The car is a 2000 Toyota Echo that I paid $2800 for two years ago. It only has about 90,000 miles, and I feel like I got a pretty good deal. It now needs a new clutch, new tires, and a new alternator belt. I estimate this would run about $1500. I had budgeted for this kind of maintenance, but now that I drive so infrequently, it's hard for me to justify it. I also don't really care much for the car, and as much as I hate to admit it, I'd be happier with an automatic in the urban and hilly area I'm living in now. Replacing the car would probably cost even more, though not by much. I'm also paying about $550 per year for liability insurance, $100 for registration, and $100 for street parking.
With my limited driving, it would seem like a car sharing service like Zipcar would make a lot of sense, but their hourly model doesn't work well for me. Almost all my trips are out into the suburbs, and they last most of a day. Zipcar's daily rates start at $83 on weekends. Actual car rental would be cheaper in theory, but the car rental locations nearby have very limited weekend hours, so it looks like in practice I'd have to rent in advance and keep a rental through the whole weekend.
Even with Zipcar's high rates, I think I would more or less break even. I may end up being able to borrow neighbors' cars some of the time for much less than Zipcar would charge, but I don't want to include this in the analysis because I don't know how often it would be possible. The biggest problem I have with relying on Zipcar, though, is that the high marginal cost of using a car might cause me to avoid leaving the city at all. In that case I'd certainly save money, but I'd see my family less often, and miss out on things that would otherwise be pretty cheap to go to.
To summarize, I'm having trouble choosing between these alternatives:
- Put a significant amount of money into my car, and continue to insure, maintain, register, and repark it even though I don't like it much and rarely use it
- Replace it with another car in slightly better shape with an automatic transmission, even though I question whether it makes sense to have a car at all
- Use car rental and car sharing, even though it will only save me money if I avoid trips I otherwise would have taken.