About three and quite-a-bit years ago I decided I would go car-less. And so I did. The benefits have been many, and well documented in that category. But I find myself in a quandary.
The last few months, despite actually cycling more than I have done previously, has also shown a trend of an increasing reliance on the City Car Club. My monthly bill has gone well over what I expected (at £100+ a month, nigh on £300 this last month) and I am feeling the restrictions of not having a car.
I can't be spontaneous, as I usually need to book a car (or hire one for longer hauls), and if I am I have to temper it with an eye on the time and distance to be travelled. I haven't been spontaneously camping or walking since I gave up the car. Simple errands that unfortunately require a car become psychologically and logistically more complex and, usually, more expensive.
Part of the integral cost of owning a car (and it is its greatest benefit) is flexibility. All things being well, you can jump in it and off you go. You are already paying for it, so you can use it. I miss being able to pop to the beach or mountains or wherever whenever I want. An example is this: I want to go to canoeing down the Wye river with EF and a couple of friends. To do this via the City Car Club would cost £50 for the day (for maximum flexibility and best per hour value) plus £55 mileage. I could hire a car traditionally, which is a faff in itself but requires booking in advance and would cost £45 plus petrol (£50?) for the whole weekend; Friday to Monday. So... not dissimilar in costs, if less so in flexibility.
Owning a car, assuming I have bought it outright, would incur a relatively negligible daily rate, even if you include maintenance/tax/MOT/etc, and just the mileage, plus the ultimate in flexibility. When I started out being car-less I expected to save roughly £1000 a year by not owning a car. And I did, but I am pretty sure that I am not saving that at the moment.
So what is the quandary, you may ask? On the surface it looks like I have convinced myself to get one, and in a way I have.
I like not owning a car. I am grumpier, lazier, more run-of-the-mill with a car. There is an attitude that comes with owning a car, a way of behaving and of thinking that simply doesn't fit me anymore. It also doesn't feel like the right thing to do.
So that's the quandary; it makes sense to have a car, and part of me wants to own one again, yet there is a larger, more reflective part of me that thinks otherwise, that prefers the me that gets on a bike or a train to go places, that likes the feeling of that non-dependency and self-reliance.
It comes down to this. I don't regret giving up the car. I would like one, and it would make life easier and more flexible. Yet I think I would regret owning one again, although, as you might point out, that is easily solvable.