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Is Car Ownership A Luxury?

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The DriveWrite Archives

Is Car Ownership A Luxury?

Geoff Maxted
August 17, 2013

Public Transport Schedule Board
What are you eating tonight? Italian, perhaps, or a curry? Which cinema to choose or DVD to rent? These are the daily dilemmas we must face, except they’re not really problems at all are they? They are luxury choices. Most of us know where our next meal is coming from. So do we really need luxury? Do we really need that motor outside?

We need to know. This is why DriveWrite has completed an entirely unscientific vox pop down my street. I wanted to know if people felt their car was a luxury or an essential item in their lives. You know, sometimes people can be very rude but those that did respond stated that their car was a necessary and important part of their lives.

When offered the choice, the general consensus was this: going any distance by rail usually means changing trains at least once. Your journey is constrained by a timetable. The railway companies seem to be only interested in the commuters travelling into towns and cities, who are reasonably well served but who have to pay astronomic amounts for their season tickets. Otherwise service can be very patchy and often leave you some miles short of your destination. Try going from Norwich to Newquay, for example.

Bus services around towns are usually pretty good, but outlying areas suffer anything from an infrequent service to no service at all as the companies cut uneconomic routes. That’s their business decision of course but it flies in the face of both government and green lobby desire to get drivers off the roads. The old days of real public service are long gone.

Here’s just one (true) example from down my way. Take a pensioner couple who could never afford a new vehicle but can just about manage to run a used car - a Toyota Aygo to be precise. If they go from our suburban street into town it costs them jointly over six pounds return by bus, a journey of some three miles each way. For that money they can buy a gallon of petrol that will take them over 50 miles. Naturally, there are other costs to running a car but their insurance is cheap by today’s standards, they have a good deal on a service contract from a quality dealer and the road tax is twenty quid. The figures really don’t stack up favourably for public transport. Add to that the convenience of door to door transport and, crucially, the ability of going where they want when they want and there can simply be no debate. To live their modest lives to the max, and why shouldn’t they, they need a car.

If you’re well paid or wealthy, like a government minister or a senior civil servant who has his tax paid for him, then rising car costs don’t really affect you as your pay generally rises commensurate with inflation; but if you’re a pensioner or someone on a low wage with a family to support a car is a lifeline that no amount of public transport can match.

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