One of the most difficult things I’ve had to deal with living in Toronto is getting around the city.
Lets face it: our roads are incredibly congested and our public transit is not in the best shape. This makes getting from Point A to Point B a nightmare at the best of times.
As a busy millennial with a demanding job and tons of errands to run outside of work, a source of transportation is vital. Thankfully, living in a neighbourhood where there is a grocery store and other basic necessities makes things a little easier, but sometimes I need to get out of my little bubble of a neighbourhood and explore the rest of the city.
Between our congested roads and a shotty transit system, we’re left contemplating whether we should rely on transit to get us around town, or if purchasing a car is worth the investment.
As someone who has used transit to get around the city for school, internships, volunteering, work and leisure, I have some great insights on the perks of taking public transportation.
- You will save money
A new car will cost you thousands of dollars to purchase. And then you have added expenses to deal with such as parking, maintenance, gas, insurance, and the list goes on.
Transit will only cost you $141.50 per month for an Adult Metropass. If you need to find ways to save money, public transit is a perfect solution.
- If you don’t have far to go, don’t bother with a car
One thing I always kept in mind when looking for a job was location. I told myself if I landed a job that was easily accessible by transit, there is no need for a car. However, if I ended up working outside of Toronto (i.e. Mississauga, Oakville, Markham, Newmarket), I would have 100% purchased a car. Mind you, if I did this, I would not have moved out (keeping my budget in mind!!)
I ended up getting a job at a place that takes 10-15 minutes for me to commute to by public transit daily, so the decision for me was easy.
It is also important to keep in mind if you spend a lot of leisure time outside of the city. All of my friends and family live in the city, most of whom are just a few subway stops away. If you spend your weekends trekking to Aurora or Scarborough, you may want to evaluate if you are up to taking transit that often. A friend of mine has her own car because she travels up to her cottage almost every weekend.
My advice here: transit is great when you’re travelling in and around Toronto, but if you plan to travel further, you need to evaluate if you have the time (and patience) for taking transit very often.
Since I’ve never owned my very own car, I wanted to get some great advice and tips to share from a millennial who recently purchased their first car. My colleague Leanne kindly accepted the offer to be interviewed on her car purchasing experience and has shared her story with us:
Q: Did you decide to get a used car or new car? Why did you decide to go this route?
A: We bought a new 2016 Volkswagen Golf. After speaking to family and friends who own cars, my partner and I ended up going with financing a new car, rather than buying a used car or leasing a new/used car.
There were a few reasons for this:
- Budget: We determined that our monthly budget could support the addition of car payments, insurance and gas
- Maintenance costs: We felt more comfortable investing in a new car versus a used car due to the potential for more up-front maintenance costs; depending on the age and state of the used car, we might be faced with more maintenance costs in the first few years
- Convenience: Given our busy schedules and lack of vehicle, we didn’t have the flexibility to hunt around for used cars; going to a dealership accessible by the TTC was helpful
We chose the baseline model, rather than the more expensive ones with the bells and whistles.
Q: What financial tips do you have for millennials looking to purchase their first car?
A: First and foremost, I’d recommend doing your research to determine if purchasing your first car is something that can fit into your budget. There are a number of variables to consider, from buying new vs. used, to insurance costs, to parking and gas, so it’s important to look at all of these factors. Look online and speak to friends and family – and be flexible. Your first-choice vehicle might not be feasible within your budget.
Q: Owning a car in the city is expensive (parking, permits, insurance, gas, maintenance, etc.). Do you have any advice for managing these costs? Were you aware of these added costs before purchasing your car?
A: The high cost of owning a car was the main reason why my partner and I lived in the city for four years before purchasing our car. We didn’t feel comfortable exhausting our budget on car ownership, so we waited until we both felt more at ease taking on the additional costs.
My biggest piece of advice would be not to rush into purchasing a car if you don’t necessarily need one. Wait until you have more flexibility in your budget before diving in.
While some of these costs are harder to control, but there are some steps you can take to cut some costs. For example, though I now own a car, I often weigh the costs of driving somewhere in the city compared to taking the TTC. If driving – and paying for parking – will far exceed the cost of transit, I’ll opt for the TTC. I also chose a small hatchback car that is fuel-efficient, so I’m not spending an arm and a leg on gas.
I’d also recommend carving out some time to research insurance quotes. There is a benefit to shopping around if you’re cost-conscious as you may be eligible for a discount on your premium for various reasons, including being an alumnus of a post-secondary institution.
Q: How often do you use your car vs. the TTC? (How do you commute to and from work? Weekend outings? etc.)
A: I still buy a Metropass and take the TTC to and from work every day, unless I have a client meeting outside of the city (which is normally once per month). The cost of parking is too high to warrant driving to work, not to mention the negative impact on the environment. We generally use the car for errands in the evenings (grocery store trips are much easier now!) and on the weekends to visit friends and family outside of the city.
Q: The TTC connects the city through subways, busses and streetcars. In a city that is so easily connected, but also so congested, do you find your purchase was worth it?
A: The biggest benefit to owning a car has been our increased ability to see our families and friends. Both my parents and my partner’s parents live in the suburbs, as do many friends – and having a car means we can pop out for a visit on the weekends more frequently than we could taking public transit.
One of the other motivations was the cost of car rentals. I’d been using car-sharing for a few years (which is not that cheap!), and also had to rent a car for numerous weekends each year. Renting a car in Canada is not very affordable, nor is it convenient, and the costs of car rentals were adding up and creating logistical issues in terms of parking. Rather than continuing to shell out hundreds and hundreds of dollars each year on rentals, we decided it was time to own.
Well there you have it! I hope this post has helped shed some light on whether or not purchasing a car is a smart decision for you right now, or if transit will do the trick in getting you from Point A to Point B.
I hope to one day get a car, but right now, I need to continue saving up money so this can one day fit into my budget.
Discussion: Are you a car owner? What advice do you have for millennials weighing the pros and cons of purchasing their first vehicle? Do you feel transit is sufficient and cars are not necessary when living in the city?