According to the 2015 edition of AAA’s Your Driving Costs, the average annual cost to own and operate a vehicle in the U.S. is $8,698. This includes fuel, maintenance, tires, auto insurance, license and registration fees, taxes, depreciation and finance charges – but not the cost of vehicle storage or parking your car at a meter.
Even a small sedan like a Honda Civic or Ford Focus can set you back $7,606 annually, while a large vehicle like a Ford Explorer or a Jeep Grand Cherokee has a yearly expense of $11,931. The cost of owning and operating a single car can exceed the monthly food costs for a family of four, while operating two cars in a family can generate costs greater than the average mortgage payment in the United States.
Benefits of Car-Free Living
Aside from the considerable monetary savings of being automobile-free, there are many other advantages:
Less Environmental Pollution
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, operating automobiles is the single greatest cause of air pollution. Pollution results from the combustion process and spills hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide. According to the EPA, carbon dioxide is considered the primary greenhouse gas contributor to recent climate change. Automobiles are also major causes of of smog and acid rain.
Increased Personal Safety
According to U.S. Census data, there are approximately 11 million automobile accidents each year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that this results in more than 30,000 deaths, 2.3 million injuries, and, according to a separate report by the NHTSA, an almost $1 trillion cost of productivity and loss of life. Living without a car dramatically reduces the likelihood of death or injury related to cars, as pedestrian deaths are far more unlikely than those of car drivers or passengers.
Without an automobile, people increase the time and distance they walk each day when commuting to and from work or when shopping. Health authorities from the American Heart Association to the Arthritis Foundation recommend daily walking as the key to long-term health. The benefits can include weight loss, longer life, better sleep, and reduced Alzheimer’s risk.
MIT’s Sensible City Lab and automaker Audi did a study on driving and learned that stress levels for driving in city traffic and skydiving from an airplane for the first time were about the same. Karl Greco, one of the project leaders, claims, “Certain driving situations can be one of the most stressful activities in our lives.”
A 2014 article in TIME magazine noted several studies about drivers who commute more than 10 miles each way to work and the deleterious effects upon their mental and physical health. John Casada, a psychiatrist who specializes in anger issues, says, “Sitting in traffic all boxed up in your car, running late and feeling powerless to improve your situation, is a perfect recipe for stress… As our society spends more time commuting amid more and more traffic, it’s no surprise that rates of aggressive driving and road rage are on the rise as well.”
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