In my country of Bulgaria, much more people own cars than they should be based on common sense. This leads to a lot of traffic during rush hours in the capital of Sofia (a city of about 2 million people) and ruins the experience for all car owners.
Unlike other posts, which hold their ground in most general cases, this one will be strictly based on some assumptions to avoid confusion:
- You live in a city;
- You don’t often travel with pets, babies/toddlers, disabled people, or huge amounts of cargo;
- Your country has a well developed public transportation network;
- Your country has affordable taxis or Uber\Lyft type of service;
This should cover most young people in my country and a good percentage in Europe as a whole.
I’m well aware that in many American suburb-styled cities you cannot survive without a car. In case the city was built for cars already (which clearly sucks), you don’t really have a choice. But if you do, let’s see how to make it with reason and not just own a car because this is what your friends do.
This is not an anti-car rant. I like cars (mostly in the form of taxis) but the more cars on the road there are, the worse the experience for their drivers and passengers. So if we could identify the 10-20% of people on the road who don’t really need to own a car and suggest them better ways, they win and so do the other 80-90% who will spend way less time in traffic. Also reducing some of the demand for cars will make vehicles more affordable for people who really need them.
This is a rant about car ownership only in case your needs and car alternatives allow for other options 🙂 And still, it applies to a lot of people.
We’ll analyze the car ownership dilemma strictly from a current standpoint. It may happen that at the moment it’s a very bad choice to own and drive a car and in one month it’s already your best choice. It all depends on the circumstances and they change all the time so we’ll look at the here and now in this post.
While I prefer to look at stuff from a personal standpoint in I Grow Younger and leave considerations for the whole of humanity to my other blogs, I still have to mention that a privately owned car costs the world a lot of raw materials and carbon emissions to get produced and then it’s usually used 5-10% of the time while idle for the rest. Not exactly effective.
Now let’s conveniently forget about the world and only look at your personal interests.
First to get it out of the way – as much as I love walkable places, bikes, and trains (like these guys you should totally check out), I also like cars. The car is a relatively safe, comfortable, thermo-regulated box designed by top designers with sound isolation and your favorite music. It stops when you want to eat, drink or pee and is always there when you want to continue your trip. It goes to way more places than trains and significantly more than buses.
The main factors about the car ownership choice for someone in an environment suitable for alternatives (as specified in the 4 assumptions above) are income (as in how much money you make per hour) and the quality of alternatives.
In case you make enough money that you can afford to pay a dedicated driver to drive you around in your own car, it’s perfectly normal to own a car as being driven around is not a time loss – you can do whatever you want in the car – work, talk, rest, etc. So let’s drop this extreme case from the equation as this is surely less than 1% of the general population.
Advantages of car ownership
- Having a car comes with a certain feeling of freedom that you can go anywhere, anytime. This is really important for being a hunter and is the one definitive advantage of car ownership.
- The car can be an important tool for helping other people in need who do not have cars.
- If you know how to fix minor issues with your car, maintaining one can be a hunter experience. This is not a concept I understand but as it’s a Game of Self one, the benefits are there for those who feel this way.
Disadvantages of car ownership
- The main one – driving the car is a huge time sink, you can use this time way better.
- Parking wherever you go is a constant annoyance and sometimes not free.
- You need a garage or parking spot where you live, a car takes significant space.
- The car is a constant money sink – taxes, insurance, registration fees when you buy it, etc.
- The car is a constant time sink – it has to be cleaned and maintained regularly and filled with gas often.
- Stuff in the the car is bound to break down. At this moment it becomes a total sink (time and money) 🙁
- Cars atomize society (everyone feels more isolated in their small safe box) compared to alternatives.
So, in general, the disadvantages are significant but it still may be worth it. To make the final call, let’s analyze the time and money involved.
Here is my grand unified theory about car ownership:
- If you earn too little money, the car is a choice too expensive for you, because it will likely let you down.
- There is a middle-income segment (loosely defined by the finances needed to buy a cheap new/almost new car, rather than a used one), in which it may make financial sense to buy a car if you travel to work every day and there are no suitable alternatives.
- If you earn too much money (but not enough to hire a driver), the car is (again!) a choice too expensive for you.
Now let’s break down the logic behind this by comparing the car to alternatives in both cases and see if this holds.
