Stephen Thrasher, Comet Smasher

I Hate Car

Monday, August 07, 2006 by Stephen

Four years ago, I bought a 1994 Mazda Protege with 45K miles for $4000 to handle my 20-mile Los Angeles commute. It worked well, and it felt good to drive. I don't see any cars like that around now here in the Houston area. I'm tempted to buy a late model used car, maybe a 2004, so I don't have mechanical problems. A brand new 2007 Honda Fit looks pretty enticing. Just thinking about the car-buying experience makes me tired.

But the problem is that I'm not staying here for long. What's the most cost-effective way to own a car for 6-8 months? Leasing has a minimum term of three years. Renting would suck away half my paycheck every month. Borrowing would be best, but who's going to loan me a car for that long? That leaves new cars and pre-owned cars on the table.

Also, does anyone know of an insurance company that gives 8-month terms? I'd probably have to pay for a whole year. Insurance would cost plenty, because I dropped my insurance two years ago when I sold my car and moved to Cambridge. Insurance companies don't like lapses.

They say that you can't get by in Houston without a car, but who has really tried? Maybe I could go the no-car route. How far do I have to go, you ask? In miles,

 CambridgeHouston
Work0.51.9/0.25
Church0.21
Grocery0.51.1
Library0.41.5
Gym0.80.1
School0.83.5


Work has two offices, and I usually work at the farther one. With no car, my options are motorcycle, moped, or bicycle. There are no buses in the area. Motorcycles still cost something, for gas and insurance, and they're dangerous. Also, I don't know if Texas will issue a motorcycle or moped license to a Massachusetts resident. Bicycles can take a lot of time and get you sweaty. Motorcycles and bicycles both have problems with weather and cargo. Rainsuits and delivery can solve those. The heat should end in a couple of months. Occasional rentals, taxis, or public transportation can cover trips to the airport. The park-n-ride is 1.4 miles away, and Avis is next to it. I'm going to walk to work tomorrow to try it out.

What do y'all think? I need your support to fight the status quo.

11 Comments:

At Aug 8, 2006, 7:46:00 AM, Blogger peterskim said...

I don't think scooters require a license. I think most are legally restricted to 30-40 mph, but they get excellent gas mileage.

 
At Aug 8, 2006, 8:31:00 AM, Anonymous 'mand said...

Yay for walking, especially since you have that super fiberglass umbrella in case of rain.

 
At Aug 8, 2006, 8:41:00 AM, Blogger stephen said...

Good thought, peterskim. In Texas, mopeds require a license, but scooters meant for standing require no license. You can use them on streets with 35 mph speed limits and on bike routes. For sidewalks, it depends on local laws. On the down side, electric scooters look expensive for what you get in terms of range, and these small motor scooters are usually really loud.

 
At Aug 8, 2006, 9:18:00 AM, Blogger John L. said...

My vote would be to first try a combination of walking, cycling, and public transportation before buying a car. If this is feasible at all, this would surely mean cutting down the number of things that you do, but is that really so bad? You get to contemplate about life on your long walks and think instead of attending ten social events in a single day.

I suspect as you make friends through work and church, you will also be able to find people who are willing to give you a ride to places.

Lastly, I remember Mrs. Ross has a gift in locating good used cars.

 
At Aug 8, 2006, 10:38:00 AM, Anonymous Jimmy said...

For only 6-8 months, you could also just get a piece of junk that'll last you that long. Don't put too much money into it.

I've been looking at http://www.zapworld.com/cars/smartCar.asp but that's probably out of the question.

I'd say scooters are worth the research, with walking, cycling, public transport in the meantime.

 
At Aug 8, 2006, 11:31:00 AM, Blogger Adam said...

This is easy:
http://houston.craigslist.org/car/189260116.html
http://houston.craigslist.org/car/188294236.html
http://houston.craigslist.org/car/184785535.html
http://houston.craigslist.org/car/182331997.html
http://houston.craigslist.org/car/182307613.html
http://houston.craigslist.org/car/181917511.html
http://houston.craigslist.org/car/181119286.html *** GOOD ONE***

 
At Aug 8, 2006, 12:31:00 PM, Blogger stephen said...

"'Mand," I forgot my umbrella today, but if it rains, I have an emergency poncho.

The Zap Smart Car costs more than a Honda Fit.

Insurance, people. Think $1000 just for liability.

Adam, if I were to get, say, a Honda Rebel, what kind of insurance would I need? I went to Geico and got a quote, $800/year, but I picked the highest coverage for liability. Would I need that? Personal coverage?

 
At Aug 8, 2006, 1:09:00 PM, Anonymous Rachel said...

I figure, if you can survive getting lost in the woods overnight, getting around Houston without a car should be a piece of cake--though some of the cars Adam suggested were real winners! You're my hero :P

 
At Aug 8, 2006, 4:26:00 PM, Blogger Adam said...

You can probably do better than that for insurance on a motorcycle. I think when I got my first bike I was around like 400 per year for liability.

Think about it this way. Liability covers you hurting someone elses person or property. On a bike you can't really destroy someone's whole car so you don't need like 100,000 property liability, but you can hurt someone (a pedestrian for instance). But smaller vehicle, smaller ability to hurt.

Also, I wouldn't cary any personal coverage, because the bike isn't going to be worth much and you carry health insurance from other sources. Try Pacific Specialty Insurance. They did good for me.

Don't forget that there are some hidden start up costs for buying a motorcycle. Gloves ~ $30, Helmet ~ $100-150, Jacket ~ $100-200, Skin Tight Leather Chaps ~ Priceless.

 
At Aug 10, 2006, 5:09:00 PM, Blogger Jenn said...

Well, I felt liberated when I came back from Alaska last year--I realized that its actually OK and good for you to walk to places like the library or a friend's house etc. So I'm all for walking. HOWever, there is the issue of grocery shopping. Carrying any liquid or a even a few bulky bags is not fun. And I'm not sure how much the little granny carts can carry (or if you're ready to take on that image in public). I'd probably opt for the bike and a change of clothes. You can buy little handiwipes to freshen up when you arrive at work. And I'm guessing that if you're only going a mile or two on the flat, you won't get THAT sweaty (unless of course you're running late..) And of course think of all the fun--you could get a little bell Stephen! And streamers! ;)

 
At Aug 10, 2006, 5:11:00 PM, Blogger Jenn said...

But yeah, easy for me to say right? How soon will the weather be cooling off?

 

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