Over the last month, I've rented a car twice - the first time to do some light moving and the second time to take a trip to Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Each time I've been pretty surprised by how much it actually costs to rent a car. For four hours on a Sunday, it cost me $53 to rent a standard 4-door sedan and for a whole Saturday, it was $160.
Naturally, I started thinking about if it was somehow more cost effective to own a car in the city rather than rent. Think of the weekend trips to Costco, drives to DC, and road trips to Boston, Philly, or perhaps even Niagara Falls. And if I owned a car in the city, it'd likely be a self-fulfilling prophecy in a way in that I'd probably use it more. But how much does it really cost to own a car in NYC?
Well, there's only one way to find out, so let's break it down. Note, for this analysis, I'm assuming that I would have bought a used Toyota Prius outright, because let's face it - it's probably the most cost-efficient in the long-run.
Parking: Ahhh, the biggest expense of the equation and equal to what some people pay in rent in Utah. I took a look at a couple of garages in the city and saw monthly rates from $250-500. The math seems to be getting clearer already...
Insurance: The last time I owned a car, which was almost 10 years ago, I paid about $80 a month for insurance. After polling a couple of friends in NYC, they estimated their insurance payments at about $100 a month.
Gas: Like parking, gas seems like the other variable that could vary widely depending on 1) how much you drive and 2) what type of car you have. Luckily for me, if I ever get a car, it'll probably be a Toyota Prius, which is a beast when it comes to gas efficiency. The Prius gets approximately 45 miles per gallon (now it's up to 50+) and it can hold about 10 gallons of gas. That comes to 450 miles for a tank of gas, which is probably much more than I would need in a month. At an estimated $5 per gallon of gas (a very conservative estimate for 2016), I'd assume I'd need to spend $50 a month on gas.
Misc: I'm not sure if there would be really any other fees, but just for some cushion, I'll add in $50 a month to cover tolls, maintenance, and parking tickets.
So overall, we come to:
Monthly Total: $450-700
Annual Total: $5,400-8,400
With those costs, I'd need to drive the car more than 3-5 times a month to make it worth it (assuming the alternative is $160 per day). Right now, aside from non-existent drives to the grocery store (FreshDirect comes to me) and suburban malls (I mainly do online shopping), and parks, I could use the car for our trips to DC ($196 roundtrip on Amtrak for two) and Westport ($50 roundtrip on Metro North for two). But I'm not sure what gets us to the 3-5 times a month.
My gut and the math tells me that right now is not the right time to get a car. At some point down the line, it could make sense to get a car and the economics could look pretty favorable if I'm somehow able to snag a parking spot for $250 a month.