Connecting University Circle
Brought to You by PNC

Share This

Close

« back to news list

If You Drive Less Than 10,000 Miles a Year, You Probably Shouldn't Own a Car

Posted October 18, 2017 in Articles

If You Drive Less Than 10,000 Miles a Year, You Probably Shouldn't Own a Car
If You Drive Less Than 10,000 Miles a Year, You Probably Shouldn't Own a Car
If You Drive Less Than 10,000 Miles a Year, You Probably Shouldn't Own a Car

Author: F. TODD DAVIDSON, MICHAEL E. WEBBER

Up to one-quarter of all U.S. drivers might be better off using ride-sharing services instead.

Every day there’s more news about the inevitable arrival of autonomous vehicles. At the same time, more people are using ride-hailing and ride-sharing apps, and the percentage of teens getting their driver’s license continues to decline.

Given these technologies and social changes, it’s worth asking: Should Americans stop owning cars?

We’ve conducted an analysis of the all-in cost of car ownership, and we found that mobility services such as ride-hailing and ride-sharing apps—which few people today would consider their main mode of transportation—will likely provide a compelling economic option for a significant portion of Americans. In fact, if the full cost of ownership is accounted for, we found that potentially one-quarter of the entire U.S. driving population might be better off using ride services versus owning a car.

From dream to brutal reality

America’s love affair with the car and individual car ownership took off after World War II, aided by inexpensive fuel, a rising consumer class and a vast national network of highways. A new generation of young professionals moved away from the urban core to the suburbs and abandoned mass transit for transportation enabled by personal car ownership.

This shift transformed the modern American landscape, triggered a new approach to city planning and enabled urban sprawl. Cities that blossomed before WWII—New York and Boston, for example—already had and continue to use their mass transit systems. By contrast, cities whose growth mostly occurred in a post-war boom like Los Angeles, Atlanta, Houston and Denver were built and effectively designed around car ownership. It’s still typical for an American family to buy a house that has a large garage to store cars.

But for many people, the 1950s concept of driving as an expression of personal liberty has been replaced by the brutal reality that driving is often a tedious chore. With an average price of $35,000 apiece in the U.S., cars are used about 4 percent of the time, during which drivers are often subjected to congested traffic.

On its face, spending so much money for an appliance that starts losing value immediately, takes up vast amount of our free time and is rarely used seems ridiculous. Is it time to consider a whole new approach to personal transportation?

Weighing costs

To answer this question, we built a comprehensive calculator that includes the costs of car ownership and compares it with an alternative of using mobility services, such as ride-hailing and ride-sharing apps, full-time to replace personal car ownership. The results might surprise you.

The costs of traditional car ownership go far beyond the price tag: There is also interest paid on car loans, insurance, taxes, fuel and maintenance. Some expenses are non-obvious, such as parking, property taxes and construction costs for home garages, and the value of our time.

The value of an individual’s time—that is, the dollars per hour you would assign to the time you spend driving—is one of the most important factors in our calculations.

The average American spends 335 hours annually behind the wheel driving over 13,000 miles. Add in the hours we spend maintaining, cleaning and managing our cars, and it becomes clear that America’s focus on personal car ownership is costing us a significant amount of time, arguably our most precious asset.

How much would you pay to avoid the stress of driving around town? How much would you pay to use that time more efficiently, such as catching up on email, reading a book or taking a nap? What if you could do work-related tasks while riding? Some professions are more suited to using time riding in a productive way: It’s probably easier for a lawyer to clock billable hours while riding to work than a plumber, for example.

When these costs are included, mobility services might be the economically preferable option. To be clear, this analysis is focused on full replacement of personal car ownership in which an individual would shift to using ride services for all trips, rather than purchase a new vehicle.

The decision for owning a vehicle or using mobility services is unique to every individual. If you purchase a highly efficient vehicle for less than $25,000 and drive it more than 15,000 miles per year until it falls apart, then you should definitely own a car if your goal is to save money.

But, if you drive less than 10,000 miles per year, face long waits in traffic, or place a high value on your time that would otherwise be spent driving, our calculations show that mobility services might be the cheaper option. Geography can also play a role—it’s not a coincidence that there have historically been so many taxi cabs in New York City, where the high cost of parking and slow pace of traffic consume time and money.

Outpricing human drivers

The rise of autonomous vehicles used for carpooling and ride-sharing services could make mobility services even more compelling, particularly when you consider the economics from the service provider’s perspective.

