If you live in or near one of Australia’s capital cities, you’ve probably participated in the long-standing debate about public transport versus cars. For those who can’t afford to buy a car, public transport is probably the only option for getting around town. Those who can, likely stand firm on one side of the discussion or the other.
There are many studies on the topic, most conducted by transport organisations favouring trains and buses as the cheaper method of travel. In terms of pure cash outlay, that’s probably true. However, there are many other considerations when it comes to deciding whether you’re going to become a regular car user or one of the masses heading to work on buses and trains.
Costs and benefits of having a car:
The “cost” of running a car can be both monetary and lifestyle-related. The use of raw materials and the impact of pollutants on the environment are two of the biggest lifestyle costs of running a car day-to-day. And depending on where you live, monetary costs can be as high as $22,000 per year and can include:
On the flip side, there are plenty of benefits to owning a car. Cars allow you to have the freedom to come and go as you like without the constraints of a bus or train schedule. Parents would probably find it more convenient to do the school pick-ups and drop-offs by car. And large families might find it beneficial to have access to a car for the weekly shop. While many Australian capital cities struggle with traffic congestion on the roads, travelling by car could also mean a shorter trip because you don’t have to wait for connections or late buses and trains.
“Despite a high cost of entry, car ownership is better for your finances in the long run,” says Savvy Motorbike Loans CEO Bill Tsouvalas. “When you take public transport, you are essentially renting a place on a bus or a train. That’s money you can never get back. At the end of five years, you have paid off an asset that can last you for many years – decades even – if you maintain it properly.”
Costs and benefits of public transport:
While public transport costs vary from city to city, there’s no denying that in simple terms, the monetary cost of getting from home to work by bus or train is probably cheaper than using your car. But if you don’t own a car at all, there are hidden costs that most people don’t consider. Taxi fares when public transport doesn’t take you where you need to go, or when the trains or buses stop running late at night, can be pretty hefty. More importantly, there is the cost of time away from home and family, due to a lengthy commute involving multiple transfers or long waits.
When it works well, however, the benefits of public transport are quite significant. Commuters can cut their yearly costs almost in half by not owning or using a car regularly. The impact on the environment of fewer vehicles on the road is well-documented. Best of all, in cases where the commute to work is a long one, there’s an opportunity to wind down and listen to music, read, or have a power nap.
With pros and cons to both methods of transport, the solution may be to find a balance that works best for you, your finances and the environment. Hopping on a train or a bus for the regular trip to work and having access to an affordable, efficient car for times when public transport doesn’t meet your needs might be a good compromise.
On the other hand, if you really want to be cost-effective and kind to the environment, you could always invest in a bike that uses pedal power and costs comparably less to run. Sites like Gumtree can help you find the perfect car or bike to give you transport options no matter what your situation.