Car ownership vs. car use

Bletchleyite

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From the HS2 thread, I thought it a point worthy of discussion.

Car ownership is a lifestyle choice which in most cases doesn't make financial sense on its own. Car use can be deterred if other modes are good, e.g. good cycling/walking facilities and good public transport.

If you want to reduce car ownership to zero in a given household, you need to look at measures that will make one easily available when it is needed e.g. for transporting "stuff" or for weekends away to places not well served by public transport or where you need a lot of kit (note: hire companies that don't open late Sundays and don't do unsupervised returns don't count; this alone makes hire useless to me in MK). Car clubs are a good example. You can reduce to 1 if public transport/cycling/walking is good enough, though.
 
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GRALISTAIR

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I think car use is far easier to deter than car ownership. I own a car in US and U.K. if I am home in UK and I want to go to London it is a no-brainer that either I or my wife drives me to Preston Station and I get a train to Euston. I know it could be argued I don’t need to own a car as I could get an electric taxi or whatever to Preston station but then I could not easily see my mother or my children.
 

Egg Centric

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Car ownership is a lifestyle choice which in most cases doesn't make financial sense on its own.
I don't agree with this at all, please could you show your working?

Taking my household, while it might be hard to argue my 25mpg 160+mph car makes financial sense, my wife's 2006 Kia Picanto cost £750, it's £400 to insure (in her first year driving so this will come down considerably), and will cost less than £300 in servicing + MOT a year. How's this compare to the cost of a season ticket, before we add on practically infinite flexibility (to get her experience, I had her drive us to the car park right next to the Tower of London last Sunday, which cost £3.50 for parking all day).

Equivalent train/coach/taxi journeys cannot compete.
 

Bletchleyite

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I don't agree with this at all, please could you show your working?
I should have said "in many cases" rather than "in most cases". Certainly if you take a typical London commuter who travels from their local station the family probably doesn't need two cars and the second one is unlikely to make financial sense against walking/cycling to the station or "kiss and ride".
 

GB

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I don't agree with this at all, please could you show your working?

Taking my household, while it might be hard to argue my 25mpg 160+mph car makes financial sense, my wife's 2006 Kia Picanto cost £750, it's £400 to insure (in her first year driving so this will come down considerably), and will cost less than £300 in servicing + MOT a year. How's this compare to the cost of a season ticket, before we add on practically infinite flexibility (to get her experience, I had her drive us to the car park right next to the Tower of London last Sunday, which cost £3.50 for parking all day).

Equivalent train/coach/taxi journeys cannot compete.
Fully agree. It would cost me much more to take public transport (as well as a huge inconvenience) than to own and use my own car.
 

TrafficEng

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If you want to reduce car ownership to zero in a given household...
First question is why do you want to reduce car ownership?

It only matters where residential car parking is resulting in inefficient land use. In on-street parking scenarios the local authority can implement a CPZ and ration resident permits. Job done.

For the vast majority of the country land use efficiency is not a big issue. It isn't like you can build extra houses on people's driveways. It only becomes a factor in new-build, and there planning controls plus developer profit determine the way land is allocated. Both can decide to build car-free housing if they collectively wish to do so. Most don't, unless the occupiers are unlikely to want cars.

An argument can be made that having a car on the driveway encourages people to drive rather than walking or cycling. Fair comment, but that's an issue for how we charge for car use, not ownership.

And I guess you could also construct an argument that having a car sitting idly on a driveway is bad for the environment because it is an inefficient use of resources. If so, please get back to me once you've introduced policies restricting people to one TV, one iPhone and one child per household.

Car clubs are a good example.
They do have benefits, especially in areas where on-street parking is the only option and heavily used. 'Communal' cars seems a sensible approach in that situation.

But they are a double-edged sword because they also give easy low-cost access to a car to people who might otherwise walk, cycle or use public transport. It is a policy area that needs very careful implementation.
 

Shimbleshanks

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I had a period of 2-3 years when we didn't own a car and relied on a car club, car hire and, of course, public transport. The car club was fine for doing errands like bringing home heavy shopping, provided we could plan things a day or so in advance. Unfortunately, the one time we had a genuine emergency and needed a car in a hurry - one of our cats was seriously ill and needed to be rushed to a specialist vet about 40 miles away - the system let us down. (The car I was supposed to pick up was returned late by the previous hirer.)

