How To Save $12,000 a Year – Hint: Drive Less.

by on February 12, 2015 · 10 comments

in Culture, Economy, Energy, Environment, Life Events, Ocean Beach, San Diego

John Anderson bikeInAirBy John Anderson

Our family of four is a single-car household.  We’ve lived in San Diego since Fall 2009 (5.5 years as of this writing) and have selected our residences in San Diego where we live based on where we work.  We’re currently on our third neighborhood.  Having a short commute and a variety of transport options is important to us for reasons of both time and money.  Today we use bicycles as our primary method of transport, supplemented by our car, bus, Car2Go, and Uber.

Our current car is a 2002 Ford Focus station wagon which we purchased in March 2012.  We bought it with 72,700 miles and today, about three years late it has 88,130.  15,430 miles over three years yields an average of 5,143 miles per year.  We’ve taken a few road trips to Eureka and Phoenix but mostly have used the car for beach trips and some errands or airport pickups.

The average Californian driver averages 13,636 miles per year so at average rates our household would be at 27,272 miles per year.  We’re currently at 18.9% of that figure and trending downward.  Using the IRS mileage rate of 57.5 cents that means we’re saving about $12,724 per year just on operational costs.  That kind of money makes a big difference to a single-income family.

I share this only to show that even with a family and living in a city and region that is constantly referred to as auto-centric it is possible to reduce the transportation impact on your wallet and environment.  It starts with reducing non-discretionary miles – commuting to work, school, and other frequented destinations.  Choosing to live and work in closer proximity can save you massive amounts of money as Mr. Money Mustache details.  It also helps to build your neighborhood community since you can spend more time in it, rather than driving on the road.

In San Diego we have the good fortune to have mild temperatures and little inclement weather.  There is no city in the U.S. that provides better conditions for getting out of the car, all we have to do is choose to take advantage.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Page February 12, 2015 at 1:22 pm

One key question, did you buy a home in each of the three neighborhoods or did you rent?


John Anderson February 13, 2015 at 9:53 am

Geoff – Not sure of relevance, curious to hear your perspective. We’ve rented twice and owned twice (Did both in one neighborhood. ).


Geoff Page February 13, 2015 at 10:40 am

The relevance is that you stated that you “selected our residences in San Diego where we live based on where we work.” This may be possible when renting but is far more difficult to do when owning a home.


John Anderson February 15, 2015 at 10:49 am

Geoff – Agree to some extent, buying a home entails more capital commitment certainly. However, there is usually a correlation between rent and purchase prices in any given area so money saved could be equally applied to rent or mortgage. (A friend noted that the $12,000 noted in this article would pay for about $230K of house at current rates.)


John February 28, 2015 at 12:48 am

More capital commitment initially sure… but most of my friends who bought homes 15-25 years ago currently enjoy mortgage payments about the same as a 2 br apartment rents for in an average neighborhood. Another frend who bought a new home in Rancho Bernardo in the late 70s paid it off a few years ago, rented it out for $2250/mo and lives in a humble rented home in OB he shares with his GF splitting the $1500 rent. His house just sold for a bit over $500,000, he is contemplating how to reinvest.
So if we are talking buying a home today sure its a big nut to crack but home ownership is a long haul thing.
If you were wondering if I had a relevant point well so was I. Oh yeah its that the current employment model rarely sees a long career with one company and instead a life of jockeying oneself into a variety of positions that require frequent relocations. That means moving. First and last rent, deposits often unrefunded, the month you live in both paying both rents while you move…
Considering both the factors above make the whole premise you suggest beneficial if you only look at half the facts.
Note I am not bashing riding a bicycle, I would love a world where I could use my ~2000 Klein road bike to go everywhere and do everything. In fact I did for a couple of years a while back, putting less than 1000 miles a year on my 2 cars.
I just recognize the practicality of this is rare for most of us and most people I have seen who repeatedly move near their jobs are, well. either nauseusly dedicated to work or some level of disturbed. I tried it once in the 90s moving to the golden triangle, couldnt stand the neighborhood. Anything I might have saved on the short commute I more than spent getting out of there as often as I could!


AM February 13, 2015 at 10:52 am

I like this idea, and wished it were more feasible/safe to do for everyone.

Was the cost of using the bus, Car2Go, and Uber factored into the reported savings? This is definitely relevant from an overall savings standpoint.


John Anderson February 15, 2015 at 10:51 am

AM – I didn’t include those costs, we don’t really track them and use them sparingly. I’d estimated about $300 per year for those costs. My wife primarily uses the bus and could get a free pass from work but elects to use a bike instead because it’s faster and more convenient. Our Uber costs are pretty much exclusively to/from the airport which we would take a cab regardless of our car ownership.


Kandi Anderson February 18, 2015 at 3:19 pm

Hey John!!

I think its great you are doing that…. Myself, I got rid of my car in Jan 2012… so NOW 3 yrs later… I am 90lbs lighter… and I dont think I could ever own another vehicle again.


John Anderson February 19, 2015 at 8:56 pm

Kandi – that is awesome! Any chance you’d like to talk about how / why you made the change? Would love to talk with you. Drop me a line – if you are.



Geoff Page February 20, 2015 at 8:10 am


Just thought you should know you are communicating with a woman who is admittedly homeless and has been for several years. Her decision about giving up a car and your theme are entirely different.


Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: