Car Alternatives

The Cost Savings of Using Alternatives to Driving

Average American households (which has 1.8 drivers and 1.9 cars) spend $20 a day on driving, every day of the year. That’s about $10 a day per car. The AAA figure would put it at $23 a day per car. And if you thought gasoline is expensive now, a report called “The Real Price of Gasoline” finds that society pays an additional $4.60 to $14.14 per gallon in “external” costs not reflected in the price at the pump. Is your car worth the money it costs, and the time it takes to earn it? There are better alternatives to driving:  

  • Walk: The cheapest and healthiest option of all.
  • Phone, text message, Internet and delivery: These save time and reduce transportation costs.
  • Cycle: Biking costs very little; folding bikes work well with elevators and mass transit.
  • Carpool: Sharing rides means less driving; carpoolers usually split gasoline and toll costs as well.
  • Mass transit: A weekly or monthly pass can save you money.
  • Inter-city bus and train: Often you can book online and in advance for special offers.
  • Car sharing and car rental: When driving is the only convenient option, sharing or renting usually costs less than having a car on the road all the time. 
  • Taxi: As with sharing or renting, taxis are cheaper if you only rarely need your own car.

With one less car, you could use taxis or car rental when necessary, and you could try out different car models to suit the purpose of the trip. offers a quick and easy online program that takes the amount of your total monthly car expenses (like in the previous chart) and calculates how much money you would have if you instead invested this amount in a retirement savings account, education savings account or home mortgage. The website also includes a “carfree census database” looking at where it’s easiest to live without a car.

Owning and operating cars is the second largest household expense in the US. More is spent on the automobile than on food and clothing combined.

The AAA estimates that driving costs 56 cents per mile on average to operate a new domestic passenger car, or $8,410 per year. Cycling costs only about $220 per year. 

For more information on all of the alternatives to driving mentioned above check out our Green Commuting section.


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