After that episode, my Missus was adamant that we needed to have a car again and we've had one ever since. I can't see us ever changing until we both get too old and insane to drive.
 

Lucan

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the one time we had a genuine emergency and needed a car in a hurry .... the [car club] system let us down. (The car I was supposed to pick up was returned late by the previous hirer.)
That happens even with commercial hire companies. I once hired a trailer to pick up a big item I bought on ebay, but it turned out that their previous customer had not returned the trailer in time*. Hire companies tolerate that sort of thing from their regular business customers, but as an occasional customer you get low priority.

* That was the story, but maybe one of his regular customers wanted it at short notice.
 

Lucan

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First question is why do you want to reduce car ownership? It only matters where residential car parking is resulting in inefficient land use. In on-street parking scenarios the local authority can implement a CPZ and ration resident permits. Job done.
Strange logic there. Car ownership is already moderated in cities by the fact that there is limited space to keep them, with or without residents' permits. You seem to question the need to reduce car ownership, yet seem to praise the rationing of parking spaces, I'm puzzled by what you are trying to say and not sure what job you think is "done".

It is not possible to park a car either as a visitor or a shopper in many parts of cities any more. Everywhere is either residents' permits, double yellow lines, or a few designated spaces already occupied. I am not talking about city centes where there may be multi-storeys, but the inner suburbs - the Clifton and Redland areas of Bristol for example. It is rare to see a residents' permit slot unoccupied anyway, even during the day, so it would make little difference to a vistor whether they were restricted or not. I'm just stating facts here.
 

underbank

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The flaw with "car shares" is that if someone doesn't think they need a car regularly, why would they learn to drive in the first place? When fewer people learn, there'd be less demand for car shares and thus less supply, so people who previously had a car, then dropped it to car share occasionally, may find themselves having to own a car again.

As for charging for car "use", that's fine in urban areas where there are alternatives, but not acceptable in smaller towns, villages and rural areas where cars are really a necessity and numbers of people are too small to justify huge investment to improve public transport options.

I just can't see car use/ownership reducing any time soon, especially with population increase. I think we have to invest in infrastructure where it's justified in large population areas, and then subsequently extend/expand congestion charging in those same areas. But, outside major towns and cities, I think car usage is probably best left alone due to absence of any realistic alternatives.
 

bramling

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From the HS2 thread, I thought it a point worthy of discussion.

Car ownership is a lifestyle choice which in most cases doesn't make financial sense on its own. Car use can be deterred if other modes are good, e.g. good cycling/walking facilities and good public transport.

If you want to reduce car ownership to zero in a given household, you need to look at measures that will make one easily available when it is needed e.g. for transporting "stuff" or for weekends away to places not well served by public transport or where you need a lot of kit (note: hire companies that don't open late Sundays and don't do unsupervised returns don't count; this alone makes hire useless to me in MK). Car clubs are a good example. You can reduce to 1 if public transport/cycling/walking is good enough, though.
I’m not sure there necessarily needs to be a correlation between ownership and use.

My household currently has three cars for two of us. Two notionally “belong” to each of us, and the third is basically fully depreciated (three months short of 20 years old) but kept running essentially because I like it and am too much of a sucker in not liking to get rid of things which still have plenty of life left in them. All three are kept on the road, fortunately my road has plenty of space so this isn’t an issue.

None of this has much bearing on how they’re *used*. I *prefer* to use the train where possible, however increasing train crowding and a less pleasant-to-use train service means I’m increasingly finding that the balance is tending to tip slightly in favour of car. Cost isn’t a major issue so even if the economics tipped firmly in favour of of the train (which it already is for me as I have a PRIV and plentiful supply of boxes which most years I don’t fully use), this would be unlikely to sway things. Quite simply I’m not prepared to endure a long train journey if I think there’s the likelihood of being stuck on the train with a screaming family nearby or a bunch of football supporters chanting crap all the journey. Likewise we tend to walk heavily, so will never drive into town, and even locally I’m happy to take the train and walk somewhere rather than get the car out.

I also enjoy driving, and am already keeping a car running where the economics don’t really stack up (for example I’ve just spend £1.5k on corrosion repairs on the third car, which on a simply cost/benefit case wouldn’t stack up, but I will justify on the basis that I like the car). That is unlikely to change.

