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One thing I did not cover yet on this blog is how do 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 do not really like driving, but I like the freedom that 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 post, we are going to see how we get around our car and how we are traveling abroad. I am also going to detail the cost related to my vehicle. I am not going to recommend having a car for everybody. The choice is for everyone to do. 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 perfectly fine way to get around even for frugal people.
Get around in Switzerland
As long as we stay in Switzerland, we always get around with 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 it is necessary to drive. 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 going 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 before, I do not like 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 would prefer older trains and buses and much cheaper fares.
Go to work
As I said, my village is quite 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 car 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 am not going to go into detail in this post. But villages are calm and quiet. You can have more room outside your apartment. The view is nicer, and 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 very practical, small, and does not use too much gas. It is not very costly. I bought it new (about 12000 CHF). It is on the lows of new cars in Switzerland.
I am not an advocate of fancy cars. They are a waste of money unless you use it 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., And that simple car must be something cheap. Cars are losing value very quickly. Your vehicle is most definitely not an investment.
I am driving quite little compared to most people. I am driving less than 9 thousand kilometers a year. I have had my car for six years and 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 are going to 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 are visiting 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 much better organized and much 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-stops 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 in advance as possible. We use several comparators to find good deals. I am mostly 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 deals 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 are trying 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 at the airport. 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, in Zürich, the parking 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, right?
Of course, we are also considering cheaper tickets such as the daily tickets that each county in Switzerland offers. If we have the four of them, we are only paying 152 CHF for the return tickets. We can still stay for seven days at the airport with the car and 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 the 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’s. There are many buses and trains and subways, and it is 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 quite cheap and works well for long trips. And in most countries, Taxis have a fair price, so we take it 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 in total, so that is 1000 CHF per year. I paid cash for the car. 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 count 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 the 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 complete 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 did not pay that much so far, but I am counting on 500 CHF per year for the maintenance of my car. 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 I have a small car, gas expenses are quite reasonable. On average, I pay 100 CHF per month for the gas for my car. I also have to pay 60 CHF per month for parking at my home. I could not have counted this cost since I also have to pay 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 both of us had the general public transportation travelcard (AG). This one cost 3860 CHF per year and person. We are still about 40% cheaper than having to pay two travelcards! I am going to say 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, in my opinion. 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 are generally using 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?