Assume for a moment that you operate a fleet of vehicles that provide mobility services. Let’s also assume you can purchase the vehicles in bulk for $20,000 apiece and that they will operate full-time for five years (the average age of a New York City taxi was 3.6 years in 2015). The median annual pay for a taxi driver is approximately $25,000. This means that it will cost you $145,000 to purchase the car and pay a driver over five years of operations (ignoring fuel, maintenance, registration and other miscellaneous operating expenses).

Using common accounting practices, we calculated that if you could buy an autonomous vehicle for less than $114,000, a service provider would be better off never hiring a driver.

For the average customer, a price tag of $114,000 is unimaginably high for a car. But, for a company like Uber that might someday operate a fleet of autonomous vehicles, a price tag north of $100,000 might look like gold when compared with paying drivers, a major contributor to operating cost.

As the price for autonomous vehicles goes down, the cost of delivering ride services goes lower. That means more consumers are more likely to use them, expanding the overall market.

Uber, Alphabet and many of the automotive companies understand this. It’s one of many reasons why there is an epic race to capture market share and eventually be the first to deliver fully autonomous vehicles.

On the other hand, if the price of autonomous vehicles falls far enough, maybe individuals will buy their own and recapture the time they currently spend driving themselves, obviating some of the value of mobility services.

Cultural factors

But, another question remains: Do Americans really want to give up their cars? Even if mobility services with carpooling and automation are a less expensive choice, the service might still not be adopted quickly since people purchase cars for many reasons beyond simply price (for example, they buy cars for convenience, status, fun, identity and so forth).

For many decades, the car has been a critical part of the American culture, often used as a tool to flaunt wealth and showcase the unique personalities of the drivers. Will Americans want to ride in cookie-cutter cars that are part of a larger automated fleet? Will they trade off the idea of car ownership as an extension of identity to gain back some of their free time?

Some trends do appear to be working in favor of increased use of mobility services. As the United States, and the world more broadly, continues to adopt ever greater levels of digital communication, more people will be able to complete work while on the go. And, the movement toward cities during the past decades has resulted in denser urban centers, increasing traffic congestion and making the case for alternatives to traditional car ownership.

Even changes in how different generations consume goods and services might be playing a role. Millennials have shown tepid interest in following in the footsteps of prior generations when it comes to car ownership. It will be interesting to observe whether Generation Y shows more desire for cars as they begin to enter parenthood and push toward suburbs in pursuit of affordable housing.

How the transition will play out is still unclear. If we were to postulate, it seems the most likely outcome is that the future transportation system will be a mix of personal car ownership and mobility services, using both systems as complementary. If more people use carpooling services in particular, these complementary systems of personal car ownership, mobility services and public transportation might make our roads and cities cleaner, faster and more affordable.

In addition to common mobility services today, Uber and Lyft might soon be joined in force by microtransit operators, like Ford’s Chariot shuttle service.

As mobility services become more mature, we will likely see new solutions emerge to make it even more convenient to meet specific needs, such as transporting youths, the elderly or disabled people, and even assist in disaster recovery efforts. The increased level of service could create a virtuous cycle that reinforces the value of mobility services, producing greater adoption, which further lowers costs and leads to even greater adoption. When it’s all said and done, the ease and economic benefits mean that the transition to mobility services might take place faster than we think.

Original Article: https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2017/10/if-you-drive-less-than-10000-miles-a-year-you-probably-shouldnt-own-a-car/542988/

Join UCI and UCPD for a Pedestrian Safety Advisory Community meeting via Zoom on Wednesday, March 13 to hear updates on pedestrian safe...

Join UCI and UCPD for a Pedestrian Safety Advisory Community meeting via Zoom on Wednesday, March 13 to hear updates on pedestrian safety in University Circle and share your road safety concerns. Learn more and register here: universitycircle.org/project-yield

Join UCI and UCPD for a Pedestrian Safety Advisory Community meeting via Zoom on Wednesday, March 13 to hear updates on pedestrian safety in University Circle and share your road safety concerns. Learn more and register here: universitycircle.org/project-yield

Wednesday, February 21 2024 | 7:00am

University Circle is conveniently served by six bus routes, the Euclid Avenue HealthLine (bus rapid transit), and the Red Line (heavy r...

University Circle is conveniently served by six bus routes, the Euclid Avenue HealthLine (bus rapid transit), and the Red Line (heavy rail). Use GCRTA's System Map or the Transit App on your phone to learn more about these transit routes and where they lead: riderta.com/systemmap.

University Circle is conveniently served by six bus routes, the Euclid Avenue HealthLine (bus rapid transit), and the Red Line (heavy rail). Use GCRTA's System Map or the Transit App on your phone to learn more about these transit routes and where they lead: riderta.com/systemmap.

