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I have not covered yet on this blog how we get around. You may be surprised to hear that we mostly use a car. If you follow several personal finance blogs, you may have heard that cars are almost evil. Most people will recommend you ride a bike or take public transportation.
However, I think that cars are not evil for your finances. I dislike driving, but I like the freedom a car gives me. Moreover, where I live, it is almost mandatory to own a car. We use it to get around nearly everywhere.
In this article, we see how we get around our car and how we travel abroad. I also detail the cost related to my vehicle. I do not recommend having a car for everybody. The choice is for everyone to make. But there are ways to be frugal with a car.
I can understand people who do not want to drive. If you live in a city, for example, it is not as useful. But cars are not evil! You can become financially independent and have a car! And it is a good way to get around, even for frugal people.
Get around in Switzerland
As long as we stay in Switzerland, we always get around in our car. So far, I am the only driver. But Mrs. The Poor Swiss is learning to drive, so this may change. I am not a big fan of driving, but driving is necessary. I have never had an accident, so I am not a bad driver either. And it is so convenient.
We are living in a tiny village. There are not many buses every day. And they are not covering a large part of where we often go. For instance, there is no bus going directly to my mom. I have to take a bus, a train, and another bus.
There is no bus to my grandmother’s home, either. There are many examples like this. Living in a village in Switzerland means you need a car to get around.
Neither of us has a public transportation card. Since we have a car, there is no point in paying a gigantic price for public transportation. As I have already mentioned, I dislike Swiss Public Transportation.
It is way too expensive. Some people will agree that the quality makes up for the price. But I do not think it is enough. I prefer older trains and buses, and they have much cheaper fares.
Go to work
As I said, my village is relatively isolated. I cannot reach my work using a single bus. I need to take two different buses If I want to get to work. It would take me about 35 minutes to go to my office by public transportation. It only takes me 20 minutes in my car. Using my vehicle saves me 30 minutes each day. I think it is definitely worth the money.
Moreover, I do not work at very regular hours. Since there are very few buses to our village, this could be an issue where I cannot go all the way to my village.
I do not mind walking ten minutes from the next village when it is sunny. However, the trip is not as nice when it is raining or when there are thirty centimeters of snow on the ground!
Some people may ask why we live in an isolated village. There are many reasons for this. I will not go into detail in this article. But villages are calm and quiet. You can have more room outside your apartment. The view is nicer, and the people are nicer as well. Most of the time, rent prices are also better. And I hate cities!
Now, we do not have a big car, nor an expensive one. We have a small Hyundai i20 that I purchased new. The car is practical, small, and does not use too much gas. It is not very costly. I bought it new (about 12000 CHF). It is the lows of new cars in Switzerland.
I am not an advocate of fancy cars. They are a waste of money unless you use them as your day job (driving teacher, for instance). In which case, you want something more comfortable. In most cases, you just want a simple car that gets you from A to B. That simple car must be cheap. Cars are losing value very quickly. Your vehicle is most definitely not an investment.
I am driving relatively minor compared to most people. I am driving less than 9 thousand kilometers a year. I have had my car for six years and have driven about 45’000 kilometers. And the car is still in perfect shape. I hope I can still drive it for six more years.
Now, when we are traveling, it is a different story.
If it is close enough to Switzerland, like the close parts of France, Italy or Germany, we will use our car. Otherwise, either we will take a train or a plane. Several places in neighboring countries can be reached by train with reasonable prices and good times.
When we went to Orléans in France, we took the train. But thinking about it, we should have taken the car. It would have cheaper, faster, and more comfortable with the luggage. And once you have a car on vacation, it is often much easier to get around unless you visit a large city.
Once we need to go farther away, we go by plane. Even though we live a bit closer to the Geneva airport, I prefer to go from Zürich airport. It is better organized and faster to go through the different checks than Geneva.
However, some flights are cheaper from Geneva. We try to look for cheap flights. However, we are not going crazy and taking multiple-stop flights to save a few pennies. It is already uncomfortable being in a plane for several hours without needing to wait several more hours in various airports.
We try to look at the plane tickets as much as possible. We use several comparators to find good deals. I am mainly using ebookers and sometimes Google Flights. Once we have a good deal, we are also going on the website of the airplane company to see if they have better discounts or the same deals.
