Public transport vs car

Public transport or your own set of wheels: pros and cons of car ownership

When it comes to getting yourself from point A to point B, most people will have a range of options available to them.

From public transport to your own two feet, there are many ways you can get yourself where you need to go. However, for people thinking about making the transition to owning their own car, there are a few points it pays to consider.

Car ownership: The pros and cons

Australia is a nation of car lovers and car enthusiasts. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), over the period between 1955–2013, the number of passenger vehicles registered across the country rose from 1.4 million to 13 million.1

In addition to this, Australia has a large range of models available at a variety of price points ensuring Australians can choose a vehicle that suits their needs and their budget at any given life stage.

Having your own car can definitely come in handy. For one thing, it’s more convenient than adjusting your lifestyle to a bus, train, tram or ferry schedule or other issues that can occur with public transport. The same ABS study found approximately 71 per cent of Australians aged 18 years and older used their car to travel to work or their place of study (as either a passenger or a driver) in 2012, and 88 per cent also used it for other tasks such as visiting family or going shopping.

There are many ways a car can come in handy, but it also takes some significant upkeep and financial stability to purchase and maintain one, including costs such as road tolls and parking. There are a number of other expenses associated with owning a car which will depend on the type of model you have, and can include fuel, maintenance, registration and insurance.

Insurance will be one of the most important costs associated with owning your car, as it will cover you if your car is damaged in an accident or if it is stolen. And, perhaps most importantly, it will cover you for any legal liability you sustain as a result of driving your vehicle.

There are many different types policies to choose from, with comprehensive policies being the most popular. Comprehensive car insurance covers damage to or theft of your car and damage to other people’s cars or property. There is also third party property, fire and theft cover, policies covering just third party property damage and compulsory third party insurance, which covers injuries or death of other people in an accident.3
The Royal Automobile Club of Queensland (RACQ) estimates the total standing and running costs of owning a light car such as the Nissan Micra ST to come to $6,740.17 per year or $33,700.86 over five years.2

Owning a car is a significant commitment, so it’s important to ensure you’re ready to meet your obligations as an owner.

Public transport: The pros and cons

For those who may not need to travel long distances regularly, or don’t yet have the finances to purchase a vehicle, public transport can definitely come in handy. Australia has an extensive public transport network in each state and territory with routes covering the majority of areas.

In the short term, taking public transport can also be cheaper than purchasing and maintaining a car, especially as most agencies offer weekly or monthly passes that have more value for money.

However, depending on where you live, public transport can be slower and is prone to delays, and planning your trip can be complicated if several transfers are required en-route.

If you work in the CBD of major cities public transport may be preferable, as it is generally faster, cheaper and more reliable than driving into the city centres. It also offers a better use of your time as you can use it to read a book or prepare for the work day ahead.

Other options

For those looking for the best of both worlds, carpooling can be a great option to consider. You can save on fuel, your time and reduce stress whilst driving.

There’s also the option of car sharing with services like GoGet. If you need a car occasionally for doing a few jobs, but can’t justify the purchase of car, then this may be an option for you. GoGet allows you to get self-service access to cars across the country (generally restricted to the capital city centres), by the hour, at any time of the day or night by booking a car near you online.4

Whatever you decide, doing your research beforehand will help you make an informed decision.

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  1. 4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, July 2013, Australian Bureau of Statistics
  2. Vehicle Running Costs 2013, RACQ
  3. Car insurance, MoneySmart
  4. How It Works, GoGet

These articles are provided as reference material to allow more informed decision making, but are not intended as being a complete source of information on any topic. All readers should make their own independent analysis on the topic to make sure they have considered the aspects that are important to them.