Last year, I resolved to buy a car.

Totally useless… until you want to get somewhere. Pic: AP.

My enthusiasm quickly evaporated, however, when I actually started poring through the classifieds and realised the whole thing was going to cost me a substantial amount of cash.

I also became terrified of getting stiffed by some crisp-collared sales-jerk or a bunch of snakes in a floral-print dress disguised as a sweet old lady.

Since then, I have resorted to that special trick we all employ when we fail at something - pretending everything worked out for the best.

These days, I get to tell all my iron horse-owning friends how they’re all chumps because not owning a car is actually fantastic.

It makes me feel like the modern equivalent of the explorers of yore as I walk places and occasionally stop because it’s too hot or I’ve spotted money on the ground.

To be honest, I casually tell them, the fact that other people already own cars really puts me off them.

When I was 17, I crashed into some sort of charity van because I was distracted by one of those costumed Eagle Boys “pizza deal” sign-waving people. What’s to stop some thin’n'crispy-fiend from ploughing into my vehicle in a similar manner?

On a side note, the van wasn’t full of puppies or anything, just food for the homeless.

Statistically, if you never drive, you’re less likely to die behind the wheel - unless you get stabbed behind a ferris wheel. That happens occasionally. There’s also a reduced risk of losing a high-stakes race in an abandoned aqueduct.

It’s also worth noting that my carbon footprint is tiny. By the time I’m 35, I’ll have an entire Amazon-worth of carbon credits stored up, which will come in handy if I ever need to dump a barrel-load of toxic waste in the woods or drive a Hummer.

And look, I really don’t mind catching the train. It doesn’t matter that it’s unjustifiably expensive and endlessly draws money from me like the giant, soul-eating metal leech that is.

Public transport gives me something to complain about every day, which the voices in my head tell me is a vital part of sanity retention. You have your “engine troubles” and I’ve got my “56-year-old man playing Celine Dion too loud”. The whole process gives me an extra 30 minutes each day to judge people.

Yes, friends, freedom is truly mine. For instance, I can laugh at penises drawn in window dust because I know it will never happen to me.

Also, if I leave my shoes in my driveway overnight, I don’t have to worry about people keying them - at least until I get to that age where I’m scared of youths and put padlocks on everything.

I will concede, however, that having boot space would be pretty convenient. Having said that, what’s the point of carrying around cool stuff if nobody else can see it? If I’m carrying a guitar, skateboard or large bag of assorted sporting goods, I want to make damn sure they’re visible so you have to assume I know how to use them.

And one day, when you’re sitting in traffic, imagining all the cars in front of you being incinerated like in that scene in Independence Day, I’ll be walking past you, smiling and whistling some non-descript walking tune. Even though you’ll ultimately reach your destination 500 times faster than me, I’ll always have that moment.

In the meantime, can one of you give me a lift home real quick? Thanks heaps. I’ll owe you one.

Most commented


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    • atthepub says:

      06:18am | 21/07/11

      Jason, you don’t need a reason not to own a car.

    • AFR says:

      09:13am | 21/07/11

      maybe, but don’t expect anyone to ever take you seriously.

    • Dave Sag says:

      09:27am | 21/07/11

      Exactly. I can drive but have never owned a car in my life. I have a sturdy bike that gets me around. If I find myself needing a car, say to get to the beach or to move heavy things about (which is not that common) I can pop up an app on my phone and either hire a car, or book a cab.  My wife and I worked out a while ago that not owning a car saves us around $200 per week.  That’s 11 years off my mortgage.

      Weirdly however I’ve had the use of a car for the last six months; and at one point a month or so ago I found myself car-sitting for two friends and having more cars than I knew what to do with.  I must say I’ve gotten used to driving to the market, which takes about 30 minutes, rather than cycling which takes 45 minutes.  But that all ends next week when the car goes back to its owner.  If I did own a car I’d seriously need to go to the gym I think, adding more expense.

      People only drive out of habit, not because they have to.  Driving is a symptom of our overall addiction to fossil fuels.  We’ll get over it sooner or later I am sure.  Personally I am all for banning the use of private vehicles within the city. Like smoking, people will do it less if it’s less convenient to do.

      So yes, be car-free and proud I say; and don’t be afraid to bludge a ride off your mates.

