Author Topic: Is it possible the bus costs more? (Another potential car downsizing thread)  (Read 3451 times)

fallstoclimb

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We are toying with the idea of downsizing to a one-car family.  Current cars, both paid off:

2005 Toyota Corolla, ~105,000 miles
2009 Toyota Matrix, ~105,000 miles

Some variables:

1)  I live a 3 mile drive/6 mile bike ride from work.  I only go into the office 3 days a week and usually bike in either twice or all three days.    Facilities are limited so if its pouring rain I won't bike because I don't want to look like a drowned rat (plus that's just so unpleasant).  I also did a pretty bad job of biking in this past winter, although it was fairly brutal - I'm just not willing to deal with temps under ~20 degrees, or ice/snow, but that's all fairly rare for my area in a typical winter.  I have had a few stretches of injuries that kept me off the bike for a few weeks.

2) There is also a bus option, which I used for the first time today when I discovered a flat on my bike just as I was leaving.  The bus stop is about 1.5-1.75 miles away (depending on if I cut through the park, which I guess I wouldn't want to in bad weather), but a much nicer walk than the one to work.  My husband could drop me off on his way to work, but that requires advance planning because he leaves so much earlier than I do (and I'd have to get up at 5:15 rather than 5:30, sleep is already so precious).  Today the walk was nice, but it wouldn't be on a miserable day.  I'm also not sure this is cheaper than driving. (Math below)

3) (Because I know people will suggest this) I have walked to work before, but it took me a little more than an hour one-way and was not a pleasant walk - typical between-suburbs traveling with busy intersections, no cars looking for pedestrians, and a sidewalk that routinely disappeared forcing me to walk in wet grass or weeds.  Plus 3 miles is really too far for me when I am carrying my laptop and papers in a backpack, which I do Tues ams and Thurs pms. 

4) My husband and I are both homebodies who bike around town a lot and socialize in the same circles.  For evening/weekend travel I think it would be super simple for us to get by with just one car.  As it is now, besides driving to work I typically only use my car once a week for a 36-mile roundtrip (nonnegotiable), but my husband's car is basically always available at that time and I can just skip it the few weeks a year he needs the car.

5) My husband is currently stuck with a 60 mile roundtrip clown commute.  As a teacher he can only relocate during the summers, and tried hard to last summer with no success.  I'm pretty confident he'll be successful in switching counties this summer though (and we'll have an F-U fund by then so if he doesn't he might just quit).  I doubt he'll be able to bike but if he works closer it'll be easier for him to give me a ride to work when necessary (so, I maybe should just sit on this for a year and see where we are at).

6) The Matrix always seems to have more expensive maintenance, probably just because its our primary car.  I've gotten very little work done on the Corolla in recent years.  We don't do "scheduled" maintenance on either car.  If we go down to one car we'll have to keep the Matrix (husband's instrument can't fit in a Corolla).

7) I like the idea of being a one-car family but am nervous about the what-ifs.  We can't afford to replace the car if we sell it and realize it was a bad idea.  Having a car is a comfort even though it represents possible expenses. 


Summary:  I'm okay with biking as my primary transport to work, but I do need another option for getting to work on the days weather is really bad or I'm injured. 


Bus-Related Math Question:   The bus costs $1.60 each way, so $3.20 for a roundtrip. 

If I use the government POV mileage rate of 56 cents a mile, driving costs me $3.36, so just a little more expensive, although I am not sure 16 cents is worth 3 miles of walking in bad weather to me.

And, if I use the MMM ultimate cheap driving rate from his true cost of commuting article -- which I think I am closer to, primarily because I dropped collision and comprehensive so only spend $370/yr to insure my car -- then driving could cost as little as 20 cents a mile.  If we split the difference between the two estimates, then driving costs 38 cents a mile, or $2.28 for a roundtrip - so almost a dollar less than the bus.

Of course there are environmental concerns here as well that I am not calculating, although it seems like a drop in the bucket.

