for a used car is significantly higher than the rate on a new car, which is probably an attempt to cope with depreciation.

      I hope you’re right about the 10.5K.<3

      The tracking scheme is good, and it fits perfectly with the OCD tendencies.

      I've read about the over-75 (or younger) restrictions in other countries, but so far haven't run into any reports of that happening here. But it's a good point: if I got rid of my car, THAT DAY every rental agency in the country would enact some ageist rule.

  6. Knowing my own brain, if I didn’t have a car, the effort entailed in renting a vehicle to do anything, would drive me nuts. I would end up just..not…doing things, because it was too inconvenient.

    I’ve lived where I had no car – and used transit – and that was in 3 very transit-friendly towns. It can be done – but you definitely plan around the bus/train/etc and you figure out a schedule – and STICK to it. That was what drove me crazy – anything that came up unexpectedly – good or bad – was a struggle to coordinate.

    I’ve looked at what it would take to take the bus to work every day here – instead of a 10-15 minute drive to work in the morning, it would be about 90 minutes and 3 different buses, plus a 15 minute walk at the end of the bus ride, to get to my office. That’s just …not going to happen.