    • Abe says:

      10:39am | 21/07/11

      “People only drive out of habit not beacuse they have to”

      I wish Dave, I could get to work via two buses and an extra half hour but on the return home which involves me picking my young kids up from day care would require a longer trip to a transport hub then another two buses and an extra hour and half at least.

      I’ll keep my car thank you.

    • stephen says:

      10:57am | 21/07/11

      Well what about after the pub ?
      Walk and you’ll meet more people and won’t crash into anybody and kill them.

    • S. Morris says:

      11:45am | 21/07/11

      @stephen. driving gets in the way of drinking so now i have more money for drinking. perfect.

    • Dave says:

      12:03pm | 21/07/11

      @ Davesag - what an amazing hypocrite you are. You decry the use of the car and look down your nose at anyone who drives one, yet willingly use one when it benefits you (going to the beach or moving heavy things around).

      If you were true to your beleifs then you would NEVER use a car.

      You can’t be a little bit pregnant, chump.

    • Shifter says:

      12:15pm | 21/07/11

      @Dave - it’s a convenience. We’re a quick and lazy society. I use my car mainly on weekends mainly as transport to sporting events and social calls where distance and exertion becoming prohibiting factors.

      But I also find I use it when I duck down to the shops for some dinner ingredients. Yeah, that’s the lazy part.

    • Seth Brundle says:

      02:46pm | 21/07/11

      @Dave Sag : I’m all for banning bicycles on public roads.  Anyone in Canberra will be familiar with the sight of hundreds and hundreds of rush hour cars crawling to work in second gear because of some lone prat in the cycle lane that everyone needs to squeeze past.  This is why I laugh when cyclists say they are saving the planet when in fact the carbon output they are causing by slowing down traffic is many times greater than someone driving a hum-vee.
      Also, depending on a bicycle usually results in your social circle considering you to be at least slightly retarded in some way.  Ask them, the honest ones will tell you its true.

    • Pete #205 says:

      10:49pm | 21/07/11

      Seth, name the road in Canberra where “hundreds” of cars wait for cyclists in peak hour.  Which road and at what time?

    • Dave says:

      10:10am | 22/07/11

      @Seth - I’ve yet to see hundreds and hundreds of cars at all in Canberra. Peak hour lasts all of about 30 minutes, and most of the arterial roads have bike lanes anyway. If you’re being delayed by a cyclist it’s probably because you’re rat running, and once you get past them, you’ll be held up by.. wait… the ‘hundreds and hundreds’ of other cars on the road…. not the cyclist.

    • Gary Cox says:

      06:54am | 21/07/11

      Yeah the last line says it all. I remember when I was 18 and was one of the only ones of my group of mates who had a car. Not only did I have to drive them around everywhere but their girlfriends, sisters, friends of friends etc. Eventually I took a stand and most of them turned 18, got their own wheels and everything was cool. But there was a couple that failed to conform and the words sponge, use and unappreciative spring to mind when thinking about them. A friend in need is a pain in the arse, my advice, get a car, your friends are getting jack of it

    • ibast says:

      08:01am | 21/07/11

      You do realise an Iron Horse would be a motorbike, not a car?  Some would even contest it would be an older, chopped Hardley Abblesome.

      On the more serious side, we do have a default position of owning a car in Australia and we should bring that into question.  We are probably the second most car reliant country in the world and it is having a negative effect on the way our cities and urban environment is compiled.

    • Phil says:

      08:36am | 21/07/11

      Id put it the other way, that the way our cities and urban environment have been poorly designed which has make us very car reliant.

      Its just easier to blame people with cars and that somehow is a bad habit to have.

    • ibast says:

      08:48am | 21/07/11

      It’s definitely a cycle.  Where it harder and more expensive to own a car people would be more likely to move to regional centers where they can be withing walking or cycling distance of there work, shopping and social centers.  We see this type of arrangement in Europe, where there are a number of smaller cities, rather than just one commerce centre.

      By making it so easy and cheap to own and run a car, we encourage people to live a car reliant lifestyle.  Encouraging people to use public transport will see revenue rise in that area and therefor the price will decrease and the services should improve.

    • kirsty says:

      08:12am | 21/07/11

      I’m in the same boat at present due to my car breaking down and me saving money to buy a new one.  Nothing beats public transport in the rain though, especially when you leave yet another umbrella on the train and are forced to sprint home in the rain. 
      Also when the trains are so overcrowded you can feel the package in your back from the gentleman standing behind you is an experience you will never forget.
      Grocery shopping also sucks because you can only buy what you can carry unless you upgrade to a dolly trolley.

