I recently -since 23 January 2020 to be precise- received a car through my employer. It allows me to experience car ownership without all the worries linked to it.
Granted, I do pay a fixed amount of ~420 EUR/month for 4 years -it’s a bit more complicated than the fixed number I give here. After 4 years I will have coughed up 20,160 EUR in-car
ownershiplease costs. But it does cover all the costs related to my gas-guzzler:
- Unlimited(!) fuel (gas)
- Maintenance (incl. winter tyres)
- Roadside assistance
- Registration costs and taxes
For 20K over 4 years I can drive a brand new 40K car. To me, that is a great deal. Ever since I sat in the driver’s seat for the first time, I loved driving. I’m no Michael Schumacher but I enjoy any drive I make. Whether I’m stuck in traffic or cruising on a back-country road with some
Taylor SwiftMetallica or Rammstein playing, it’s a place where I actually relax.
In theory, I could get around without a car and save the other 20K over these 4 years. However, here are my 4 reasons why I’m a car owner nonetheless.
Freedom (even with traffic jams)
Sitting on your butt in a tin can doesn’t sound like a lot of freedom, especially when in traffic. Humans aren’t made for sitting long periods of time. Sitting (pun intended) in traffic adds even more hours. So why the frack is my first point ‘freedom’?!
It’s because it gives me the freedom to go wherever, whenever I want. I’m not restricted to fixed time tables, to certain tracks. There is no limitation to when I need to be at a train station or a bus stop to catch my last ride.
Now, it does seem weird for someone that lives in the city to worry about freedom when everything is so close by. Unfortunately, not everything is close by friend & family to start. I live at least 60km away from my closest family and 100 km from my best friend. Neither of these two groups lives near a train station, so good luck getting there using public transport. Not everything is close to the station you get off of either. If you have a day trip planned, more often than not, the final location isn’t conveniently located a 5 min walk from the station, unlike my apartment.
Meeting them at least once a week means that I would have to shell out 2-way train tickets (13 EUR one-way), a bus ticket (1.80 EUR/1h) and then still walk and lose time.
Finally, what to do when there is something wrong with your connection? Trust me when I say, it happens more than you think.
Before I got this car I went everywhere by biking or using public transport and the time wasted tallied up. Sitting in traffic might not be fun, but having to wait for yet another delayed train, or even worse, missing a train turns that ‘ok’ travel time into an “Oh, God please, why must thy punish me? What did I do to deserve such hellish treatment” travel time? A 1-hour commute becomes a 2 hour one. And most of the time, at least for me, that extra hour wasn’t on the train but waiting for said train to arrive outside.
While traffic jams are frequent in and around cities during the week, when not in or around cities it’s a lot faster to use the car. you can travel from point A to B directly without intermediate steps. Public transport brings you from station A to station B where you then have to get picked up to finally reach your destination.
You don’t need to think long to realize that the total travel time is usually shorter by car, especially outside of rush hour. Eventhough Belgium is well connected, once you move away from the main connection, it quickly becomes a tangled mess that is far from optimized.
Not having to worry about (Belgian) weather
Talking about waiting (outside) brings me to number 3. Belgium isn’t known for its beautiful year-round weather. While rain isn’t a constant, it sure isn’t the costa del sol either. Trying to get to station A usually involves having to bike.
In the summer it’s all fine and dandy, but for a couple of years, not even summer is a lot of fun. There are a plethora of Belgian trains that don’t have airconditioning. It’s not hard to imagine how it must be, sitting in a metal tube while a blistering sun roasts it from the outside at +30°C. On top of the temperature that makes you start sweating like a pig, you are squeezed together, more often than not in a reduced train. It happened more than once that I got out sweating from top to bottom during summer.
No public transport
This was slightly touched upon in point 1 where I talked about not being restricted. Trains run late, busses get caught in traffic, stops aren’t everywhere. Missing your next train or being late for a meet up with friends or training simply sucks. Don’t even get me started on rush hour. While you might not be stuck in traffic you are squashed together like sardines.
I do admit, that the price of car ownership isn’t a small amount after 4 years. Just like I gave 5 reasons why I choose a (salary) car. There are just as many, if not more, reasons to not get one. You can save (in my case 20K). You will be less stressed in traffic, and if you bike, get better health. Then again, biking, walking, and taking public transport demands a lifestyle change.
There you have it, five reasons why I own a car eventhough I live in the city. People are often baffled when I tell them that I don’t have a vehicle at my disposal, especially when they hear how much I make. To me it’s not just a question of money though, it’s the unnecessary hassle and a completely different lifestyle that draws me.
I won’t say it doesn’t define my freedom completely as I can use public transport as well. A single bus ride costs 1.8 EUR. Let’s face it, that’s dirt cheap. I also still enjoy cycling around town or in the great outdoors which might feel superior to being stuck in yet another traffic jam.
One more thing
There you have it, 4 reasons why I own and most likely will always own a car, even in the city. And there is something I haven’t mentioned yet because it’s for the future: kids. While it can be done without a car. Having a car makes it a lot easier to get around to doing things in an orderly fashion.
I will say that outside of rush hour it’s never fun to drive out of a Belgian city. More and more cities incorporate a so-called circulation plan. Cars are forced out of the center and on the ring road.