Money & Career

Which costs more: driving an old car or taking public transit?

Last week, a friend of mine saw an old beater being sold online — a 1997 Acura sedan on Kijijii for just $999. A good price (if the thing actually runs) for my friend who wants to forgo public transportation and commute in the comfort of her own vehicle.

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Last week, a friend of mine saw an old beater being sold online — a 1997 Acura sedan on Kijijii for just $999. A good price (if the thing actually runs) for my friend who wants to forgo public transportation and commute in the comfort of her own vehicle. But is buying an old car, albeit for a good price, really a good deal? Especially compared to the cost of public transport?

After crunching the numbers, I’m not so sure. After spending hours researching the added costs of owning an old car, I was able to calculate the price comparison between owning an old beater and taking public transit (in Toronto) over a four-year period. Since I’m not a car person, you may disagree with some of my calculations. But here’s what I found:

Car: $1128.87 ($999 plus 13% tax @ $129.87)

Depreciation: $344 (over four years)

Insurance: $5124 based on $1,281/year (Ontario) – highest in Canada

Gas: $10,200 based on $2550/year 

Maintenance: $4800 based on $1200 a year ($100/month) (my best estimate)

License/registration: $800 based on $200/year

Total for four years: $22,396.87 (or $5,599.22 a year)

Of course these numbers don’t take into account the possibility that the car could need a massive repair at some point.

Now let’s look at the cost of public transportation. The price of public transit (TTC) in Toronto, where my friend lives, is $115.50 per month for a metropass (using the Monthly Discount Plan). That’s $1386 a year or $5,544 over four years. If you live outside the Toronto area and rely on the GO train to commute, the costs are a lot more expensive — monthly passes are $270 or $3240 a year, and $12,960 over four years.

So is an old car worth the costs compared to public transit? If you’re looking to save money, then the answer is no. (And I didn’t even factor in the cost of parking, which in this city is really high.

For my friend, I don’t think it’s worth it. But depending on where you live in Canada and how much the cost of public transit is in your area, it might net out.

Have you done the calculations? Please let us know the costs of your car ownership below!.