My cars cost $195 per week!

My cars cost $195 per week!

Have you given any thought to how much your car costs to run? I’m not just talking about how much petrol or diesel it uses.

I never really had, I know what it costs to fill up, so I try not to drive unnecessary trips and waste fuel and I find the cheapest service station when I do fill up (and present the wrong supermarket fuel coupon and/or the wrong loyalty card at the wrong petrol station most times). But I didn’t give any other costs much thought, other than allowing for them in my budget and noting down the expense when it occurs during the year. But until now I don’t think I had ever totalled up all of these costs specific to my vehicles. But after getting a question about cars, I decided to look into it a bit further and now its a case of “you can’t unsee what you have seen” dammit!

This is the question I was asked:

Hi Ruth,
Mr Money Mustache does a good break down on car costs on his YouTube channel. Perhaps you could do an equivalent for NZ? Thanks. Kurt.

You can watch the MMM video here: The MMM Show - Episode 5 - Why Gas Is really $42 Per Gallon!

If this is the first time you have heard of him, make sure you check out his website too This guy has a major influence in the PF community and for good reason.

Well, Kurt, I watched MMM, as did Jonny and it instantly started a pretty vigorous conversation between us. But of course, I also thought, “well, that is an American example and things will be different here in New Zealand”. To calm my fears I did a quick breakdown looking at our vehicle costs for 2018 and the results surprised me (us).

Here are our numbers for the two vehicles we drive:

And this total amount fails to take into account the depreciation of the vehicles, and without a doubt, they are going down in value each week.

The Mazda has depreciated 60% of its value in the eight years we have owned it or $1,500 per year.

The Skoda has depreciated 23% in the almost two years we have owned it or $3,500 per year.

So, to go all MMM on it and add those costs in:

WEEKLY cost of owning these vehicles taking depreciation into account is now:


This is kinda big picture maths, but safe to say that is higher than I thought!

The MMM YouTube clip also takes the following into account in his math, but I have not (because my figures are already bad enough):

Parking - because of where we live we don’t have these costs, but when we travel to cities we spend about $100 a year on parking.

Toll Roads - Hahahaha. Yeah, we don’t have those, given where we live.

We built a single carport to put one car in - the other sits outside in the sun and snow. We reckoned we were saving money by not building a garage...

Missing out on exercise - fair point, especially when I DRIVE to a spot so I can go running...

Pollution - no doubt a cost to my health, to everyone else's and the environment.

Taxes on roads - yep, we pay this in our council rates and government taxes.

Risk of dying in a crash - tricky to measure so let’s not think about that.

My time - To be fair, not the greatest amount as most trips are around our small town (so I could bike/walk more).

Lease or lending - Thank goodness we paid cash for both vehicles. If I were to add a weekly payment into this it could easily double my figure.

IF I did factor all of this in then I reckon for sure we could conservatively add another $100 a week to the above total.

Kurt, look at what you have made me do! I had seriously not ever taken much notice of these costs and they have surprised me for sure. As each expense occurred I paid it and noted it down in my budget, but I’d never taken the time to collate all of that into one “car” figure and the result does surprise me. Simply walking more or riding our bikes more can only reduce these costs so much. It's all the large underlying costs that are the kicker with depreciation and insurance being the major standout costs and the only way to reduce these is to not just drive a vehicle less but to get rid of one entirely which is certainly something that we have talked about doing.


And here come the excuses on why we need two cars…

We live in regional New Zealand in the small town of Alexandra, a wonderful place with a lot going on but it’s a long drive to anywhere. Queenstown and Wanaka are both an hour away and Dunedin two and a quarter. Christchurch is about six hours away. We want a bigger car to get us, the dog and all of our stuff there safely, hence the Skoda. Soon Jonny is heading away for a week, taking the car and I don’t want to be stuck at home without one, hence the Mazda.

We have friends who live on a life sentence property here and in January she and her daughter went to Christchurch for a week leaving him at home carless, stuck on the property that whole time, looking after the dog and nine chickens (yes, their property IS running at full capacity). I offered him my car because I had visions of him on a rocker on his porch with a shotgun across his lap waiting for an intruder to come up the dusty dirt road, feeling lonely and abandoned with no human contact. The reality is that I think he spent the week watching only sport on telly. I think he quite enjoyed being cut off and having no vehicle. Me, not so much!

When my Mum and Dad really needed me a year or two back when they were both sick I spent weeks away from home at a time and if we had have been a one-car family it actually would have made things really difficult for Jonny stuck at home, so there have been countless times I have not regretted having two vehicles. Furthermore, have you seen our weather report in July? Negative 10°C some days. Those heated seats really come into their own on those days I can tell you! But the reality is that Jonny works from home, it takes me 22 minutes to walk to my work and our cars do spend a lot of time just sitting idle in their purpose-built parking spots at our house.

The Mazda mostly zips around town but I have often lent it out to friends who have been visiting from overseas and needed a vehicle for a week or a month, or friends who had their own car at the shop getting repairs, or had their partner go away and take their only vehicle and I wonder if I could be that friend, the person who asks someone else if I can borrow their car for a day or a week or a month. I’m pretty generous, but I’m not sure that others would be if I asked.

Here is a better case study of how to own a car more cheaply...

Kurt, who asked the question in the first place, has thought of all of this as well and has laughed in the face of ALL OF MY EXCUSES and has gone down to one small car for his family of three. He manages it quite comfortably, AND they also live in regional NZ in a really cold part of the country as well. His wife works from home so he bikes to work, even in July and I bet he does not even complain like I certainly would. After a bit of research, they bought a Honda Fit, which they actually discovered the existence of via the MMM website. He tells me “it’s awesome for a small car”! He is 6”4” and it gives him plenty of head and leg room, heck his wife and their young child AND his pram all fit in with ease too. The back seats fold down completely flat or fold up to create extra space if you need to carry a load home from Mega Mitre 10 - it sounds like the Tardis if I’m honest when he described the amount of stuff you can get in there. AND he says it’s very economical on fuel and in every other way because as he pointed out EVERYTHING is cheaper with a small car, tyres, servicing etc.

This blog has really given me something to think about for sure! My insurance costs are a standout to me and I’ll be looking into that but really, the overall takeaway for me is to put a lot more thought into the question of “do we need two cars?” Because that is where the costs come in, two of everything. Yeah, we can drive less, leaving the cars in the driveway and walking (love it) or biking (hate it) but that’s only going to reduce costs so much. Getting rid of one car entirely, as Kurt has done, is what’s going to cut those costs in a meaningful way and save money going forward. Yet, a change of mindset takes time (after all we used to buy brand new cars all the time (CARS - I’ve had a few!) but we thankfully no longer think that’s a great idea) and some change happens slowly. One day at a time, but I really need to sort this out before our daughter turns 16 and we end up with yet another car up the driveway!

You might like these other blog posts by Mr Money Mustache on cars:
The Man Who Gets His Cars for Free
Curing your Clown-Like Car Habit

And here is a link to a great electric bike website setup by a fellow Happy Saver Bret, where you can get your current bike upgraded to electric - because yes, I’ve thought about buying one of those instead!

A final thought. I wonder when car sharing will make it to Alexandra? I have heard that the very small town of Hampden has a community electric car service underway where locals book in to use it and it’s really well supported. I certainly know of friends who live, or have lived in bigger cities and they just hire a car once a month to go and do the things they do. I like the sharing economy and I’d be all in if that came to my town!

Happy Saving!


Sharesies have made a few tweaks...

Sharesies have made a few tweaks...

Credit Score. Good or Evil?

Credit Score. Good or Evil?