Friday, February 16 2024 | 9:00am

The CircleLink shuttle connects University Circle to its outside neighborhoods making it the perfect way to travel locally. Get real-ti...

The CircleLink shuttle connects University Circle to its outside neighborhoods making it the perfect way to travel locally. Get real-time updates on the location of shuttles in the Circle and more on our shuttle page: ugointhecircle.com/shuttle

The CircleLink shuttle connects University Circle to its outside neighborhoods making it the perfect way to travel locally. Get real-time updates on the location of shuttles in the Circle and more on our shuttle page: ugointhecircle.com/shuttle

Monday, February 12 2024 | 9:01am

FYI! Lot 54, the parking lot at the former Ford Road Garage site, is now open and available for public parking. The 75-space parking lo...

FYI! Lot 54, the parking lot at the former Ford Road Garage site, is now open and available for public parking. The 75-space parking lot is owned and operated by Case Western Reserve University with visitor parking available at a rate of $1/hour.

FYI! Lot 54, the parking lot at the former Ford Road Garage site, is now open and available for public parking. The 75-space parking lot is owned and operated by Case Western Reserve University with visitor parking available at a rate of $1/hour.

Wednesday, February 7 2024 | 7:00am

With incoming snow expected to exceed 2 inches, please remember that stopping, standing, and parking of vehicles will be restricted and...

With incoming snow expected to exceed 2 inches, please remember that stopping, standing, and parking of vehicles will be restricted and prohibited on City streets with the posted red and white signs. In University Circle, this applies to the following roadways: Cedar Avenue, Chester Avenue, Euclid A...

With incoming snow expected to exceed 2 inches, please remember that stopping, standing, and parking of vehicles will be restricted and prohibited on City streets with the posted red and white signs. In University Circle, this applies to the following roadways: Cedar Avenue, Chester Avenue, Euclid Avenue, Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, and Wade Park Avenue.

Thursday, January 18 2024 | 6:00pm

Explore University Circle on foot this winter using one of our walking tours! Take a walk and grab lunch in Uptown, visit the museums o...

Explore University Circle on foot this winter using one of our walking tours! Take a walk and grab lunch in Uptown, visit the museums on Wade Oval, or take in the beautiful scenery of Wade Park.

Explore University Circle on foot this winter using one of our walking tours! Take a walk and grab lunch in Uptown, visit the museums on Wade Oval, or take in the beautiful scenery of Wade Park.

Wednesday, January 17 2024 | 3:02pm

This is a reminder that University Circle shuttles are operating on a winter break schedule. For more details, view the table below or ...

This is a reminder that University Circle shuttles are operating on a winter break schedule. For more details, view the table below or visit our shuttle page: ugointhecircle.com/shuttle.

This is a reminder that University Circle shuttles are operating on a winter break schedule. For more details, view the table below or visit our shuttle page: ugointhecircle.com/shuttle.

Monday, January 8 2024 | 9:01am

Happy New Year from uGO! Let’s talk about transportation and New Year’s Resolutions. What's the most common New Year's Resolution?...

Happy New Year from uGO! Let’s talk about transportation and New Year’s Resolutions. What's the most common New Year's Resolution? You guessed it - to exercise more and lose weight. Purchasing a new gym membership and establishing a workout routine are common next steps to accomplish this goal,...

Happy New Year from uGO! Let’s talk about transportation and New Year’s Resolutions. What's the most common New Year's Resolution? You guessed it - to exercise more and lose weight. Purchasing a new gym membership and establishing a workout routine are common next steps to accomplish this goal, but what if we told you that your commute can also play a role? Studies have shown that people who use transit take 30% more steps per day on average than people who drive, and nearly a third of transit users are physically active for 30 minutes or more each day just from walking to and from their pickup location. Similarly, studies show that the average person loses 13 lbs. in the first year of commuting by bike! Interested in changing up your commute for 2024? Check out our Transit and Biking pages on uGOinthecircle.com for information to help you get started!

Monday, January 1 2024 | 9:01am

Don't forget that University Circle shuttles do not operate on New Year's Day. RTA buses and trains operate on the holiday schedule. Vi...

Don't forget that University Circle shuttles do not operate on New Year's Day. RTA buses and trains operate on the holiday schedule. Visit our shuttle page for more info: uGOinthecircle.com/shuttle

Don't forget that University Circle shuttles do not operate on New Year's Day. RTA buses and trains operate on the holiday schedule. Visit our shuttle page for more info: uGOinthecircle.com/shuttle

Friday, December 29 2023 | 9:00am

A friendly reminder that University Circle shuttles do not operate on Christmas Day. RTA buses and trains operate on the holiday schedu...