In short, for me at least, there’s not much of a correlation between car ownership and use. We are quite heavy in terms of ownership, but light in terms of use - indeed complete weeks can go by when none of the three cars will move at all.

Judging by observation however, I suspect we are untypical. Plenty of people seem wedded to the car as the default means of anything which takes them away from their front door. How many car journeys are there at 1000 each morning with people driving somewhere like a car park to take the dog for a 200-yard walk down a bridleway?! All the finest public transport in the world won’t stop that IMO.
 
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route101

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I had a period of 2-3 years when we didn't own a car and relied on a car club, car hire and, of course, public transport. The car club was fine for doing errands like bringing home heavy shopping, provided we could plan things a day or so in advance. Unfortunately, the one time we had a genuine emergency and needed a car in a hurry - one of our cats was seriously ill and needed to be rushed to a specialist vet about 40 miles away - the system let us down. (The car I was supposed to pick up was returned late by the previous hirer.)

After that episode, my Missus was adamant that we needed to have a car again and we've had one ever since. I can't see us ever changing until we both get too old and insane to drive.
Used to use Co Wheels and the Enterprise car club. Had a few problems , the parking space obstructed in City Centre and couldn't just leave the car. Costs do mount up if you go longer distance and the mileage charge went up.
 

HSTEd

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Modern cars can have exceedingly long lives, especially if lightly used.

Considering the low cost of modern hatchbacks (Dacia Sandero starting at only £6,995, or £7,995 for the version with basically all modern car features), I am not convinced that the argument that cars are more expensive than public transpport really washes all that well.
 
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underbank

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Modern cars can have exceedingly long lives, especially if lightly used.

Considering the low cost of modern hatchbacks (Dacia Sandero starting at only £6,995, or £7,995 for the version with basically all modern car features), I am not convinced that the argument that cars are more expensive than public transpport really washes all that well.
I agree. I'm sat here staring at my 12 year old Citroen C3 which I bought new for £7,000. It's never broken down and only costs me a couple of hundred every year for it's service/MOT. Other than that, just a new set of tyres. The "cost per year" works out at less than a thousand (including fuel) - that's worth it for convenience alone. You can own and use a car pretty cheaply!
 

PeterC

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The problem is that once you have a car you build your life around the convenience. Driving an hour for a gig is no big deal while public transport may involve a taxi, two changes of trainand a overnight stop in a hotel.

Now that my mother has passed away I no longer need to be able to drive across the Home Counties at a moment's notice and could dispense with the car but only at the expense of reorganising my social life to be based on location rather than interests.
 

Meerkat

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Social life is much easier with a car. If you drive somewhere you need far less provision for random British weather and don’t then have to find somewhere to store that provision. It’s also easier to organise if you can give each other lifts.
If you are unsure or unwell you can drive somewhere and leave whenever you like to get home quickly, or just go somewhere else.
And if you are daytripping you can have all sorts of weather provision and food/drink close by without lugging it everywhere.
 

HSTEd

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All you can do is promote alternative means of transport to reduce car use at the edges until you hit a tipping point where cultural change kicks in.

One way for example would be tram-train extensions of all the existing city tram systems.
 

Enthusiast

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I had her drive us to the car park right next to the Tower of London last Sunday, which cost £3.50 for parking all day).
If you mean the one in Lower Thames Street it is £3.50 all day only on Saturday afternoons, Sundays and Bank Holidays. The rest of the time it is £3.50 per hour. It's also in the Congestion Zone (£11.50, Mon-Fri 07.00 to 18.00). Anyone wanting to visit the Tower for half a day during the week would fork out £25.50 before they considered the running costs of their vehicle. That's, of course, assuming they can get to the Tower in reasonable time and also assuming that one of the 110 spaces is available when they arrive (you cannot pre-book).

I travel to Central London regularly and I commuted there for more years than I care to remember. Unless you have a disability it makes absolutely no sense to use a car to travel to Central London.
 

Shimbleshanks

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That happens even with commercial hire companies. I once hired a trailer to pick up a big item I bought on ebay, but it turned out that their previous customer had not returned the trailer in time*. Hire companies tolerate that sort of thing from their regular business customers, but as an occasional customer you get low priority.