I think I'm basically torn between holding onto my car until it requires a major repair and then selling it for parts, or selling it now and getting around 4-5K for it.  The thought of selling it definitely makes me nervous but I do want to be a badass about finances (less so weather).  The one really nice thing about driving is it takes basically no time, so I can either sleep in much later or catch up on stuff around the house or just relax if I need to.  (Of course this time advantage also makes biking less desirable, which the bus would offset due to that long walk to the bus stop).

What would you do?

frugaliknowit

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I think you already know the answer...but ok, here goes:  Ditch one of the cars.  You don't need two cars.  There is always cabs, zip cars, car rentals, etc. when and if you need them.  You're going to love being a badass!!

matchewed

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From your analysis I'd with a bus commute on the bad weather days. Rather than use government estimates or MMM's estimates why don't you use your actual numbers? Do you know how much gas/maintenance/insurance you spend on your car to commute the occasional 3 miles in bad weather? Then use that in your analysis. Also is there a monthly pass or the like which may make it cheaper? Do/can you use the bus for any other aspect of your transportation needs that a bike won't be suited for?

Admittedly I'm a use it up sort of person so I'd probably keep the car for "just in case" as your husband requires a car for commute and if something happens to his car you're up a creek. At that point the cost of the car is the insurance and the occasional starting it up to keep it going. But that's just my take. I really think it depends on how close you are to FIRE and how long your husband needs to maintain that crazy crazy commute.

I'd start flexing that badassity muscle a little harder on this one. I don't know your location but galoshes and a raincoat for the wet and decent boots and a good coat/hat/gloves for the cold go a long way for that walk to the bus. And this gives you the allowance to buy some good quality weather gear.

Grimey

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How about commit to half way?   

Sell the car.  Put the money aside (invested of course) for as much as a year (full weather cycle...time to become comfortable with new life-style).  If you absolutely can't make it without the car, you can replace with a 'like' one...

Maybe this isn't complete bad-ass mentality, but a stepping stone in the right direction.  You may surprise yourself with how much you don't miss it.  Either way, you've mentally 'hedged your bet', and moved a little deeper into the water where bad-asses love to swim.

« Last Edit: August 19, 2014, 08:11:28 AM by Grimey »

LibrarIan

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When thinking about this, bear in mind the "hidden" costs of using your own vehicle. Sure, you might be spending just a tad bit more in gas to use your own car (or maybe even less depending on the situation), but then you have to consider, especially in cold weather, the wear & tear on your car, time spent scraping/warming it up if it snows, having to drive it (stress of driving, not being able to do anything during transport), parking (if it's not free), potential for damage to your vehicle and simply adding another car to the road. With a bus you eliminate all of those things immediately.

Goldielocks

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Hmm, let me point out that walking 1.5 miles to bus is very inconvenient.

If bus was closer, I would say go for it.  At this rate, you will end up riding your bike.  Maybe buy a power assist for bike and better clothes so you don't get messed up?

A scooter works great for your situation too.

fallstoclimb

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From your analysis I'd with a bus commute on the bad weather days. Rather than use government estimates or MMM's estimates why don't you use your actual numbers? Do you know how much gas/maintenance/insurance you spend on your car to commute the occasional 3 miles in bad weather? Then use that in your analysis. Also is there a monthly pass or the like which may make it cheaper? Do/can you use the bus for any other aspect of your transportation needs that a bike won't be suited for?

So, problem one is I have no idea how to estimate maintenance.  Recently I haven't done anything more than get the oil changed twice a year (so $80), the tires should still be good because I drive it so little, but I do expect maintenance costs to start going up just because its getting to be older.  There's really no way to lower bus costs, I already get some money from work for biking more than half the time so I can't get a public transport subsidy and a monthly pass only works out to be cheaper if you take the bus most days.  I *can* take the bus into the city, but it takes forever and is slightly dangerous (literally goes through The Wire territory), so it's not something I'd do much.

