My new car is probabilistic

Saturday, August 11, 2012

When I was sixteen, a car meant freedom. On a rural island with no public transportation, plenty of hills, and no street lights, driving or hitchhiking were the only practical options. I bought my first car, a 1987 Suzuki Forsa, as soon as I'd saved up $1500: $500 for the car, and $1000 for the first year of insurance. All of a sudden, I was independently mobile, and it was awesome.

In the decade or so since then, things have changed. I now live in downtown Calgary, where the transportation options are plentiful and the parking spots scarce. To get to the university I either bike, take the bus to the train, walk to the train, or bike to the train. I walk or bike to the grocery store, to visit friends, or to run errands. Sometimes I'll even run places. In short, I go out of my way to avoid driving.

I actually own a very nice car, a 2007 Toyota Matrix named Trixy. I bought her when I got a surprise scholarship bump from NSERC in November 2010, and since then I've driven a grand total of 6000 kilometres. I've toyed with the idea of selling her in the past, but I always reasoned that the $87 in insurance would cancel out just over one car rental per month, so if I drive just once a month, then owning my car is worth it.

In June, poor Trixy was the victim of a fairly serious hit-and-run while parked in front of my building. The $4000 worth of body damage was paid for under my comprehensive insurance, but the situation made me sit down and really work out the finances. In the past, I'd figured $87 a month was a reasonable price to pay for the convenience of owning a car. But was it really $87?

Trixy's first hit and run

Thanks to mint.com, it was pretty easy for me to look at all of the costs of the car put together. I added up insurance, registration, service and parts, and fuel expenses, and an assumed depreciation of $2000. I was shocked at the result. My $87 a month car is actually a $280 a month car. For ~6000 km in 21 months, that's almost exactly one dollar per kilometre.

Last weekend, I returned home from a long weekend backpacking trip to find that Trixy had been hit again. On the same street. The next day, I went to the police station, reported the accident, and posted an ad on Kijiji for someone to come and rescue her from my apparent death trap of a parking situation.

But wait: the title of this long-winded post says that I have a new car! Enter car2go. A couple of weeks ago, these little blue and white smart cars started showing up around Calgary, with 150 of them sprinkled around the 88-square-km "home zone". Guess who lives smack in the middle of the home zone? I was immediately interested. For 35 cents a minute, I can hop in a car, drive it around, and leave it somewhere else in the home zone. No fuel or insurance costs, no remembering to get regular oil changes, and no worrying about paying for some drunk idiot running into my car. Sounds pretty perfect.

Of course, car2go isn't all perfect. It's a smart car, after all, so I can't put my bike in it, and I can't drive around with more than one friend. I also can't take it very far out of the city, so I'll be that annoying person who always needs a ride. Whenever I want to take it somewhere and have it wait for me, I'll still be paying the 35 cents a minute for it to wait in the parking lot, but if I can average one kilometre in 3 minutes, that'll balance out how much Trixy was costing.

Perhaps one of the major uncertainties with car2go is that I can't entirely count on it being in front of my house when I need it. Then again, apparently I couldn't count on Trixy being drivable when I needed her. Statistically speaking, there will probably be a car2go within a five minute walk of my place. I don't have a car, but I have an electron cloud of cars.

For the most part, I will continue to walk, bike, take transit, and run places. But for those times that I really do need a car, I've got one. Probably.

3 comments:

  1. People from Ray Skillman Chevrolet: I am not interested in a new car, I do not live in Indiana, and I would never buy a Chevy anyways. Please stop spamming my personal blog.

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  2. It really does pay to have an ample time of researching first through the Internet, whereas you could pick useful information for your purpose. Anyway, it is still a good thing that you were able to prepare your car insurance. It would be of great help in unexpected circumstances like that one.

    Sebastian Gaydos

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