    • peter says:

      08:51am | 21/07/11

      most of my friends don’t own cars.  we ride bikes around melbourne…

    • static says:

      10:20am | 21/07/11

      My lovely partner has never owned a car.She lives in Canberra and has used the buses. My financial planner crunched the figures and reckons over the years shes saved a fortune.

    • Better says:

      12:32pm | 21/07/11

      static: you might be right, the prices are much more reasonable now than when i used to catch buses there….....

    • Tubesteak says:

      08:51am | 21/07/11

      When I need a car I rent one. This usually only costs me about $60 for a weekend and I only do it about 6 times per year.

      I don’t need a car to get to work as I walk and you can’t park in the CBD anyway (unless you want to spend $30-$50 per day).

      I don’t need a car to get the groceries as I walk 5 minutes to Coles and there’s no parking there anyway.

      I don’t need to spend money on a carspace at home. More money for me.

      When I want to get somewhere I’ll use public transport (you have to in Sydney as there are no carspaces and all the roads are gridlocked even on a weekend) or I’ll get a taxi.

      If you do buy a car you’ll be paying about 3 times more than if you bought it in the USA. Seriously, find out what an SLK350 will cost you here vs there. Same for any other car sold in both places.

      I haven’t had a car since 2006 and things have been absolutely fine since then. I’ll buy one when I get to drive to work and really need one.

    • S.L says:

      08:52am | 21/07/11

      Buy new and take advantage of 5 year warranties. Some cheapies are only $11,000! Don’t be a tight wad.
      On the other hand a mate first got his licence at 46. He always lived on a bus or train route so there wasn’t a problem….....until he got a job in the boondocks and had to “take the plunge”.

    • Amy says:

      09:04am | 21/07/11

      ARGH this article kills me, too close to home. I’m 23 years old, could have been driving/car-owning for 6 years now. Due to an INTENSE fear of driving (or even being on the road) I have avoided said things. BUT rainy days, grocery shop visits, loooooong train rides to see my family, having to carpool with a douche from work… these things kill me. I too use the low carbon footprint/eco warrior/saving money/keeping fit excuses but really, oh what I’d give to be able to need bread, hop in a car and get it. SO yesterday actually, I bought my dad’s car, all $6,000 worth. I haven’t even picked it up and I’m hating it’s money draining ways. Next step, get my license… I am worried about the fact that due to rego/petrol/services etc. I’ll never have money again but OMG I am excited about driving to work and NOT listening to commercial radio with a racist wanker smile

      P.S If I see you, I’ll give you a lift - I have 6 years of free rides to pay back.

    • Steve says:

      09:11am | 21/07/11

      Buy a motorbike, put a topbox on it for groceries and other things, and ride between the gridlocked cars. Bikes are cheaper to buy than cars - though not to run. 

      Then when you need a car, rent one. Renting occasionally is so much smarter than owning a car you might use 20 days a year.

    • Elphaba says:

      09:12am | 21/07/11

      I don’t have a car either.  I don’t even have a licence.

      The train is an important part of my day - I get to read my book, or do a little sudoku, or listen to a new album I’ve bought.  I never expect a lift, I’m always offered.  I refuse the first time.  If they insist, then I accept.

      I’m going to leave the driving thing for later, if I become a soccer mum.  Until then, public transport is ok.

    • fairsfair says:

      11:36am | 21/07/11

      my brother drives a cement truck so is out on the roads all the time… we were talking about the dumbest things we have seen women doing whilst driving. I’ve seen eyebrow plucking in gridlock but the worst was applying mascara at 70km/hr. His was reading a novel at 60km/hr. He wins.

      So you see Elphaba, a car will only stop you from doing that if you let it wink

    • Mathias says:

      12:12pm | 21/07/11

      Cement truck hey..? Bet no one tells him to harden up!

    • Elphaba says:

      12:20pm | 21/07/11

      @fairs, hahaha, reading a novel?  And I thought people reading their iPad’s while walking were bad!

    • fairsfair says:

      01:55pm | 21/07/11

      Boom tish alright Mathias - I am always trying to weave in something about him constantly agitating/being agitated, but I don’t think he even gets it…

      Yeah, I couldn’t believe it. He said she had the book propped in the middle of the steering wheel. Scary the amount of absolute numpties that walk (drive) among us.