Admittedly I'm a use it up sort of person so I'd probably keep the car for "just in case" as your husband requires a car for commute and if something happens to his car you're up a creek. At that point the cost of the car is the insurance and the occasional starting it up to keep it going. But that's just my take. I really think it depends on how close you are to FIRE and how long your husband needs to maintain that crazy crazy commute.


This is a really really good point that I forgot to make in my initial post.  DH NEEDS the car to get to work, so it is nice to have a backup vehicle.  However --- even if he relocates to our neighborhood, it is likely that he will still need the car, because as long as he is an elementary school music teacher he needs to travel between schools fairly quickly in the middle of the workday.   So that means we will kind of always be in an instant state of emergency if we suddenly lose a car and don't have a backup car, so that sucks!  I certainly don't always want to have two cars!

FIRE is a solid 15 years away, we JUST got out of major student loan debt (and currently only have about $400 to our name, so the loss of a needed car will kill us, but we have a 2K/month surplus and will quickly rebuild the coffers).  I think we will get him out of his current county at the end of the year no matter what though.  46K isn't worth a 60 miles roundtrip commute (in the DC area this kind of thing is sadly normalized).

Left

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if you sell the car for $5k, not sure if that is reasonable, I picked it for the math so it might not be a good example
$5k*4% (swr so you can use bus forever) gives you about $16/month which covers the $1 difference from taking the bus since you work 3 days a week but wouldn't take the bus every day

depending on how long the bus ride is, you can catch up on your 15 minutes of sleep... if you feel safe sleeping on the bus

if you are walking in a suburb... and there are no sidewalks (even if there are), why aren't you walking on the street instead? I walk around neighborhood on the streets because sidewalks are uneven and road is just nicer... though I don't have much traffic, maybe 1-2 cars pass me each hour... and no one seems upset that I do, my streets are wide

can you skate instead of bike to bus stop? not sure if you can bring bike on bus is the reason I ask and skating is still faster than walking but you can't skate safely in bad weather... so this might not work out anyways

but quick question... if you can't afford to replace a used car, how are you talking about having FU money to have him quit working? I know some people live very frugally, but not having an extra few thousand seems rather risky since an emergency fund (to me anyways) should be about this much anyways

edit:saw your post on him needing a car, but insurance should cover a temp car if the car is being replaced/repaired... why keep another car for the event that car insurance covers? even my car mechanic will loan me one of their (personal) cars if my car is in their shop for the day and i need to get somewhere, I've even gotten them to drop me off then pick me up after work before
« Last Edit: August 19, 2014, 08:32:46 AM by eyem »

fallstoclimb

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if you are walking in a suburb... and there are no sidewalks (even if there are), why aren't you walking on the street instead? I walk around neighborhood on the streets because sidewalks are uneven and road is just nicer... though I don't have much traffic, maybe 1-2 cars pass me each hour... and no one seems upset that I do, my streets are wide

can you skate instead of bike to bus stop? not sure if you can bring bike on bus is the reason I ask and skating is still faster than walking

but quick question... if you can't afford to replace a used car, how are you talking about having FU money to have him quit working? I know some people live very frugally, but not having an extra few thousand seems rather risky since an emergency fund (to me anyways) should be about this much anyways

Some clarifications:  Walking to the bus is fine, I walk along a very wide street (that mostly does have sidewalks), but the three miles to work involves walking along a very busy road with no shoulder or room at all -- this is also the reason my bike commute is 6 miles, so I can avoid that road, even though it is literally a straight shot from my house to work.

I think I technically could bring my bike on the bus but that sounds like a pain in the butt, plus if the weather is bad I'd prefer my bike to not be sitting out in it all day (outdoor parking at work).  So the options are to EITHER bike to work or walk to the bus (if car-free).