We take no travel insurance and mostly tickets that cannot be reimbursed. I do not think travel insurance is worth it for the price. How many times did you have to cancel a flight?
Unfortunately, I have no super cool travel hacking tips for you. Travel hacking in Switzerland is pretty bad. Travel hacking credit cards are worse than regular credit cards. And miles rewards in Switzerland are not fancy. But if you have nice travel tips from Switzerland, please let me know!
When we are traveling abroad, we try to keep it affordable. For this, we have several tips to save money when traveling abroad.
Go to the airport
To go to the airport, we generally take the car and park it there. It depends on the time we have to park the car. If the parking for these days is cheaper than the train tickets, we take our car. For instance, parking in Zürich is about 16 CHF per day. My car cost me around 30 CHF of gas to go to Zürich and back.
One train ticket to Zürich is 63 CHF per person for us (single-fare). And we also have to factor in the bus for 7.60 CHF more. So if we can park the car for less than 280 CHF, we can take it. That means we can park our car for about two weeks before it is interesting to take the train. That is crazy.
Of course, we are also considering cheaper tickets such as the daily tickets that each county in Switzerland offers. We only pay 152 CHF for the return tickets if we have the four of them. The car can stay for seven days at the airport, and we save money.
In both Zürich and Geneva airports, you can reserve your parking spot online in advance. Booking your parking can save you some time at the airport. In Zürich, there is even a discount if you reserve your spot online. In Geneva, there is no discount. You have to pay for the reservation. But it still beats missing your flight because of time lost in parking.
Once we are abroad
Generally, when we are in another country, we use public transportation. All the foreign public transportation systems I have tried so far are better than Switzerland’s. We also can go around quite cheaply. So far, the best example of public transportation I have seen is China. There are many buses, trains, and subways, which are very cheap.
We are also considering Uber (Didi in China) to go around. But I am not a huge fan and did not have many great experiences with it. However, it can be pretty cheap and works well for long trips. And in most countries, Taxis have a fair price, so we take them when there is no other way.
The costs of our car
I should also cover the costs of our car.
As I said, my car cost me 12’000 CHF. I plan to drive it for at least 12 years, which is 1000 CHF per year. I paid cash for the vehicle. I have no interest payments of any sort on that car.
On the other hand, I do not count on any resale value. I do not trust its value on my net worth, either. Once again, a car is not an investment. It is an expense.
Of course, there are other costs. First of all, there is mandatory car insurance. In Switzerland, you must have civil responsibility insurance for your car. This insurance will cover damage to other people and their vehicles.
Then, you can opt for full insurance or simply take no secondary insurance. For now, I have complete insurance for my car. My car insurance cost me 492 per semester, so 984 CHF per year.
I have not paid that much so far, but I am counting on 500 CHF per year for my car maintenance. You need to make maintenance every few years. And the tires also need changing from time to time. Since I do not drive a lot and have a small car, gas expenses are pretty reasonable.
On average, I pay 100 CHF monthly for my car’s gas. I also have to pay 60 CHF monthly for parking at my home. I could not have counted this cost since I also have to pay for it without a car, but let’s count it.
That gives us a total of 4404 CHF per year for our car. I do not think it is terrible. Of course, it is not negligible, but we use our car to go all around. It is incredibly convenient. It is cheaper than if we had the general public transportation travel card. This one costs 3860 CHF per year and person. We are still about 40% cheaper than paying for two travel cards! It is pretty reasonable.
I have an entire article about car insurance if you want to learn more and save money on your car insurance.
As you can see, we get around, mostly in our car. And we manage to do it at a reasonable cost. It is entirely possible to be frugal and have a car.
I do not understand people who are strongly advocating against having a car. I am not talking about having a Porsche Cayenne with a large loan. I am talking about having a small car that will get you around. And even with a car, we sometimes take public transportation to save on parking.
When we are abroad, we generally use public transportation to get around. I find foreign public transportation to be superior to the system in Switzerland. Except maybe for punctuality. We travel to other countries by plane or sometimes train. We are trying to find cheap tickets and buy them a long time in advance.
To learn more about cars and personal finance, read why cars are not the evil of personal finance!
What do you think? Should we get rid of our car? How do you get around?