City Dweller? Owning A Car Could Be Costly, Frustrating & Pointless

It’s hard to believe that there was a time when the residential streets of our towns and cities were gloriously wide and empty – rather than endlessly lined with parked cars that leave just enough width for a single stream of traffic.

Damage to the wing mirrors, body panels and paintwork of parked cars is a common result – I know, it’s happened to me more than once. On-street parking is one of the curses of modern urban life; our towns and cities just aren’t designed for it.

The average urban car owner uses their car for just 4.6 hours per week – meaning that it spends 97% of the time parked up, according to new research from car rental firm Europcar. The reality is that car owners will often use public transport instead of their own car because it makes much more sense – and avoids the cost and stress of parking at both ends of what is often a short journey.

My position is much like this – I live in a town centre and can walk or catch the bus everywhere I need to go in a typical week. I struggle to use my car once a week. In fact, the only reason I still own a car at all is that my car is actually a campervan that I use for holidays. If I did just have a car, I would have sold it by now and switched to renting a car when I want one for the weekend.

This would have a number of benefits for me – in the six years I have lived at my current address, which has on-street parking only, I have experienced the following damage to the vehicles I’ve owned:

  • Minor dent caused by a dustbin lorry – no proof
  • Bumper paintwork damaged by a dustbin blowing over in gales one night
  • Major dent and damage to rear door lock caused (I think) by a supermarket delivery van one dark evening. No evidence and no way of recovering (considerable) costs of repairs
  • Miscellaneous minor scratches and tiny dints caused by passers by, children’s balls, bicycles, etc…

I’ve also seen other people lose wing mirrors and gain dents on their cars, as well as a few acts of vandalism. At my last address, my car got keyed. This isn’t unusual, either – according to Europcar, 44% of city car owners say there car has been damaged or vandalised due to long-term on-street parking.

It’s a pain in the neck, and frankly, I hate it. Washing the campervan is a pain as I have to do it in the street, so have to dive out of the way when traffic comes past. Any maintenance jobs are similarly awkward, and the whole thing is even more frustrating because most of the time I don’t even need the thing – it just sits there on the street, getting dirty, depreciating and occasionally being damaged.

If it wasn’t for my campervan being an essential part of my holiday lifestyle, I’d switch to renting only – especially as many companies (like Europcar and my local branch of Enterprise) will now deliver and collect for free, so I wouldn’t even have the hassle of getting to and from the car rental office.

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