Sold My Car
0 comment Sunday, June 8, 2014 |
Today was my first day of non-car ownership since I wrecked my Ford Escort in 1997. While that carless episode lasted only two weeks, this should be a longer term arrangement. When I moved to DC, I was on the fence about keeping the car, but a few mornings of watching my neighbors sweep glass out of their passenger seats while talking to the cops about what they'd left there the night before convinced me, leaving a vehicle on the street is no way to own a car out here. After about a month on the open market, my '04 Element has sold for the sadly low price of $9,200.

Before I become a smug jerk about being car-free, I'd like to state for the record that having that car was awesome, and not having to get in it every day to go to work was even better. It was the ultimate toy, taking me on great camping trips, mountain biking, far flung roadtrip adventures, skiing, surfing, diving, toboganning and exploring this great country. It may have saved my mom's life by being able to handle a horrible jeep road at 11,000 feet on Mt. Princeton when she got altitude sickness, helping to get her and three other hikers down to safe altitude much faster than waiting for help. It's been a great car for a lot of purposes.
But right now, the economics of it just don't work for me. I bought the car used in '05 for $18,900, and by my calculation, that works out to a depreciation of $2,425 per year in value. Add to that the $840 a year in insurance, the $600 I spend in routine maintenance, and whatever gas happens to be per year, parking, and other incidentals and I'm easily at $5,000 or more spent on a car per year. Right now, I drive for a purpose maybe once every two weeks.
Pretty soon I'm going to see about joining ZipCar here in DC. It's a car sharing service, and they actually have a Honda Element parked a block away that I could use if I needed to. I'll review that when I get the chance. I think the most interesting part about it is that I'll be trading a system where my sunk costs are high and incremental costs are low for exactly the opposite. Every time I choose to drive a ZipCar, I'll be paying about $12 per hour, which seems high, but is probably a lot lower than the hourly cost of ownership I'm currently running.
The biggest thing for me has come down to a thought I've been mulling over for at least the last three years. In most places in America, life is structured so that is difficult, if not impossible to participate fully as a citizen without a car. Nowhere was this more true for me than Los Angeles, and even when I made attempts to ride the bus, or my bike to work, it was clear that no one was planning the community around those modes of travel, it was a fight I ultimately gave up on there. In Denver I could live day to day car free, though the call of the mountains had me behind the wheel often for recreation. DC feels much different, being geared in greater measure for pedestrians and metropolitanism, so I think I'm in the right place for this experiment.
I think it's nuts that we expect teenagers to drive as much as they do in order to participate in things like high school sports and activities. It's crazy that riding a bike to school is still the exception, not the rule. I wonder if I call attention to this, if other people will agree with me that we've gone overboard with dependence on cars, and the expectation that others should be using them too, or maybe I'll just be the smug guy who everyone secretly hates. I realize I'm in a unique place that can support this choice, and that most Americans are stuck behind the wheel for the foreseeable future. I just want to find out for myself if this is "living the dream", or a pain in the ass. Also, if I know I'm saving $5,000 a year, can I then rationalize getting a titanium Black Sheep next March?
Anyway, that's it, done for now, no car, I'm a bike and transit commuter.
Forgive my little trip down memory lane, but it's sort of a bittersweet send-off, and I figure some of this blogs readers might appreciate some of these pictures.

Carrying my steed to an offroad adventure with friends.
I twice moved across the country with most of my worldly possessions contained within (and upon).
Headed out of Denver fully loaded with household effects and five bikes.
It's driven attractive and interesting people around.
Karen Beach, MPP
It's schlepped tired riders and wet ski gear around the high country, picked up hitch-hiking snowboarders at Loveland pass, and nearly wrecked into a guardrail on I-70 in a white out (saved by the AWD!).

Erin Handsfield, closing day '08
It's taken my scraped up and battered body back home from more excursions gone awry than I care to count.

First bike wreck in Colorado for me. I broke my fork.
It's smelled like freshly speared fish, and the salty men who caught them.

Will, Opaleye Perch, Surf Perch, and Curtis Buchanan
And now I'm passing my car along to Barbara. Barbara tells me she killed her last two cars by not changing the oil regularly. I hope she does better with this car, it's a champ, and will last a while if well treated.

So long old pal.

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