* That was the story, but maybe one of his regular customers wanted it at short notice.
Don't think so - it was a car club rather than a car hire firm, so the notion of regular customers didn't really exist. I was told at the time that the late returnee would be hit with a swingeing fine, not that that was any comfort to me...
 

Shimbleshanks

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Used to use Co Wheels and the Enterprise car club. Had a few problems , the parking space obstructed in City Centre and couldn't just leave the car. Costs do mount up if you go longer distance and the mileage charge went up.
Yes, the car club was really only for short hops and the odd 1-2 hours. Anything longer and it was much cheaper to use a conventional car hire firm.
 

route101

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Yes, the car club was really only for short hops and the odd 1-2 hours. Anything longer and it was much cheaper to use a conventional car hire firm.
I recall using it from Glasgow to Manchester and back , was well over a £100 quid if not near £200
 

Lucan

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As for charging for car "use", that's fine in urban areas where there are alternatives, but not acceptable in smaller towns, villages and rural areas where cars are really a necessity
There already is a government charge for car use - the duty on petrol and diesel which is at least vaguely proportional to mileage, and the standing charge in the form of VED. The issue is that in the coming era of electric vehicles, the era of congestion (already with us), and the era of worry about CO2 emissions (also already with us), the existing system of charging is broken. It is broken even with the sticking plasters that have been applied to it, such as the various schemes of congestion or emission charging or banning in different cities, and EVs escaping any fees whatsoever.

We need a charge that incorporates a factor for mileage (got from GPS recording perhaps and maybe higher in cities, and taking weight into consideration) including for EVs, a factor related to emissions (easy - directly related to fuel bought, not a theoretical or fake emmisions per mile figure that does not even get multiplied by actual miles), and road occupation (a standing charge that is higher if you don't have a driveway or garage).
 
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PeterC

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That happens even with commercial hire companies. I once hired a trailer to pick up a big item I bought on ebay, but it turned out that their previous customer had not returned the trailer in time*. Hire companies tolerate that sort of thing from their regular business customers, but as an occasional customer you get low priority.

* That was the story, but maybe one of his regular customers wanted it at short notice.
I had the same problem when I hired a van to move some furniture to my daughter's new house. I ended up being driven across London by the local manager to pick up a van that was free at another depot.
 

87 027

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I recently used the now defunct Virgin trains to travel with the family (including school age kids) one weekend from Kent to visit my elderly father in the Manchester area. Normally we drive but this was a test to see if public transport lives up to the theoretical promise of working out cheaper and faster than car.

Outward journey (Saturday morning) - incoming VT was late so we missed our hourly connection at Stockport to our final destination. Couldn’t be bothered to wait for the next Northern service so got taxi at own expense for last leg of the journey.

Return journey (Sunday evening) - Northern cancelled the local connecting service to Stoke - 1 train per 2 hours - so again we took a taxi at our own expense and boarded early at Stockport, despite our Advance being NT to Stoke and VT from there to Euston. The train manager was very sympathetic, as we had paid again for the Stockport-Stoke section, and there was no further comeback, but he indicated not all of his colleagues would have been so understanding.

The rest of the journey was uneventful, but I can’t help but compare this unfavourably to the convenience of the private car. Even if there are traffic delays, the other passengers can fall asleep and the driver alone takes the hit for the M6/M1/M25/local roads while the rest snooze and slumber away only to be briefly awoken for the 2 minute transfer from the driveway to the bedroom.

Had we waited for Northern’s rail replacement bus as advertised, we would have missed our last onward connection of the evening to our final destination and whilst I could deal with this if travelling solo it’s frankly not tenable when you have kids who have to be at school next morning.
 
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Bletchleyite

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I had the same problem when I hired a van to move some furniture to my daughter's new house. I ended up being driven across London by the local manager to pick up a van that was free at another depot.
The other problem I have with hire companies is that you can't specify exactly what you're hiring. Being tall and long-legged there are many types of car I simply cannot drive - the seat doesn't go back far enough for it to be possible without my knees preventing the turning of the steering wheel - and some are much more comfortable than others. It doesn't follow that the larger the car the less likely there is to be an issue, either - some small cars e.g. the Fiat Punto are very spacious for the driver, but others are impossible, for instance the small Fords, while at the larger end I can comfortably drive a Mondeo or Insignia but not a Volvo (at least based on when I was in the market for a large estate about 10 years ago now - they could easily have swapped with later redesigns!) With a car club I can actually see what I'm hiring before I decide to hire it, at least.
 

