Getting Around on the Cheap


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Getting Around on the Cheap:
How Alternative Transportation Methods Can Save You Money

There are a few things that are important to remember if you choose alternate modes of transportation over owning a car. 

  • Alternative transportation methods work and that they are often more attractive than car ownership.
  • Alternative methods are almost always significantly less expensive than car ownership.

Personal transportation is a necessary and inescapable part of life. Whether you are going to work, to school or just out visiting with friends, you must move from one place to another and in most cases there is a cost. In the United States, the most common way of moving about is by personal vehicle. 

Many young people have a desire to buy their first new car because it gives them independence and mobility. But be aware, along with that new car will come many large expenses. In fact, if you include depreciation, interest on a loan, license plates and registration fees, taxes, insurance payments, regular upkeep and fuel costs, an average new car owner can expect to spend as much as $9,0001 per year. For young people who have only recently started working, these costs can make owning a new car impossible in the short-term or at the very least, unattractive. 

Luckily, there are a number of other options for getting around, commonly referred to as alternative-transportation

  1. Ridesharing
  2. Mass Transit Systems
  3. Bicycling
  4. Foot Travel

Let's take a look at the first of these options.


To see just how much money you might save by using the forms of alternative transportation discussed, check out these helpful transportation cost calculators.

Commuter Cost Calculators:
*Note that these calculators account only for operating costs (ie fuel & parking, or ticket fares) They do not include expenses like insurance or financing.

  1. Pennsylvania For Alternative Transportation
  2. Stanford University

Holistic Transportation Cost Calculators

  1. Financial Mentor
  2. Pima Association of Governments
  3. Transportation Choices
    *this calculator also gives emissions comparisons across transportation alternatives.

As stated, this figure includes depreciation, which is the decline in the value of an asset. It is the biggest single cost of owning a car. Depreciation will range from 40-60% of the total expense of owning a car. Although depreciation is an expense, it is not a cash expense; meaning it is not something you pay each month, but rather an accounting on the books for the declining value of the car. So the average annual “cash expense” associated with owning a new car might be closer to $4,000 to $6,000. Purchasing a reliable, low mileage used car is another way to reduce the cost of owning a vehicle.