Owning a Car is Not All Roses and Sunshine

If you are tired of taking the bus, you probably watch with envy as each shiny new car rolls by. There is no doubt that having your own set of wheels comes with a host of benefits, from greater freedom and flexibility in your daily schedule to a faster commute to work.

Owning a car is not all roses and sunshine, however. Before you trade in your bus pass for a hefty car payment, you need to take a look at the dark side of car ownership. Understanding the risks, the costs and the rewards of car ownership is the best way to make a smart transportation decision.

Personal Liability

Driving a car might provide freedom, but it also exposes you to personal liability. Driving a car is a big responsibility, and the risk of hurting someone in an accident is always present. Even if you carry insurance, you could be held liable for any injuries you cause. That is especially true if you can only afford the minimum your state requires; that state-mandated minimum may not be enough to pay for serious injuries or property damage.

If you do move from bus passenger to driver, you will want to have sufficient liability coverage in place to protect your personal assets. Talk to a good insurance agent, get recommendations and shop around to get the most coverage for the least amount of money.

Increased Debt

Owning a car may sound appealing, but unless you have a fat bank account you probably cannot afford to buy a new or late-model used car for cash. For most drivers, buying a car means taking out a loan, and that can increase your debt load substantially.

If you are in the market for a new car, you need to look at your finances carefully and make sure you can really afford your own set of wheels. The cost of the vehicle is only the beginning. You will also need to budget for things like insurance, maintenance, repairs and parking fees. If you fail to take these factors into account, you could end up with more debt than you can really afford.

Repair Woes

No matter what kind of car you buy, it is bound to break down eventually. That means you will need to find a good mechanic, and that can be a tough job. Finding a mechanic you can trust is a daunting task, and making the wrong decision could cost you dearly.

If you do end up buying a car, you may want to ask your driving friends for recommendations and find out which mechanics they use. You can also check ratings and reviews and talk to other people who use the shop you are considering. Doing your due diligence ahead of time can save you a lot of money later on.

Parking Problems

In some cities, a car is a liability instead of an asset. With thousands of cars plying the streets and a limited number of parking spaces, finding a place to stow your car while you work, shop or go to school can be a real challenge.

You will also need to factor in the cost of parking when deciding how much you can afford to spend on a new car or truck. Look at the price of monthly permits, garage fees and other expenses. Those costs can really add up, and in the end you may find you are better off waiting at the bus stop than circling the block in search of that elusive parking spot.

Increased Carbon Footprint

Unless your new ride is an all-electric model, every mile you drive is putting more carbon into the air. If you are concerned about the environment, you might be better off sticking to your spot on the bus. Public transportation carries a much lower carbon footprint per person, and that could mean a greener future for you and your children.

Owning a car can be a good thing, but it is not always the right choice. Before you plunk down tens of thousands of dollars on a new ride, you need to take a look at the dark side of car ownership. If you decide that a car is still the best choice, you can rest easy knowing you have taken all the contingencies into account. If not, you will know that car ownership is not the right choice for everyone.

By beconrad
Photo: Cathy Yeulet