A friendly reminder that University Circle shuttles do not operate on Christmas Day. RTA buses and trains operate on the holiday schedule. Visit our shuttle page for more info: uGOinthecircle.com/shuttle

A friendly reminder that University Circle shuttles do not operate on Christmas Day. RTA buses and trains operate on the holiday schedule. Visit our shuttle page for more info: uGOinthecircle.com/shuttle

Friday, December 22 2023 | 9:01am

Explore University Circle on foot using one of our walking tours! Take a walk and grab lunch in Uptown, visit the Museums on Wade Oval,...

Explore University Circle on foot using one of our walking tours! Take a walk and grab lunch in Uptown, visit the Museums on Wade Oval, or take in the beautiful scenery of Wade Park.

Explore University Circle on foot using one of our walking tours! Take a walk and grab lunch in Uptown, visit the Museums on Wade Oval, or take in the beautiful scenery of Wade Park.

Thursday, December 14 2023 | 1:00pm

In coordination with Case Western Reserve University’s winter break schedule, a few shuttle routes will temporarily change starting t...

In coordination with Case Western Reserve University’s winter break schedule, a few shuttle routes will temporarily change starting this weekend. View the table and stay up to date with the latest changes on our shuttle page: ugointhecircle.com/shuttle

In coordination with Case Western Reserve University’s winter break schedule, a few shuttle routes will temporarily change starting this weekend. View the table and stay up to date with the latest changes on our shuttle page: ugointhecircle.com/shuttle

Wednesday, December 13 2023 | 4:27pm

Join UCI and UCPD tomorrow evening for a Pedestrian Safety Advisory Community meeting via Zoom to hear updates on pedestrian safety in ...

Join UCI and UCPD tomorrow evening for a Pedestrian Safety Advisory Community meeting via Zoom to hear updates on pedestrian safety in University Circle and share your road safety concerns. Learn more and register here: universitycircle.org/project-yield

Join UCI and UCPD tomorrow evening for a Pedestrian Safety Advisory Community meeting via Zoom to hear updates on pedestrian safety in University Circle and share your road safety concerns. Learn more and register here: universitycircle.org/project-yield

Tuesday, December 5 2023 | 9:01am

Pedestrian friendly bumper stickers make great stocking stuffers! Request one for all the pedestrian friendly drivers on your list this...

Pedestrian friendly bumper stickers make great stocking stuffers! Request one for all the pedestrian friendly drivers on your list this year: universitycircle.org/project-yield-sticker

Pedestrian friendly bumper stickers make great stocking stuffers! Request one for all the pedestrian friendly drivers on your list this year: universitycircle.org/project-yield-sticker

Monday, December 4 2023 | 9:01am

Join UCI and UCPD for a Pedestrian Safety Advisory Community meeting via Zoom to hear updates on pedestrian safety in University Circle...

Join UCI and UCPD for a Pedestrian Safety Advisory Community meeting via Zoom to hear updates on pedestrian safety in University Circle and share your road safety concerns. Learn more and register here: universitycircle.org/project-yield

Join UCI and UCPD for a Pedestrian Safety Advisory Community meeting via Zoom to hear updates on pedestrian safety in University Circle and share your road safety concerns. Learn more and register here: universitycircle.org/project-yield

Wednesday, November 29 2023 | 9:00am

Happy (almost) Thanksgiving! This is a reminder that University Circle shuttles will not be running on Thanksgiving Day. To find altern...

Happy (almost) Thanksgiving! This is a reminder that University Circle shuttles will not be running on Thanksgiving Day. To find alternative modes of transportation, follow the link! ugointhecircle.com/plan-your-trip

Happy (almost) Thanksgiving! This is a reminder that University Circle shuttles will not be running on Thanksgiving Day. To find alternative modes of transportation, follow the link! ugointhecircle.com/plan-your-trip

Tuesday, November 21 2023 | 10:01am

Are you traveling this week for the holiday? RTA's Red Line train provides a convenient connection between University Circle and the Cl...

Are you traveling this week for the holiday? RTA's Red Line train provides a convenient connection between University Circle and the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. Depart from the Mayfield Road or Cedar Road Rapid Station to avoid the hassle (and cost!) of parking. Plan your trip in advanc...

Are you traveling this week for the holiday? RTA's Red Line train provides a convenient connection between University Circle and the Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. Depart from the Mayfield Road or Cedar Road Rapid Station to avoid the hassle (and cost!) of parking. Plan your trip in advance using the Transit app.

Monday, November 20 2023 | 9:00am

Respect the speed limit! As part of our traffic safety efforts, we partner with UCPD to install a radar speed sign at targeted location...