underbank

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The other problem I have with hire companies is that you can't specify exactly what you're hiring.
You can't even be guaranteed the general size. We took the train down to the South coast and we ordered an estate car for 4 adults and 4 full sized suitcases (as per the hire firms' website showing pictures of people and luggage) to drive around whilst we were there (hopping from place to place so several different overnight stays). When we arrived to pick up the car, they were all enthusiastic about giving us a free upgrade to some kind of Merc. When we saw it, it was tiny - we could barely get 2 suitcases in let alone 4. So went back to the desk and they were still going on about the free upgrade to a "quality" car, completely ignoring us re it's size. Then it turned out they had no estates nor any larger vehicles, so basically they said "take it or leave it". Not good when there were no other hire car firms close by. Even worse, they wouldn't give us an immediate refund and said we'd have to contact their customer services dept. This wasn't some hick firm either, it was one of the big international firms. We've not taken the risk since and drive our own car now.
 

MidlandsChap

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From the HS2 thread, I thought it a point worthy of discussion.

Car ownership is a lifestyle choice which in most cases doesn't make financial sense on its own. Car use can be deterred if other modes are good, e.g. good cycling/walking facilities and good public transport.

If you want to reduce car ownership to zero in a given household, you need to look at measures that will make one easily available when it is needed e.g. for transporting "stuff" or for weekends away to places not well served by public transport or where you need a lot of kit (note: hire companies that don't open late Sundays and don't do unsupervised returns don't count; this alone makes hire useless to me in MK). Car clubs are a good example. You can reduce to 1 if public transport/cycling/walking is good enough, though.
Its not always that simple though. The vast majority of my car journeys are now under 2 miles and I do these journeys up to 5 times a week. However these journeys are either food shopping or to the gym, and I am buggered if im going to carry £90 worth of food or a huge kit bag around on my bike or wait for the bus on what would be a 5 minute trip in the car.

I have found I have been able to switch most my longer journeys from car to public transport, but its seldom appropriate for my shorter journeys.
 

Bletchleyite

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Its not always that simple though. The vast majority of my car journeys are under 2 miles and I do these journeys about 4 or 5 times a week. However these journeys are either food shopping or to the gym, and I am buggered if im going to carry £90 worth of food or a huge kit bag around on my bike.
Solution to #1: supermarket delivery.
Solution to #2: what on earth are you taking to the gym? A change of clothes, shampoo, towel and water bottle can easily go in a rucksack. Many, many people cycle to gyms, many more take their gym kit to work by public transport in places like London and go before or after work. I'm afraid that, unless your need is very specialist, this is an excuse. Indeed cycling to the gym is a great idea as you are getting a warmup on the way there and can move straight onto e.g. weights on arrival.
 

AndrewE

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Its not always that simple though. The vast majority of my car journeys are now under 2 miles and I do these journeys up to 5 times a week. However these journeys are either food shopping or to the gym, and I am buggered if im going to carry £90 worth of food or a huge kit bag around on my bike or wait for the bus on what would be a 5 minute trip in the car.

I have found I have been able to switch most my longer journeys from car to public transport, but its seldom appropriate for my shorter journeys.
That sounds exactly like our pattern of local journeys - except that we don't go to a gym, and use our bikes for most of them. If you are making 4 or 5 journeys a week then surely you can't be moving £90 worth of groceries each time?
Spreading your shopping across multiple trips is a reasonable way of limiting the load on any one bike trip...
 

Bletchleyite

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That sounds exactly like our pattern of local journeys - except that we don't go to a gym, and use our bikes for most of them. If you are making 4 or 5 journeys a week then surely you can't be moving £90 worth of groceries each time?
Spreading your shopping across multiple trips is a reasonable way of limiting the load on any one bike trip...
Or have a delivery once a week/once every 2 weeks with a large order of non-perishables, and top-up with a small rucksack full of fresh items (bread, fruit, vegetables and meats[1]) every couple of days. Even milk keeps for ages these days, particularly if you buy the "pure filtered" type which even tastes nicer to me (unlike UHT rubbish).

[1] Meats can be frozen, so chuck them in with your delivery for an even lighter bag.
 

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