Tax Office Nightmare Spawns Dreams of Being Carless

I’ve been pursuing a steady decrease in gas consumption pretty consistently since I started driving.  I started with a Mazda RX-7 (16 mpg), then had a Dodge Neon(25ish), a Mazda 626 (25ish), a Ford Escort (30ish), a Honda CR-V (23ish, for hauling) and now a Geo Metro (40ish).  I’ve also had an electric scooter, which got something equivalent to 300 mpg, and now have a Yamaha Vino 125 that gets about 80 mpg.  Last year on my epic trip to Portland in the Metro, I *averaged* 50 mpg despite pegging the accelerator for more than half of it. So having gone from 16 mpg to an average of probably 50 mpg between the Metro and the Vino, I’m certainly headed in the right direction.

Austin has demi-functional public transportation, and while it’s *possible* to live car-free here, it’s certainly not easy or convenient.  However,  a recent misadventure at the tax office has me serious re-evaluating the worthiness of owning a car.

When I bought the Vino over a year ago, I didn’t do the paperwork or pay the taxes.  The tags finally expired, so I had to go get it registered.  I expected it to cost about $200 including taxes, late fees, new title, and new registration.

It was over $500.

Having not had an income exceeding my expenses for almost three years now, this was an even more brutal surprise than it normally would have been.

Naturally, it’s mainly my fault.  If I’d done it on time, it would have been much more reasonable.  But it was a powerful slap in the face, and it really got me thinking about how much it costs to be vehicle-enabled in Austin.  While super-fuel efficient, the Metro is somewhat of a money pit, and even though I do all the work on it myself, I still spend hundreds of dollars per year keeping it running.  The Vino will run forever with minimal maintenance, but it’s really hard on my back due to the sitting position, is 37 times more likely to kill me per mile than a car.

With all the other stuff going on right now, I’m not sure I’m willing to do a full run down on how much it costs me to have the car, but I’d really like to compare that to a reasonable set of alternatives like taking the bus, cycling, Car2Go, etc.  Actually, finding the full cost of owning the car wouldn’t be that hard, since I track all my expenses.  The only missing piece of data would be how much the alternative cost, and finding out *that* might be an interesting experiment.  Maybe after I get back from Flipside I’ll set aside a week or two and agree that I won’t use either of my gas-powered vehicles, and see how I do.  To do a full comparison, I’d have to include the cost of taking the bus or a plane on road trips, but I’d be interested to see how it all pans out.


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