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Is it a Good Idea to Have a Car in the City?

Finance | 09/22/2023 16:48

It’s hard to beat the convenience of having a car. Public transportation can be hard to rely on and biking or walking isn’t always the most practical option. But having a car means you can set your own schedule and get where you need to go whenever you choose. Owning a car in the city isn’t for the faint of heart however, so here’s how you can decide if it’s the right move for you.


Let’s talk about owning a car in the city. 

What are the benefits of owning a car in the city?

It’s faster than public transportation (usually).

The fastest way from point A to point B is a straight line. It certainly isn’t a winding curve with multiple stops along the way to pick up more passengers. Having a car means you don’t need to get to the correct bus stop or train station, you don’t need to wait for that bus or train to arrive, and you don’t need to make multiple stops on your way to your destination. If you ever need to get somewhere quickly, having a car is the way to go.


You have freedom.

Having a car means you can get up and go whenever you want. There’s no schedule to abide by. This is especially true if you like to leave the city. If you are getting around from place to place in a city there are usually a few different ways to get there and many different time tables. But if you try to get out of the city it can be a lot harder. There may be only one or two buses or trains a day that are going to your destination. But a car means that you can leave when you want, stay for as long as you want, and come back when you want. 


You can run errands.

A car makes running errands much easier. After all, lugging bags of groceries on the bus is less than ideal. But if you need to run to the store and get a lot of things or make a large purchase, such as a piece of furniture, having a car is imperative. 

What are the disadvantages of owning a car in the city?

It’s expensive.

The major drawback of owning a car in the city is that it is EXPENSIVE. Everything just costs more in the city since there is not a lot of space but there is a lot of demand. 


Parking is arguably one of the biggest expenses you will face depending on where you live. In New York City parking averages at $37 for just two hours. Unless you have an apartment that comes with a spot (which you will undoubtedly have to pay additional for), finding a reasonable parking rate is incredibly difficult in a big city.


Tolls are another cost that is impossible to avoid in the cities. In New York City drivers can easily pay up to $.55 per mile on tolls, while drivers can expect to pay $1.75 per mile on tolls in San Francisco.


Car insurance is also incredibly expensive in the city. This is because the rate of accidents is so much higher. Check out these average car insurance rates from popular cities in the United States.

  • Miami: Almost $3,000 per year

  • Las Vegas: $2,088 per year

  • New Orleans: Over $3,500 per year

  • Orlando: Almost $2,250 per year

  • Jacksonville, FL: $2,025 per year

  • Los Angeles: $2,053 per year


Gas is more expensive in cities as well and can cost you an arm and a leg. Here are some average gas prices in US cities as of September 2023:

  • San Diego: $5.60 per gallon

  • Los Angeles: $5.79 per gallon

  • San Francisco: $5.42 per gallon

  • Las Vegas: $4.87 per gallon


On top of those costs, you still have to pay for the actual car. And given how expensive cars are now, that can be a huge dent to your monthly budget. Here are some average auto loan debt to income ratios in popular cities:

  • In Las Vegas auto loan debt is 39% of income.

  • In Miami auto loan debt is 45% of income.

  • In New Orleans auto loan debt is 37% of income. 

  • In Houston auto loan debt is 44% of income.

  • In Orlando auto loan debt is 38% of income.

  • In Jacksonville, FL auto loan debt is 39% of income.


So the bottom line is that car ownership in a city is usually out of most people’s budget.


You have to find parking.

We already discussed how expensive parking can be, but sometimes that actual act of finding a parking spot can be a nightmare. You can easily spend 20 or 30 minutes just trying to find an open spot or a garage that has openings. It can cause a lot of stress, anxiety, and the time that it takes to park may even defeat any time you may have gained by avoiding public transportation. 

There’s a lot of traffic.

City driving comes with a lot of traffic. With so many cars and people, delays in the city are inevitable. It can cause delays, headaches, and can even lead to incidents of road rage. The rate of fender benders is also through the roof in most cities because of traffic. While these accidents don’t cause too much damage, they can still be costly to repair and a pain to deal with.


You will get poor gas mileage.

Driving in the city means poor gas mileage as well. This is because of the extra time idling at stop lights and being stuck in traffic, the stop and go driving, and the lower speeds you are driving. Car manufacturers specify city miles and highway miles for this reason. So well your car may get 40 miles per gallon on the open road, you may only get 25 miles per gallon in a congested city.

Crime rates are higher.

This isn’t the case in every city, but compared to suburban or rural areas the chance of crime tends to be higher in cities. Your vehicle may have a higher chance of being stolen or broken into, which is not only expensive in and of itself, but can cause your insurance premiums to increase. 


Should I get a car in the city?

Ultimately it is up to you if owning a car in the city is worth it. If the cost and potential stress is outweighed by the convenience it offers, then getting a car might be a great option for you. After all, it is hard to beat the freedom that comes with owning a car. You may also choose to share a car with a roommate or loved one to help split the costs associated with ownership. 

What kind of car is best for city driving?


If you weigh the pros and cons of owning a car in the city and decide that it’s worth it to you, you may be wondering what type of car is the best for city driving. Here are some of the important characteristics you should look for in a city car:

  • A car that’s small enough to maneuver and park easily but large enough to fit what you need.

  • A car that gets good city gas mileage. 

  • A car that has a tight turning radius.

  • A car with a good camera system to help you park.

  • A car with pedestrian detection.


Driving in the city is very different from driving in a rural area and your car should be equipped to handle it. Compact to mid-size cars are generally a good bet in terms of size. A large SUV or truck will most likely be difficult to maneuver and park. A car that is known for efficiency and good gas mileage, such a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla may be a perfect choice for city driving. If your budget is a little higher, a BMW 2 Series may be a sportier and more fun selection. A Tesla Model 3 is another great option that blows the other competitors out of the water in terms of gas mileage. With 390 miles on a single charge, it may be the most practical in terms of fuel economy. 


If an SUV is what you want and need, there are a number of smaller SUVs that might work for you even in a city environment. The Hyundai Kona gets great gas mileage (30 mpg city) and is a pretty affordable option. The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid has a slightly higher price tag, but with 41 mpg city it’s hard to beat.

That’s your guide to owning a car in the city.

Owning a car comes with a lot of benefits, but it’s not without its downsides. If you are considering getting a car in the city, be sure you can afford it. If you already own a car, refinancing your car loan can make car ownership a whole lot more affordable. Contact Auto Approve today to see how much money you could save!



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