By the end of the year we should have close to 20K in accessible savings.  We MAY take the risk of him quitting his county, because that means he can have a wider time frame to find a job closer (rules are weird with teachers and tenure, if currently employed he can only look between June 1st and July 15th).  I certainly hope he doesn't have to quit but that commute is pretty terrible even at somewhat off-hours.  Technically my job can pay all of our bills, but obviously him not working would demolish our savings rate.


edit:saw your post on him needing a car, but insurance should cover a temp car if the car is being replaced/repaired... why keep another car for the event that car insurance covers? even my car mechanic will loan me one of their (personal) cars if my car is in their shop for the day and i need to get somewhere, I've even gotten them to drop me off then pick me up after work before

This is true, I think insurance does cover a rental car up to a certain time frame, and obviously mustachians try to not live in fear of what-ifs anyway.  I was thinking more along the lines of if his car is totaled and we will have to quickly find/possible finance a replacement (used) one.  Maybe this is just a reason to wait to sell my car until we have built up a separate car replacement fund.  We drive cars into the ground so I'd hate to have to buy a replacement one, especially in a rush, but I suppose that is more logical than always carrying a backup car!!



kaizen soze

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Can't you just bike to work when the weather cooperates, and wake up 15 minutes earlier when it doesn't? 

sheepstache

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Have you looked into folding bikes?  Little trickier to find used and cheap and I wouldn't normally recommend them but for a situation like yours it sounds really good.  Whatever comfort you sacrifice from a "real" bike doesn't matter because the trip is so short; you can def take it on a bus; and you can probably take it indoors at work if you have a cubicle or any kind of closet you could find.

darkadams00

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1) Run the real numbers for your car/your commute on an annual basis. Monthlies don't always tell the tale, and estimates are first guesses that I would only use if I absolutely had no data of my own.
2) Ditch the second car. Rarely will the numbers of bike/walk/public transit not work out to favor the bike if you live within 10 miles of one spouse's job.
3) Bike to work on days that it works for you
4) On days that are cold but not raining, bike to bus stop and (a) take bike with you to work if the bus has a bike rack, lock up at work or (b) lock up bike near bus stop. This might require a cheapo beater bike and a different bus stop with a better place to lock the bike. While I've been injured, I bike 1.5 miles to the bus stop, take the bike with me, and bike 1 mile at the other end from the closest bus stop to work.
5) On rainy days, ride with your husband. Sorry but 15 minutes hasn't meant a thing to me regarding sleep in any phase of life I can remember.

*I've rented a car for a couple days when I had a repair done on my car. I've also rented a "better" car when I needed to travel over 5 hours one way--once per year over the last two years. I've rented a car when my spouse and I had conflicting and unbikeable time commitments, no more than 3 times per year for the last two years. Even with the car rentals and paid-off cars, in NC the numbers work out in favor of one car.

*Folding bikes would definitely make sense for buses without racks and rides as short as yours.

fallstoclimb

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4) On days that are cold but not raining, bike to bus stop and (a) take bike with you to work if the bus has a bike rack, lock up at work or (b) lock up bike near bus stop. This might require a cheapo beater bike and a different bus stop with a better place to lock the bike. While I've been injured, I bike 1.5 miles to the bus stop, take the bike with me, and bike 1 mile at the other end from the closest bus stop to work.

This is a really good point re: injuries; an injury that couldn't handle my usual 11 mile hilly commute would probably be fine for a 3 mile roundtrip commute with only one little hill.  I've been kind of stuck on the idea that it doesn't make sense to bike to the bus stop (may as well bike to work), but there may actually be days that it would be logical.  We could easily acquire a beater bike for this. 

5) On rainy days, ride with your husband. Sorry but 15 minutes hasn't meant a thing to me regarding sleep in any phase of life I can remember.

Ha this is true.  I just have to plan ahead.  That will also get me to work way early so I will need to either waste an hour in Panera before work or get approval to start work early - I can probably get approval as long as I volunteer to hang around for any late meetings. 


Thanks everyone for the responses.  I love how good the MMM community is at finding solutions.  I'm still a little nervous about going down to one car in the suburbs but I am more confident now that it is the thing to do.  I'm going to talk to the husband tonight about first saving up enough for a replacement car (just for the security -- probably save up 5K and then add my car's sale proceeds to the fund) and then selling mine.