How Much Could You Save if You Stopped Driving?

Written by Zachary Shahan

So many of us drive all over the place and think we have no other choice. But if you look at how much you could save if you dropped the car, choices can really open up.

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) just put out a report showing that the “average person” in 16 of 20 large U.S. cities would save over $10,000 a year by using public transit instead of driving. Across all 20, the average was $10,181. In New York City, the average savings based on APTA’s assumptions come to $15,041.

As many of you know, I’ve been living car-free for 10 years. The key factor that has enabled that is that I’ve always chosen places (cities and neighborhoods within cities) where I could easily and enjoyably get around without a car. I went car-free for two main reasons: 1) I wanted to live in a more climate-friendly and overall environmentally friendly way, and 2) I discovered that I enjoyed biking for transportation much more than I enjoyed driving for transportation. I was well aware that biking and using transit would also save me a ton of cash, but that wasn’t my motive.

However, I wish that I had decided along the way to track how much more I probably would have paid for transportation if I had decided to live an alternative life in probably different homes and drive almost everywhere. I know the savings have been considerable, but I really have no way of coming up with a legitimate estimate.

Credit: Thomas Hawk/CC BY-NC 2.0

If you’re still driving everywhere, the good news is that you still have the chance to do so! If you decide to make the switch, I really encourage you to track your estimated monthly savings. You’ll feel great in 10 years when you take a look at how much you’ve saved.

Of course, some of you are in a situation where you could start biking or taking transit where you currently live and could calculate right now how much you’d probably save. For some of you, I’m sure that you wouldn’t really be able to bike or take transit unless you moved, but this is something to keep in mind in case you ever do. At the least, however, you could simply calculate how much you spend driving and consider if you couldn’t get a nicer place in a nicer location with those savings.

I was quite shocked last week to see an article about this exact topic in Reuters. It really wasn’t a typical Reuters story, but it was a great one. As an example, it focused on a 59-year-old from Elon, N.C., who had previously had a 2.5-hour commute (each way) for 4 years from the mountains of Caldwell County to Chapel Hill. In gasoline costs alone (forget oil changes, maintenance, repair, insurance, time/opportunity costs), she estimated that the commute cost her $43,000.

“I always thought it would make me sick to find out,” she says. “And it did.”

I think this is a topic to come back to another day. There are so many interesting angles to this. But, for now, if you are interesting in looking at or playing with some numbers, below are estimated average savings in 20 large cities for an individual in a two-person household who decides to drop the car and take public transportation. Following the list are some details regarding APTA’s assumptions.

Credit: APTA/Screen capture

APTA calculates the average cost of taking public transit by determining the cost of the average monthly transit pass of local public transit agencies across the country. This information is based on the annual APTA fare collection survey and is weighted based on ridership (unlinked passenger trips). The assumption is that a person making a switch to public transportation would likely purchase an unlimited pass on the local public transit agency, typically available on a monthly basis.

APTA then compares the average monthly transit fare to the average cost of driving. The cost of driving is calculated using the 2013 AAA average cost of driving formula. That formula is based on variable and fixed costs. The variable costs include the cost of gas, maintenance and tires. The fixed costs include insurance, license registration, depreciation and finance charges. The comparison also uses the average mileage of a mid-size auto at 23.1 miles per gallon and the price for self-serve regular unleaded gasoline as recorded by AAA on May 28, 2014 at $3.65 per gallon. The analysis also assumes that a person will drive an average of 15,000 miles per year. The savings is based on the assumption that a person in a two-person household lives with one less car.

In determining the cost of parking, APTA uses the data from the 2012 Colliers International Parking Rate Study for monthly unreserved parking rates for the United States.

