“Whether you drive a hybrid or an SUV, your car is a cash-guzzler. Families trying to save real money should consider going without.”
It may be a true sign of change when the Wall Street Journal suggests that giving up your car could be good for your personal finances and the economy as a whole.
In his December 22 column, A real auto bailout: Escape your car, WSJ staff columnist Brett Arends wrote:
Last week, the auto industry finally got its bailout.
But is it time for Americans to rescue their own finances from their cars?
…Forget lattes and store-brand cereal. If you really want to see where your money is going, take a closer look at your car. Foreign or domestic, it doesn’t matter. It’s a cash guzzler, and it is probably costing you more than anything else except your home.
The column goes on to cite the cost of car ownership (per the AAA): $7800 per car per year on average. That figure is from 2007, before gas prices surged and then dropped again; Arends estimates that amount would drop $400 with current low gas prices.
Is it time for Americans to rescue their own finances from their cars?
It’s surprising to see this perspective represented in the conservative Wall Street Journal, but even more surprising is what Arends suggests next (emphasis mine):
Residents of inner-ring and upscale suburbs, as well as everyone in car-dependent cities like Dallas and Atlanta, are in the worst of all possible worlds on this. They’re paying plenty for real estate – and then paying even more on top of that to run a car for each adult in the home.
Surely they’d be better off moving out to the country, where they would still need their cars but at least real estate is cheap, or into a downtown where they could lose the cars.
The Wall Street Journal has a notoriously conservative editorial board, but its non-news sections, in which this column appears, have been far more in line with the times, promoting the environmentally friendly products and choices which are increasingly driving (and being driven by) the market and government policies.
“Life without a car may seem inconceivable,” Arends writes. But his tough love advice is to start imagining it, for the sake of your bank account.
It’s good to see the mainstream press start to question the absolute necessity of car ownership. I hope we’ll soon see a more widespread acknowledgment in this quarter of the effects of cars on more than just personal finances, and deeper exploration of how we can make that choice a more realistic one for the millions of Americans who may not be free to either give up their car or move away from car dependent areas.