    • Bennie says:

      10:04am | 21/07/11

      I couldn’t live without the freedom provided by having my own car. 

      I live south of Brisbane, and unless I was working in the city, which I don’t, then I would have to take at least 2 buses to get to work, and it would probably take me over 1 hour each way, not to mention probably cost me about $10 / day.  Instead, I drive and it takes me about 20 minutes, and about $40 / week in petrol.  Just the time I save each week easily justifies having a car. 

      I also like being able to walk out my door and drive anywhere I want, be it to the supermarket for grocery shopping, to the movies, or to Adelaide to visit my relatives.  Without a car there is so much extra work you have to do in regards to planning how you’re going to get somewhere.. how you’re going to get back, and how you’ll get around while you’re there!

    • Mathias says:

      10:16am | 21/07/11

      How do you pick up hot bitches without a full sick car???
      Chaps laps aren’t then same when you have to walk up and down the street…

    • stephen says:

      10:58am | 21/07/11

      So what are skateboards and back-to-front caps for ?
      Certainly not for basketball.

    • Tubesteak says:

      01:10pm | 21/07/11

      They’re called clubs. They are packed with women.

      Considering you can’t drink and drive a car is a liability when out on the pull.

      Only losers drive around all night in their fullysikwikkidmatemobile and that’s because bouncers won’t let them in the club when they see “da posse” rocking up in their Ed Hardy t-shirts and haircuts from a lame 1989 Smash Hits magazine.

    • AFR says:

      04:21pm | 21/07/11

      Tube, that’s all well and good, but what happens after the first night, if you would like to ask the girl out on a date? Are you going to take a bus to see a movie? Let her get all dressed up in her best dress and high heels to then take the filthy train to the Cross to go for a nice meal at Potts Point? Most girls I know would simply refuse to date a man who didn’t have the self-decency to own a car. Nothing snobbish about that. It doesn’t have to be flash. My 95 Camry isn’t exactly a chick magnet - but I think it puts me ahead of those without a car altogether.

    • Paul Murray says:

      10:47am | 21/07/11

      I have a scooter. Cheap to run, cheap to register, cheap to maintain.

    • AFR says:

      10:57am | 21/07/11

      Bit like a larger woman - fun until your mates find out.

    • John Smythe says:

      11:19am | 21/07/11

      HAHAHAHA nice one AFR!

    • Mahhrat says:

      11:53am | 21/07/11

      Deadly if you stack it…

    • Justin says:

      01:36pm | 21/07/11

      Get a real bike. Don’t you get tired of me going past you on one wheel? Granted a set of tyres will set you back $600+, servicing is expensive and every 6000km’s,and the amount you save in fuel barely evens it out, but at least I’m not embarassed to be seen on my bike.

    • Shifter says:

      12:05pm | 21/07/11

      “If I’m carrying a ... large bag of assorted sporting goods.”

      Only reason I have a car at the moment. My hockey gear is a little unwieldy to tote on my bike and unfortunately the don’t build the grounds right near the train stations in Perth.

      Not sure other passengers would appreciate the refined aroma of Eau du Goalie that permeates the air trailing the bag.

    • Richard says:

      12:10pm | 21/07/11

      But cars are fun aren’t they. I mean I enjoy driving my car. Why is this a form for smug people trying to out green each other?

    • Alicia says:

      01:37pm | 21/07/11

      I enjoy driving my car, too. I sometimes drive out of town for no other reason than it’s fun to drive, especially with good music pumping. I would never give my car up.

    • Justin says:

      03:50pm | 21/07/11

      I hate driving. It’s boring and I can’t wait to get to the other end the few times I have to do it. Hitting the twisty mountain roads on a powered two wheeler on the other hand, life doesn’t get better.

    • Kate says:

      10:46pm | 21/07/11

      I love driving! I’ll take any opportunity to go for a drive. It also helps that I often get carsick as a passenger, but never as the driver.
      I figure it took me heaps of practice to learn how to drive a manual car so I might as well make the most of it and go for long drives every now and then.

    • Ben C says:

      12:12pm | 21/07/11

      If I had reliable public transport, and I wasn’t working where I do currently, I might not have bought my car.