To calculate your individual savings, with or without car ownership, go to

This post originally appeared on TreeHugger

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Tammy D.
Tammy D3 years ago

I gave up my car ten years ago. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It affected where I chose to live, and how I see things. I buy smaller, more frequently, think twice before accumulating and live closer to things. Reading on the bus or train is a joy. Couldn't safely do that while driving! Now I cycle most everywhere, and haul things I never thought I could. I feel stronger, healthier and more connected to just about every aspect of my life. I have moved by bus, have lugged a couch by hand from the charity shop, and have regularly carried more than I thought possible in bicycle panniers and a backpack. What used to be a mundane event of chucking stuff into my hatchback has now become a challenge, an adventure and one hell of a workout. Yes, people stare, but they just don't get it. It's a way of life, and I highly recommend it.

Brian Foster
Brian F3 years ago

If we would simply pass a law that every street has separated, barrier protected bike lanes, more people would ride a bike, which is much cheaper than a car. Electric bikes could replace cars in cities, if we had protected barrier lanes. Electric bikes can go 20 MPH without pedaling, and faster if you pedal. You arrive at your destination without sweating. Electric bikes could easily replace cars in cities if barrier physically protected bike lanes were built on all roads, and the speed limit for cars was reduced to 25 MPH. Reducing the speed for cars to 25 MPH in cities would save lives. Our car centric car is king culture, where most people drive alone in a SUV, car, or sport truck is wasteful, pollutes our air, creates traffic congestion, is dangerous, and unnecessary. Electric bikes could easily replace most car trips in cities, if we built barrier protected bike lanes on all roads like countries, like the Netherlands, that use bikes much more than we do, and have an extensive bike infrastructure built. .

Teresa W.
Teresa W3 years ago


Kathryn M.
Kathryn M3 years ago

When I moved to New Orleans, I sold my car. I lived in the Arts/Warehouse District and had easy access to the buses and streetcars. The $100 fee for a parking spot at my building was manageable, but then I got a job and needed another $85 to park at work. I decided to the cost of the vehicle and maintenance and gas and insurance and $185 just to park the thing was simply too much! I have since moved, but share a car with another relative. Sometimes it is inconvenient to share, but I know it is easier on our budget and easier on the environment. And one less car to have to get the oil changed and all that. I feel that my time is worth something, too, and that I have more time to do other things without a car.

Alvin King
Alvin King3 years ago


Debra G.
Debra G3 years ago

I'm seeing a trend among younger people to forgo that rite of passage to get their driver's license on their 16th birthday. Here in Seattle, there are ride-share companies like Uber: using a phone app, you put in where you are and where you want to go. A participating private driver - acting as a temporary taxi - picks you up. All $ transactions are handled by the app. Cheaper than a taxi, more convenient and flexible than a bus. I haven't used it, but did pare down from 2 to 1 car - that made us more keen on planning our routes and schedules together.

Veronique L.
Veronique L3 years ago

I walk whenever I can...

Walker Bennett
Walker Bennett3 years ago

I have been a public transportation booster for over 55 years now. I began to lose my eyesight six years ago and gave up my drivers license to the DMV. That was one of the most economical and smartest moves I've ever made. I lived in Tampa for four years and taking the bus was less than 1/3 the cost of driving to brainer. Giving up my license was a really difficult decision, but I did it for the safety of others on the road. I've since moved to Canada where i'D RECOMMEND ANYONE WHO IS BECOMING VISUALLY IMPAIRED MOVE. This s a non-governmental program run by the Lions Club International that allows me to take unlimited rides on the transit system for free. Greyhound Canada and VIA rail also gives me half price.

I am currently saving over $80,000 each year on vehicle costs (gasoline, parking, maintenance, etc.).

Ruhee B.
Ruhee B3 years ago

Proud to say that I do walk and take public transport way more than the car!!! Remember it's not only the money but the health benefits that go with walking too!!

BJ J3 years ago

No public transportation here, plenty of wildlife, 25 miles from town so think I'll keep my vehicle. In the winter, I'd end up frozen to a tree with a note on my rifle like Hatchet Jack in movie "Jeremiah Johnson!