Exchanging your car for walking or cycling will not only reduce emissions and improve your health, but it can also save you a significant amount of money.
It seems that the cost of driving a car is much more than people think. A study originally published in 2020 in the journal Nature found that German motorists underestimated the daily costs of operating a car by nearly 50 percent, so the actual costs are nearly double what people think.
Not only does this make driving seem a desirable option, but the perception that it costs much less than it is makes alternative forms of transportation – such as car-sharing, public transportation, cycling or walking – appear much less attractive.
When it comes to buying a car, price, fuel economy, space, performance and safety are high on the list of priorities for most people. It is a purchase that most people put a lot of thought and research into, since it is one of the most expensive they can make.
But we don’t always tend to give the same level of thought to lifetime operating costs and from fuel and depreciation to the cost of repairs, taxes and insurance, these can be significant.
So why is there a knowledge gap for motorists when it comes to daily car costs? The truth is that costs are only one factor when it comes to car ownership. There is also emotional attraction.
The cost of owning a car versus emotions
Appealing to motorists as rational decision makers with sound financial judgment is one thing, but for many people, cars are much more than a means of getting from point A to B.
For years, car manufacturers have focused on something completely different: the emotions and feelings that driving evokes.
Car ads use slogans such as “The Power of Dreams,” “The Car You Always Promised Yourself,” and “Designed to Move the Human Spirit.”
These slogans directly benefit from the fact that many do not drive because it is necessary to do so, they drive because they enjoy it.
With this in mind, it is perhaps easy to see why traffic management strategies are based on the assumption that people will reconsider their travel choice when car use becomes more expensive or inconvenient and rarely does anything to reduce car ownership.
In the UK alone, there are 32 million cars registered on the country’s roads. In 2022, new car registrations fell by just 0.3 percent. In the European Union, car usage has increased year-on-year for five years to 250 million vehicles by 2020.
The private car remains the best option for commuting, as motorists seem to incur time delays, or pay additional parking fees or congestion fees.
why? Because cars are highly personalized spaces where you can socialize with family and friends, listen to music, and comfortably isolate yourself from the outside world.
But cars are also incredibly expensive, and the Nature study suggests that if we realized how much they are, motorists would choose alternative forms of transportation.
People make their choices based on their perceived costs but face the true costs of cars, and the study estimates that a 37 percent reduction in car ownership could be achieved, with increases of about 8 percent and 12 percent in bus and rail travel respectively.
Rethinking our love for cars
At a time when finances are under pressure due to the cost of living crisis, knowing the actual versus perceived costs of cars may prompt many drivers to rethink their love for cars.
So, how can it work?
Cars can be rated by annual costs at the point of sale in the same way energy rating labels are used on household products, such as light bulbs, televisions or washing machines, and information about average operating cost numbers can be displayed and nationwide advertising campaigns can encourage consumers to calculate The cost of strictly driving on their own cars.
Car advertising can also include lifetime costs in the same way that all French car ads appearing across print, television, radio, billboards and online are required to carry one of three messages to encourage active travel: “For short trips, prioritize walking or cycling,” Think “car sharing” and “take public transportation on a daily basis.”
To encourage people to swap some of their short car trips for walking or cycling, an improved banking balance can tip the scales in favor of leaving the car behind.
Whether it’s cutting back on air travel or eating less red meat, more of us are looking for ways to reduce our environmental impact.
For many of us, it would be a big step to stop using our cars entirely but with the cost of petrol and diesel rising, driving isn’t the cheapest option. Even two flights alternated each week with active travel can make a huge difference to the planet and in your pocket.
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