Respect the speed limit! As part of our traffic safety efforts, we partner with UCPD to install a radar speed sign at targeted locations in the Circle. The sign helps discourage speeding and allows us to collect valuable speed and traffic count data.

Respect the speed limit! As part of our traffic safety efforts, we partner with UCPD to install a radar speed sign at targeted locations in the Circle. The sign helps discourage speeding and allows us to collect valuable speed and traffic count data.

Thursday, November 16 2023 | 2:00pm

Join UCI and UCPD for a Pedestrian Safety Advisory Community meeting via Zoom to hear updates on pedestrian safety in University Circle...

Join UCI and UCPD for a Pedestrian Safety Advisory Community meeting via Zoom to hear updates on pedestrian safety in University Circle and share your road safety concerns. Learn more and register here: universitycircle.org/project-yield

Join UCI and UCPD for a Pedestrian Safety Advisory Community meeting via Zoom to hear updates on pedestrian safety in University Circle and share your road safety concerns. Learn more and register here: universitycircle.org/project-yield

Wednesday, November 15 2023 | 1:28pm

It’s that time of year again! ✔️Report streetlight outages and close calls ✔️Drive at or below the speed limit ✔️Yield t...

It’s that time of year again! ✔️Report streetlight outages and close calls ✔️Drive at or below the speed limit ✔️Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks Learn more about Project Yield: universitycircle.org/project-yield

It’s that time of year again! ✔️Report streetlight outages and close calls ✔️Drive at or below the speed limit ✔️Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks Learn more about Project Yield: universitycircle.org/project-yield

Monday, November 6 2023 | 12:00pm

Clocks move back one hour this Sunday, which means people traveling in the early evening hours will experience darker conditions than b...

Clocks move back one hour this Sunday, which means people traveling in the early evening hours will experience darker conditions than before. Dark conditions are linked to increased crash risk, especially for pedestrians. Next week, as part of our Project Yield initiative, we will begin installing...

Clocks move back one hour this Sunday, which means people traveling in the early evening hours will experience darker conditions than before. Dark conditions are linked to increased crash risk, especially for pedestrians. Next week, as part of our Project Yield initiative, we will begin installing speed limit awareness signs at targeted locations in University Circle to encourage safe and alert driving. You can learn more about Project Yield here: universitycircle.org/project-yield

Friday, November 3 2023 | 4:29pm

Do you own an EV or are you considering purchasing one? Visit our page on Electric Vehicles to view all charging station locations avai...

Do you own an EV or are you considering purchasing one? Visit our page on Electric Vehicles to view all charging station locations available in and around University Circle: ugointhecircle.com/ev

Do you own an EV or are you considering purchasing one? Visit our page on Electric Vehicles to view all charging station locations available in and around University Circle: ugointhecircle.com/ev

Wednesday, November 1 2023 | 12:01pm

Happy Halloween! Starting out on public transit can be scary, but we've got you covered with our trip planner that can help you plan th...

Happy Halloween! Starting out on public transit can be scary, but we've got you covered with our trip planner that can help you plan the best route! Check it out at ugointhecircle.com/plan-your-trip

Happy Halloween! Starting out on public transit can be scary, but we've got you covered with our trip planner that can help you plan the best route! Check it out at ugointhecircle.com/plan-your-trip

Tuesday, October 31 2023 | 2:01pm

Join Slow Roll Cleveland for a social bicycle ride next Monday, October 23, starting at Wade Oval! The group meets at 6:00 p.m. and dep...

Join Slow Roll Cleveland for a social bicycle ride next Monday, October 23, starting at Wade Oval! The group meets at 6:00 p.m. and departs at 7:00 p.m. For more information, visit slowrollcleveland.com.

Join Slow Roll Cleveland for a social bicycle ride next Monday, October 23, starting at Wade Oval! The group meets at 6:00 p.m. and departs at 7:00 p.m. For more information, visit slowrollcleveland.com.

Friday, October 20 2023 | 10:01am

Be vigilant about using your headlights at night and in inclement weather. Approximately 77% of pedestrians are killed in dark conditio...

Be vigilant about using your headlights at night and in inclement weather. Approximately 77% of pedestrians are killed in dark conditions. #PedestrianSafety

Be vigilant about using your headlights at night and in inclement weather. Approximately 77% of pedestrians are killed in dark conditions. #PedestrianSafety

Friday, October 20 2023 | 8:00am

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive alerts and/or uGO's seldom email communications.

Calculate Your Commute

How much are you spending on your way to work?

Show Me

Stay Connected! Sign up to receive transportation alerts and stay up to date on uGO news.

Photo Gallery

1 of 22