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The true cost of driving

What is the true cost of driving? (Getty)

Petrol has broken the $2 a litre barrier. Ouch. If the crystal ball readers are right, driving costs will continue to rise — perhaps even exponentially.

Just last week a friend shared her opinion with me that 10 years after "peak oil" (the moment global petroleum extraction hits its maximum rate) our lives are going to change dramatically. She reckons we will no longer be able to travel internationally and may not even be able to afford to drive our cars.

It's easy to put this to the back of your brain and not give the cost of driving a second thought. But sooner or later we all will. If you need motivation to cut down — and I do — it's worth factoring in the total cost of driving, not just the fuel.

The real cost of driving:

Fuel and consumables
Fuel calculators help you work out how much trips cost in petrol. You also need to figure in the cost of other consumables such as engine oil, coolant, transmission fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, window washer fluid, air filters, belts, batteries, tyres and wiper blades. That's even before tune-ups, other maintenance and repairs.

Warrant of fitness and registration costs
These also take a chunk of money out of your pocket. You also pay taxes every time you fill up at the petrol pump.

Insuring your car costs a small fortune these days. Every year I fork out more than $500 for insurance, which I understand is relatively cheap. Even so, that's nearly $10 a week.

It's easy to forget about depreciation, yet every year your vehicle drops in value. Upgrading to a similar, but newer car can cost thousands of dollars. People who buy on finance often forget this cost because they don't pay a big chunk of money for their "new" car.

Finance charges
Paying interest on a depreciating asset is bonkers. Sadly most Kiwis do it. Some delude themselves thinking that they need to upgrade cars every few years or fall behind somehow. Others have a need like a peacock to look flashy. Both approaches are foolish.

Traffic fines
Some drivers spend good chunks of money on traffic and parking fines. I don't because I made a decision on my 19th birthday — when I was picked up for speeding — to stop breaking the law. It works.

Taking public transport
This saves you more than just petrol and ancillary costs. You also save on parking costs, which for some people can be huge. It also removes the risk of getting parking tickets. I found a calculator showing the petrol savings of using public transport.

Added cost to goods and services
It's essential to factor in the petrol cost when you buy goods and services. For example, I took a trip to The Warehouse this week to buy Coverseal for the children's books. The petrol bill for such a trip was at least $5, which made the stuff very expensive indeed. With some better planning I could have bought the Coverseal when I was passing a suitable shop at an earlier date. Or I could have paid a little more to buy it locally and save overall.

Cost to society and the environment
Every time you use your car you have a financial and environmental impact on other people. For example, you cause wear and tear to the roads which we all pay for, require that car parks be built, the government may have to pay to clear up after an accident, oil needs to be disposed of, road noise devalues the houses of people who live on main roads, the air becomes polluted, and so on.

Gym membership
In my more frivolous moments I factor in the cost of gym membership and exercise equipment. If you walked and cycled for your regular trips instead of taking the car, you might spend less on organised exercise.

Your say: Can you afford to keep driving? Are you finding it harder to pay for petrol?

User comments
Strange article considering Diana Clement is such a prolific driver herself. Well, driving her readers up the wall, that is.
I was amazed at how phenomenally expensive it is to run a boat compared with a car.
Its Ridiculous how Petrol fuel goes up and while petrol flies high so as the Car Rego.just wait till its the World Cup and before the games starts everything goes up including petrol.Mind you there's still Traffic flowing 7 days a week day and night.I guess if we all take the trains and buses and not buy petrol then perhaps the Petrol will come down again.But its something us Kiwis dont do,our cars are our main transport no matter what.Its getting more and more expensive everything including Supermarkets.I dont know how the Low Income people servive really.Especially the ones with so many kids and living on the Dole.
I disaggree, the car driving will be the last thing( I like it or not) I will cut, I will cut power bill, I will cut phone bill, lawyer, sky etc. I dont think you have any idea how bad the public transport is in nz, get real. You can apply same logic to everything, your solution sounds like we have to live like Budda.

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