Cars vs Public Transportation: Weighing Your Options

Do you live in an area with readily available public transportation? If so, how do you make the decision whether to drive your car or take public transportation? Does it even make sense to own a car? Many people make the assumption that public transportation is always cheaper. Alternatively, some people look at the cost of gas versus the cost of bus or train fare and assume that the equation is that simple.

It is important to consider the following factors so that you can make informed decisions about your mode of transport:

Calculate the Cost of Owning a Car

If you’re on the fence about whether or not you want to own a car at all, calculate the total cost of ownership. This figure may include, but is not limited to, car payments, insurance, gas, city stickers, parking, regular maintenance (i.e. oil changes), and occasional larger repairs. Budget for annual expenses (i.e. insurance) and unexpected repairs on a monthly basis to determine whether or not you can make these payments.

Figure out Public Transportation Costs

Once you have computed car ownership costs, calculate public transportation costs as best you can given the current fare rates and your routine transportation needs. Is there one clear winner? Does one mode of transportation suit your lifestyle more than the other? For example, maybe your long work commute into the suburbs costs about the same via car or train but would be much more pleasant on the train because you could get read or sleep during the trip.

The primary advantage of owning a car is flexibility. You have the transportation available whenever you need it. If you have a need for a car but can’t justify owning one, look into local ride sharing. You may be able to borrow a car on a limited basis and take public transportation the rest of the time.