Growing up, I lived the rural lifestyle. I grew up believing that part of becoming an adult would involve owning my own car. To some extent this makes good sense in a rural setting when dealing with sporadic transit and long distances between amenities. However, for a growing urban population the necessity of owning a car is something that should seriously be questioned.

Car Ownership

After I graduated from university and landed my first well paying job, I was very excited that I had finally ‘made it’ and could start to make some of the purchases I had always dreamed of. After researching and saving up money for a few months, I purchased a 2002 Suzuki Esteem wagon. Over the year that I owned the car, $400 each month went towards the maintenance, insurance and gas. However, as my girlfriend and I started to question the many necessities in our life, I started to question the ‘need’ to have my own, dedicated car. I live in a city where transit is good and my neighborhood is ideally situated for walking to many amenities. The only time I felt that a car was really necessary (or at least a big help) was our bi-monthly grocery shops.

Car Sharing

So, how do I save money by not owning a car, yet have access to one whenever I need? The Car Sharing Co-ops! Car sharing is becoming increasingly popular in larger cities for its financial, logistical and environmental benefits to its members. Co-op members share the costs of buying and maintaining a vehicle through an initial membership fee and ongoing low rental rates. This in turn benefits the environment by decreasing the number of cars on the road. I belong to the Co-operative Auto Network, in Vancouver BC. , I pay a low $3/hr rate plus mileage ($0.40/km for the first 35km and down from there).This includes gas, insurance and roadside assistance in case I should ever have the misfortune of breaking down on a grocery run at no extra cost!

Note: There is a $20 application fee that is waived by a referral. Contact me for one if you’re thinking of joining!

Here are some other car sharing companies and co-ops you may want to check out.

Zipcar – Available across North America – Available in Toronto, Canada – A great resource detailing car sharing organizations near you!

The bottom line

My monthly bill to use a car approximately once or twice per week is under $200. Over the course of a year, I save a guaranteed $2400. When I use the car less, I save even more. For me, the tradeoff from car ownership to car sharing has definitely paid off; I now have twice the money to allocate toward things that are more important to me which makes a huge difference to my monthly finances.