Denver Urban Readers Poll for Best Car Share Program
Sure, we love to bike everywhere. But what about that day when a car would come in really handy.
We support car optional living in Denver, and our local car share programs make it easy to live car free. No need to own a car, pay insurance, maintenance, gasoline. For those buying a home it can mean avoiding buying a parking space in one of the many Denver Condo Buildings (such as SPIRE) at over $50,000. In those instances the many car share programs throughout our city can fill the gap.
The Economics of Car Sharing
I decided to take a close look at just how much money I could save by using car sharing when, after a very fun camping trip last summer, I found out that my vehicle was sorely in need of repair. I had a year 2000 vehicle that had served me well but the thought of sinking thousands on new brakes and transmission just didn’t make sense. So I sold it to someone who wanted a fixer upper.
That left me, in late summer 2013, deciding what new car to buy. But this was at the same time Car2Go was launching in Denver and I decided to try Car Free living instead. Here are the economics I was looking at.
- If I bought a new car I was looking at a monthly payment. The average Car Payment is between $380 and $460. Let’s split the difference and say $420.
- Average Car Insurance for Colorado is $1558 annually, or $129 per month.
- I live downtown in an environment where my parking space can be rented out for $200 a month. If I didn’t have a car that means I could rent out my space.
- Car Registration is based on value. Let’s just assume $510 for a $30K Car or $42.50 per month.
- Gas, Gas, Gas.. oh how painful you are. The average monthly gasoline expense in 2009 was $173.80, in 2010 it was $281.06 (61% increase), in 2011 it was $368.09 (31% increase). Based on this let’s guesstimate using the lower 30% to calculate 2014 to be a whopping $808 per month. That seems high (what do you spend on gas per month? Comment below) but let’s assume $500 per month to be conservative.
- Maintenance like oil changes, car washes, and repairs add up. How about we estimate $50 per month because at some point in the year you are going to spend money on something.
- Parking: If you live or play downtown paying for parking can be a burden. Let’s say $10 per month to give you a little budget (you don’t pay to park a Car2Go at the meter).
For myself the total monthly estimate to have a car would cost me $1,153.50. It shocks me how much a car costs, especially in world of downtown Denver living where a parking space rents out for close to what my first apartment rented for. Really.
So I’ve been living the Car Optional lifestyle for months. I used light rail, Car2Go, walking and biking for work, play, and errands. I use Car2Go to do my grocery run to the local King Sooper’s or City Market. When I felt the need for some Whole Foods shopping I often took the light rail to the Louisiana Pearl station that puts you just about a two block walk from that Whole Foods location. In the Spring and Summer I might just bike to Whole Foods via the Cherry Creek trail with a soft cooler in my messenger bag.
Side note: Grocery shopping will be even easier for downtown residents by 2015 with a new King Soopers Grocery store and possibly a new Whole Foods in the new Union Station Neighborhood. I can’t wait.
It was remarkably easy, and liberating, to live Car Free in Denver. I have nothing but rave reviews about using Car2Go. The cars were always easy to find, at least for someone like me who doesn’t mind walking a few blocks when I have to. I do enjoy hearing my friends exclaim their objection to walking a few blocks as they try to fit in a good time to drive to their gym to run on a treadmill indoors. But different strokes for different folks. The Car2Go vehicles operated well, they were comfortable enough, and in my experience, always clean. I had a Car2Go membership so I can only give you a review of one Car Share service. But that is why we have a poll here to share everyone’s experience.
Did Car2Go allow me to live completely Car Free. No, it did not. I cheated during this time. Without a car to drive to the mountains I rode with others for ski trips often this past winter. I tend to go to the mountains a LOT to ski, hike, ride, and enjoy everything our mountain backyard offers. I wish there was a train option, and the bus/shuttles don’t offer the same flexibility or value that a ride with a friend offers. So for the time being this is the one part of my life that still calls for a car.
Pets can also complicate the car optional living model, especially if you have a larger dog. Car2Go has a no dog policy, which makes sense to protect those with allergies. Light rail, even if I could take my pup on the car, doesn’t get me everywhere. Fortunately my vet is a looooong walk so I had that option but more often than not I borrowed a car.
Then there are the trips to spots that aren’t on a light rail line or within the Car2Go coverage area. Again, I borrowed a car.
But overall, these were the outliers of my happy and content experience living car free for half a year. I was happy, stress free, and enjoying a bit more disposable income.
For those who love this story I have another confession. I bought a car. I used some of the money I saved, month after month, to buy a dream car for me. I got a diesel, ultra high mileage offering, vehicle that will help me travel to the mountains. But this does not mean I don’t still live a mostly car free lifestyle. I still light rail, and walk or bike almost everywhere. But on this past weekend doing spring skiing in the mountains I drove everyone on the trip as I begin to payback all the favors I owe from the past year.
I’m hoping this car has an amazingly long lifestyle because, quite frankly, it’s not going to get the miles a regular commuter does. Most miles will be to Vail, A Basin, Breckenridge, Moab, Red Rocks, and all those locations that were out of reach before. Plus I am an independent film maker so sometimes having a way to transport all my gear safely and store it during the shoot becomes really valuable.
Still, I hope, if the time comes again that I have to make a choice of whether to buy a car or not, that I will have more options to choose from such as a rail line of some form to the mountains. Without a doubt living car free for so many months showed me how wonderful it can be. It changed my patterns in such away that even with a car I still tend to drive a fraction of what I might have done years ago. I encourage you to give it a shot and find out how it can be a component, to whatever scale fits your lifestyle, of how you get around in Denver to work or play.
Build your own budget and share in the comments how much you think your monthly car expense is. I know these numbers are different for everyone.
The question is, which Denver Car Share program is the best?
Valuable Denver Urban Tools for Living Car Optional
- Light Rail Friendly Property Search (Live near a light rail station)
- Denver Neighborhoods Search (Using Neighborhood Names You Know)
- Denver Buildings Search (When you know the building you want to love it)
- Neighborhood PSF Chart (So you can see where neighborhood prices are – VERY COOL!)
- Denver Urban Social Media Tools (Get tweets or Facebook Posts in your timeline when homes in your favorite neighborhoods are listed… BE THE FIRST TO KNOW)