Is it time to ditch your car?

  Considering ditching your car because you’re fed up with Britain’s gridlocked roads?
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And that doesn’t just mean leaving it at home in favour of commuting on public transport – we’re talking about actually getting rid of your car for good. If you’re in this category, you’re not alone. According to a new report from research charity, the Independent Transport Commission, the number of people who own their own cars is likely to fall steeply over the next 50 years. This is mainly due to the cost of running them, and because we’re sick of sitting in traffic jams.

Peak season

So are we fast approaching the situation known as “peak car”, when the road network simply can’t accommodate any more vehicles, and the number of reasons not to own a car begins to outweigh the benefits of having one? Not everyone thinks so. Forecasts from the Department for Transport suggest that traffic on all UK roads will increase by 41% between 2010 and 2040 – so they clearly don’t buy into the argument that car usage is going to decline any time soon. Indeed, might driverless car technology not increase the number of cars on the road, given that it will take a lot of the stress and strife out of getting behind the wheel? The Commission, however, is sticking to its guns, saying increasing numbers of us will be put off driving by worsening traffic conditions.

Cost concerns

It’s not just traffic that is putting us off car ownership. The costs of learning to drive and of running and insuring a car are among the main reasons many of us may consider dumping our motors. There are plenty of other expenses associated with owning a car, such as fuel costs and parking charges, which provide good reason to consider hanging up the car keys. Take my case. It would be extremely useful for my own family to have a second car, given we have two young children and live in the sticks. But my husband has instead gone for a moped to save money. This has the advantage of very cheap running costs and means he doesn’t have to pay the £4 station car park charges every day – a saving of about £80 a month.

Club class

So how will we get around if we no longer use our own cars? The report says increasing numbers of us will turn to car clubs, where you rent a car whenever you need one, car-sharing and taxis. It’s not hard to see the appeal of any of these options. Car clubs typically charge an annual fee, usually between £60 and £100, and then an hourly rate, typically starting from around £5. According to the Money Advice Service, if you drive less than 6,000 miles a year, joining a car club could save you over £3,000 compared to running your own car, and you don’t have to worry about servicing or repairs, or arranging toad tax and insurance.

Problem shared…

Car-sharing is also well worth considering – particularly if you’re a commuter and have a fellow office worker you can share costs with. If you don’t, then there are plenty of lift share websites available, such as nationalcarshare.co.uk and blablacar.com where you can sign up to be a passenger. Most sites allow you to join for free, and then look for people going in the same direction you want to. The only cost to you is a share of the petrol costs. If you’re worried about getting into a car with a stranger, most sites have a ratings system so you can check out what other passengers say about them first.

Country living

While all this makes good sense in theory, it certainly feels as though it’s going to be a long time before anyone who doesn’t live in an urban area will be able to get by easily without their own car, especially if they have children to ferry around. In most rural areas, you’d be very hard pushed to find a car club car within walking distance, and lucky to find someone prepared to regularly drop you at your door with a lift-share arrangement. Perhaps this will all change, but I for one can’t see myself giving up my car keys anytime soon.

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