    • SKA says:

      12:45pm | 21/07/11

      Love the article, very funny. Just as a note, we drivers still use public transport so don’t always have a big carbon footprint either. I only drive on the weekends to my sport matches which aren’t near public transport or to visit my parents or grandparents who live a 40 min drive away.

      I am a car owner and have spent years driving around non-driving friends. I don’t mind doing this because most of my non-driving friends are very appreciative except for one friend. One non-driving friend will go on and on about how not having a car saves her money then will scab lifts off me constantly, watch me pay toll fees, parking fees and never offers to contribute some money for petrol. Clearly her cost saving is by virtue of using people like me and her carbon footprint is not really that low because she spends her life getting lifts from drivers. When I was asked for a lift on two motorways of 2 hours duration each way, I finally cracked and asked her to contribute money.

      Does anyone else have a friend like this? Or do you all have non-driving friends who are appreciative and find ways to repay you whether it’s by buying you a coffee once in a while or giving you a little bit of petrol money or having you over for a meal?

    • John says:

      04:57pm | 21/07/11

      My favourite is friends that are happy to ask for lifts, or to car pool when going places, but then baulk at the mere suggestion they chip in. Just because I like to drive, doesn’t mean you can’t chip in.

    • Kate says:

      10:43pm | 21/07/11

      SKA, I’m usually the designated driver and most people NEVER offer to chip in/shout you a coffee. Usually it’s ferrying people back and forth from occasions where they’ve all gotten nice and sloshed, and I’ve stuck to my one drink in order to stay under the limit. BORING.
      My boyfriend doesn’t drive so I take him everywhere, but he buys me little presents every now and then, which pretty much compensates me for the petrol money. Plus, he’s a respectful passenger who doesn’t fiddle with my seats, leave rubbish in the car or change the music.

    • Mahhrat says:

      01:14pm | 21/07/11

      If you’ve got young kids, you need a car.  Otherwise, if you’re a city dweller you can usually do without them these days.

    • Old Bert says:

      01:26pm | 21/07/11

      I have a lot of trouble with those people who travel to and fro in their motors. They are so impatient, by blowing their hooters, when I try to secure a spot in the town precinct. They do however, seem to be friendly, and I have been happy to return their frantic wave or hand gesture. I have been annoyed also, by those individuals who these days, think Arabella is a curiosity, and not recognised as a legitimate one horsepower means of transport and cartage, that rivals the mechanical combustion engine. Arabella needs little maintenance, most of her needs being met by Brutus, her sire. I’m sure she resents those hooters, and tries to avoid those rear-enders in traffic, by leaving a fresh deposit on the shiny hoods of offending motors. When harnessed in the sulky, and on a trip to the general store to get monthly supplies, indeed a bag of salt, bushel of wheat, bag of flour, 2 yards of gingham for the bride, and 2 licorice straps and a bag of gobstoppers each for the wippersnappers, Arabella more than proves her worth, by moving forward when a space is vacated by a motor, and leaving a fresh deposit, to deter another motor occupying the space, if a reverse is needed.

    • Seth Brundle says:

      03:48pm | 21/07/11

      Well, I guess Old Bert wins the “lamest attempt to establish a humourous character” award.

    • AFR says:

      04:24pm | 21/07/11

      You have a horse? In my day, we had to walk 10 miles barefoot through snow, with barbed wire attached to our feet, and .....................

    • Kate says:

      08:09pm | 21/07/11

      If you play Rammstein full bore and rock out to the music on public transport, you get weird looks. Do it in a car and nobody cares. This is why I drive.
      Oh, and my boyfriend has no car and no license, so I’m the DDD (default designated driver).

    • Shaun says:

      08:13pm | 21/07/11

      I live an hours travel from work.
      I used to drive, that sucked, stuck in traffic on the Great Eastern or Guildford Rd in Perth.  Tried a motorbike for a couple of years, that was quite risky, people in Perth are awful drivers.  Also, despite the time savings being able to go thru traffic, with motor bikes, unless you are willing to not wear protective gear, it would take 5-10 minutes at each end extra to suit up properly…
      I now take the train and bus.  It’s awesome -> an extra hours sleep in the morning if I want, can also work on the laptop if I want to, or just sit and relax.

    • flintZefs says:

      10:32pm | 25/04/12

      Wow What great information.  Thank you for the time you spent on this post.


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