Car ownership in case of low income (your money is more valuable than your time)
In this case, the car is a used car of questionable quality. Due to our human nature, we think that if stuff never broke down till now, it will never break (The Gambler’s fallacy). Unfortunately, this is not true. The car has thousands of parts and most of them are not built to last forever. Stuff does break down leading to the worst concept in effectivity – a total sink. Usually in life when you sacrifice time you don’t enjoy, at least you earn money, otherwise, why do it at all. However, there are two major total sinks often out of our control – health problems 🙁 and car problems. These lead to burning time and money at the same time which can fuck up your plans like nothing else. If you are low-income and you live paycheck to paycheck, used car ownership is a time bomb for your financial stability.
In case you lease a new car while not being financially stable, you’re also risking too much, it’s just that now your finances are a single point of failure.
The alternatives: Walk, run (you’ll live longer!), bike, public transit, carpool, hitchhike in remote areas. After all, you can afford a taxi in exceptional cases too, it’s not like you’re cut from civilization. And once you are more financially stable you can always buy a car. The harder thing is to sell a broken car 🙁
From a Game of Self perspective, this is a good foundation for your hunter vs sheep cycles. If your car keeps breaking down it’s hard to avoid some sheep time because you probably cannot fix it yourself and feeling helpless is what invites the sheep in quicker than anything.
On the other hand, scrambling your routines between being on foot or bike, public transit, carpooling and hitchhiking while on vacations is classic hunter behavior that will keep you energized, motivated, and entertained.
Car ownership in case of high income (your time is more valuable than your money)
The closest analogy of a car is a taxi.
To calculate finances, let’s imagine you’re both the driver and the passenger in a taxi and Passenger-you is paying Driver-you for the ride. Passenger-you is sacrificing money for time and Driver-you is sacrificing time for money in a zero-sum transaction. Who do you actually wanna be?
- If your time is more valuable, you want to be Passenger-you and give the money
- If your money is more valuable, you want to be Driver-you and give the time
Spoiler alert – whenever you’re driving it’s just Driver-you giving your time to save money. I have to remind you that time is the least renewable resource for any human being.
Any other passengers in the car/taxi do not change the equation one bit as still one drives and has to watch the road while the rest can do whatever they want. Of course in the case of fun vacation road trips this changes as you all have fun. But still, it’s enough if one person from a car of four on a road trip owns a vehicle. If no one does it’s not the end of the world – you can rent one.
Taxis and Taxi/Uber/Lyft drivers are not perfect, I get that. However, the important thing to remember is neither are you and your car. We simply hold taxis to very high standards as it’s a paid service we take for granted. So we tend to react differently in similar situations.
For example, if you have a minor car problem that makes you apply a quick fix and leave 15 minutes later, you’ll probably feel fine (and thankful it’s not anything more serious that you’ll need to leave the car in the service for). On the other hand, if the taxi arrives in 20 minutes, instead of the estimated 5, you’ll probably be pretty annoyed even though you lost 15 minutes in both cases and actually could get more useful things done while waiting for the taxi, than while fixing your car. This Game of Self difference in perception is rooted in our different expectations, the “Appeal to probability” fallacy (that makes us expect the taxi on time 100% of the cases), and internal joy from the hunter’s move of fixing a problem ourselves.
So if your time is significantly more valuable than the average wage of a taxi driver, you can simply ditch car ownership and ride in taxis/Uber/Lyft while in the city. While it’s a significant drain of your money (though great for the economy!), it’s a huge savior of time and energy and the focus gained will be a huge boost to your life plans. You are not responsible anymore and will feel truly liberated if you give up a bit of control in The Game of Self and accept the new, better reality 🙂
- No more driving and navigating!
- No more parking! Will you miss parking maneuvers? No parking fees or worries either.
- With the taxi you can stop anywhere, even where there are no parking spots at all.
- No need for a garage or parking spot where you live, a car takes significant space.
- No more pricy car taxes, insurance, or time wasted whenever someone scratches your car.
- No more technical checkups and timewasting new car registration queues.
- No more police stopping you for random checks.
- Not a minute more in the car service!
I’ll let Morpheus say it instead of me:
You’re welcome to share this post and let’s take some cars off the road and make people happier 🙂