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Owning a car is probably costing you more than you think. Transportation costs are second only to housing in terms of average household expenses, with Americans spending over $10,000 on transportation per year on average, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Most of those costs are related to buying, driving and maintaining private vehicles. If transportation costs have become a financial burden, one way to lessen them is to reduce your reliance on your car and shift to cheaper—and environmentally friendlier—alternatives.
There are plenty of green transportation options out there to choose from that will allow you to enjoy life while saving money at the same time. Read on to discover how green transportation options can help you budget and reach your financial goals while being friendly to planet Earth.
What Is Green Transportation?
Green transportation options are ways of getting around that are eco-friendly and reduce negative impacts on the environment. In other words, instead of always driving your vehicle, you choose a different way to get where you're going. There are a lot of green transportation options out there, so chances are at least one of them has the potential to work for you:
- Taking public transportation (buses, subways or trains)
- Shared mobility devices (electric scooter, bike or e-bike)
- Hybrid or electric vehicle
- River shuttles and ferries
Opting for one or more of the options above can save you money and help cut emissions in a major way; the result is more cash in your pocket and cleaner, safer air for everyone. Think about how much it costs to maintain a vehicle when considering your transportation options. Expenses such as gas, tolls, registration renewal fees and safety inspections can really add up, not to mention general maintenance, fluid changes and surprise costs if something breaks. Some states even charge car owners annual personal property taxes.
How Much Can You Save With Green Transportation?
Opting to use greener transportation methods can save you potentially hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year. For example, if you live in (or move to) an area where you can walk or bike most places instead of drive, the savings would be considerable. If you live somewhere with robust public transportation, consider how much it costs to buy a monthly bus or train pass. Using public transportation won't be as cheap as walking or biking, but is likely still much cheaper than driving.
|Transportation Expenses Compared|
|Personal Vehicle||Biking||Walking||Public Transit||Carsharing/ Carpooling||Shared e-devices|
|Monthly Cost to Use?||Maybe||No||No||Yes||Maybe||Maybe|
Monthly passes for local bus and train lines can get pricey, especially in major cities, but with research from AAA estimating the average cost of maintaining a new car at over $9,200 per year, there's no comparison.
Which Green Transportation Option Is Right for You?
There are many eco-friendly travel options out there, and it might seem overwhelming at first to decide between them. The first thing you should think about is what's actually available in your community. After all, taking the bus isn't an option if you don't live somewhere with a functioning bus system. But what if you do have multiple options near you? How do you know which one is the best option for you? There are a few things you can keep in mind:
- How much does each option cost?
- How much time would they add or subtract from your commute?
- What are your personal preferences for traveling?
Prioritizing these factors can help you figure out which option is best for you. For example, if saving money is your main motivation, you might be willing to walk or ride a bike even though they'll likely take longer. If your time is very valuable to you, rapid transportation options might be more appealing, even if they're a little more expensive.
Make sure to take time and truly learn about each option. For example, carpooling (which can be as informal as family members or friends driving to and from work together) could be a happy medium between walking to work and taking a train. Sharing a ride saves money on gas and maintenance, and it can save you time on the road: Vehicles with multiple passengers can usually use high occupancy vehicle lanes, also called carpool lanes. Plus, some local governments and employers play matchmaker to connect commuters with others who might be willing to carpool or vanpool.
And remember, just because you pick one option doesn't mean you have to stick with it forever. You can always try a different option or a combination of more than one to fit your lifestyle and needs.
Potential Downsides of Green Transportation
Choosing to ditch your car and go green might also come with some drawbacks. The biggest downside of going without a car is losing the freedom to go wherever you want whenever you want, but there are other potential drawbacks to consider too.
Before you make the transition think about the following:
- Would your current neighborhood "make sense" if you didn't drive, or would you want to move?
- Is there public transportation nearby? Think about how far the nearest stop is from your home. How often does the bus/metro come? Can you get where you need to with minimal transfers?
- What needs are within walking distance of your home? How far are grocery stores or restaurants, for example? What about your place of worship, doctor, barber or your friends? Are you willing to make changes if it means more difficulty getting to these destinations?
A little planning can go a long way to help reduce the impact of these potential difficulties. Grocery shopping can become more of a hassle if you plan to do it yourself, for example, but grocery delivery services can handle that for you. And what about things like moving furniture? Even if you rent a car, truck or van occasionally, it's unlikely you'd top the fees associated with owning and maintaining a car full time.
And going green doesn't mean you can never drive again. A car-sharing membership (like Zipcar, Turo or Getaround) could be a great option if you occasionally need a car but don't want to deal with the expense and trouble of actually owning one.
If you genuinely can't fathom the idea of letting go of your car consider these tips:
- Keep your car, but reduce your driving. With the reduced mileage, you could consider pay-per-mile insurance, which lets you pay for coverage based on how many miles you drive.
- Make the switch to a hybrid or electric vehicle. They cost more than traditional cars but the fuel savings and reduced environmental impact may be worth it to you.
- Relocate. Moving closer to where you work or attend school can make your commute shorter, easier and cheaper.
The Bottom Line
Whether you're trying to save up for a house or just want to have some extra cash each month, don't forget about your carbon footprint. Taking advantage of green transportation can help reduce your impact on the environment and help you reach your financial goals at the same time.