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Old Baldy, Canada | photo by Cameron Schaus
Conservation Issues of the Ventana Chapter | santa cruz transportation

Online brochure computes true cost of driving

June 2010

You may have wondered what it really costs to drive your car. Right away most people think of the obvious costs: purchasing and maintaining a car, gas, oil, insurance, registration, parking, and tolls. Many people also know that other costs associated with automobiles are paid for by taxpayers. These indirect costs include highway construction and maintenance. Since those fees don’t come directly from a driver’s pocket, they aren’t usually considered as costs of driving. However, indirect costs are very real, along with other hidden environmental and social costs that drivers and non-drivers alike pay to support automobile travel.

Commute Solutions, funded by the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission, has revised its brochure, The True Costs of Driving, on its website, To help compute what your costs are, the website includes a link to a driving calculator.

When one considers both the indirect and direct costs of driving, taking the car instead of, say, a bike becomes more expensive. For example, if gas is $3/gallon and your car gets 30 mpg, you might initially think it costs only 10¢/mile to drive somewhere. But if you consider all the costs, that number is more like $1.36/mile.

Direct costs of driving include insurance, registration, motor vehicle taxes, any finance charges, depreciation, gas, maintenance and tires, parking, and tolls. Indirect costs include travel time, collisions, road and highway construction/maintenance, and operation, free parking at destinations, waste disposal for car batteries, tires, etc., air pollution, road noise, carbon dioxide reduction, external resource consumption, water pollution, and more.

What is not considered in the brochure are the indirect costs to health due to sitting in a car as opposed to choosing more active transportation and the cost to the environment from catastrophic oil spills. Perhaps in the next edition.

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