Saturday, June 28, 2008

Car for sale?

You all know I love my car. I've had the Prius for less than a year-and-a-half, and, well, I just love it. But you also all know that I bought this car when I still lived in Salt Lake City and didn't know I would be leaving. Didn't know I would be moving to a city in which I very rarely actually need a car. And now I'm wondering if I ought to do something very scary: sell my car.

It's been very nice having my car while I've lived here. I've only used it about once every two weeks, but when I've used it, I've been glad to have it. Without it, I couldn't have taken all those trips to Richmond to visit relatives. I couldn't have taken Edison to the vet in Maryland - or anywhere, really, since you can't take dogs on the Metro or buses. I couldn't have picked visitors up from the airport or made big grocery shopping trips where I bought too much stuff to walk home or gone to Ikea to buy a new coffee table.

Well, actually, I could have, with Zipcar.

Zipcar is a service that lets its members use one of their cars when they need them, without having to pay for insurance or a monthly car payment or registration at the DMV. There are different plans, etc., but basically, the one I am considering comes with a $50/month payment, which goes toward your car use. So I am committed to using the car at least $50 worth, and when I use it more than that, I pay $8.10 an hour or $60.30 for a 24-hour period. The best thing is that that price includes insurance and gas! So even with heavy use, I couldn't see myself spending more than $200 a month on driving, rather than the more than $550 I currently pay for my car payment and insurance, plus gas. And Zipcars have reserved parking spots - a huge plus in a city where it sometimes takes a half-hour or longer to find a parking spot in your own neighborhood. And yep, pets are allowed in Zipcars.

Bonus: Blue Book tells me that my car right now is worth about $4,000 more than I owe on it! The beauty of owning a car that is in super-high demand!

But this is a hard decision for me to make. I have lived without a car before - in Logan, Utah, no less, where there is not quite the level of public transit available that we have in D.C. Still, it's nice knowing that I have a car right there when I need it. (Of course, the concept with Zipcar is that you still have a car right there when you need it. There are Zipcar locations all over this city, some closer to my house than some of the parking spots I end up with now.)

So I need your help. This is one of those decisions I need people's input on. Is this a terrible idea, or a brilliant one? Can anyone think of any possible problems this would cause that I've overlooked, or any other benefits that I hadn't thought of?


Erin Stewart said...

Zipcar sounds cool - I've never heard of it before! I say sell your car -- although you love that car so much:( But think of all the gas money you'll save and I'm sure you can find some friend that will let you mooch off them in a pinch! And DC is so transit friendly that you'll probably never regret it. And I bet your car would sell fast because of high gas prices. So it's a yes for me!

Joe said...

Seems OK, Doug. But I wonder how likely Zipcar is to run out of vehicles. That would suck if you needed a car and they were out. Also, it'd be hard to sell the Prius. Didn't you name it Edison II? J/K. I guess if you do the math and it works out, you should do what makes sense economically. How long until the Prius is paid off? It would be nice not to have to pay all of the costs, including maintenance, that go along with car ownership.

doug said...

Yeah, if I keep my car I still have at least four years until it's paid off. It feels like I am spending $600 a month for a vehicle I use twice or three times a month. I will be able to sell my car for about $4,000 more than I currently owe on it.

Zipcar is really good at tracking usage of their cars and adding new cars to their fleet to keep up with demand. Check out and click "find cars," then go to D.C. and you'll see on their map how prolific their cars are.

It's funny how in D.C., when people find out I have a car, they are always surprised and say, "I didn't know you had a car!" Everyone gets by here without a car. In Utah, it would be the opposite: "You don't have a car?! How do you manage that?"

I really think I'm going to do it.

amelia said...

My first thought was the same as Joes: Are you guaranteed a car? Like do they ever run out? But you've just answered that.

If I was you, I would do it. Although I too love your Prius, it just makes sense economically and geographically (I've only been to DC once - but their public transportation is awesome). On top of that, it's just one less thing to worry about. You have to park your car so far away at night, I'm sure there's a bit of "Is my car safe?" nervousness.

And I think the market is right, with the gas hikes and the green wave. You could easily find a willing buyer.

OK, this went way longer than I intended it to be, but you are on the right page I think.

Will and Michelle Ridd said...

I say take the risk and go for it. Worse case scenario - it doesn't work out as well as you planned, you struggle for a little while and end up buying another car. It's not like you're stuck forever if it ends up being a bad choice, right. But more likely it will end up being a great choice and saving you a lot of money. Will and I have thought about trying to get down to one car - once my knee is better and I can ride my bike again we will probably think about it more seriously. Good luck!

Jacelle said...

There are a few reasons that I don't want you to sell your car, despite the fact that it makes sense. 1)You are the one I am referring to when I say 'I have a friend that owns a hybrid' 2)I associate cars with freedom despite whether or not I need one at the time... and 3)Selling your car seems to say that you have no plans for moving back here anytime soon and in the back of my mind I have always thought 'he'll be back in a year or so...being away from me for so long will prove to be too much.' You sell your car and that theory will be blown out of the water. Nonetheless I will support you in whatever you decide...hugs.

Anonymous said...

Sell it! Your car, no matter how much you love it, is only keeping you down.