In certain places, especially the United States, owning a personal vehicle feels as necessary as having internet access. But why do we need such an expensive item just to feel free? Communities and office spaces have been structured around the assumption that everyone should have one. The stigma around car-less people suggests they’re lazy, poor, and irresponsible. We need to start questioning these assumptions. America’s extreme car culture isn’t normal or healthy. If you travel to Europe or Asia, you’ll find that car-less households are common. Many have found it’s easier to lead a rich life by avoiding the hidden costs of car ownership.


Cars vs. Your Wallet

Driving can chip away your wealth at $0.70 per mile according to AAA. Unless you get good mileage compensation, you’re losing much more than the gas in your tank. BLS reports the average American household spent $12,295 per year on transportation in 2022 (only 25% was fuel). Don’t underestimate the cost of insurance, depreciation, administrative expenses, parking, and interest from financing. Add the value of lost time in traffic and it’s clear how expensive driving has become.

Cars vs. Your Health

Every year crashes kill 1 person per 6,000 drivers and injure 1 per 83 (source: Over 50 years, that’s a 1 in 120 chance of dying and a 45% chance of getting injured. Driving defensively might improve your survival odds, but if you think you’re an above-average driver, so does everyone else! Along with the physical danger, driving in traffic introduces additional stress that can impact mental health and feelings toward humanity. Life would be much more blissful without traffic danger sprinkled into our daily routine. Driving less and walking more has such obvious health benefits.

Cars vs. Your Environment

Thankfully, most people are aware of the environmental impact of driving. That’s motivated a small percentage of Americans to choose the most efficient vehicles available. But is that enough? Remember how fuel only accounts for a small portion of your transportation cost? The same goes for carbon emissions. Since making a car creates pollution, electric cars still contribute about half the emissions of a similar gas-powered car over the whole product lifecycle. Upgrading too often can cancel out the environmental benefits of electric vehicles. Until the world’s energy systems are completely decarbonized, buying an electric car will still have lasting effects on your environment.

The Common Excuses

Many blame their choice on the lack of quality public transportation options. That may be true, but this way of thinking creates a self-reinforcing cycle. How many people impulsively opt for cheap housing in the suburbs because of the sticker price? Factoring in the transportation costs, the price difference becomes less significant compared to urban living. If we think critically about our learned habits, we’ll find that cars aren’t as valuable or convenient as they seem. For example, asking “Where is the closest market?” might be better than asking “How will I get to Costco?”. Maybe paying thousands per year on a vehicle isn’t worth saving a dollar on chicken nuggets.


For some, living without a vehicle is unimaginable. I have found it liberating to leave the expense and stress of driving behind. I don’t dream of a massive house with multiple cars. I prefer a community that appreciates the simplicity and freedom of walking. That has allowed me to save more for my retirement, and maybe even extend my lifespan. Now you know the major hidden costs of car ownership. If you enjoyed this article, please share the bliss with your friends and family!

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