With First Bus commuters facing a transport headache, Ed Bowsher, of money-saving website lovemoney.com, weighs up the costs of taking the lone road or riding the railways
WHICHEVER way you look at it, it’s going to hit you in the pocket.
If you currently rely on one of the axed First Bus services and are unable to find a suitable Lothian alternative then you will be facing a difficult decision.
So what are the options? The two cheapest are using the train or putting environmental concerns to one side and jumping in the car.
But what will the impact be on your finances?
You may be surprised – an old car could be cheaper than you expect. Assuming beggars can’t be choosers, we went online.
A quick search revealed we could pick up a petrol Nissan Micra (2000), 1000cc, with 71,000 miles on the clock for £850. And there were plenty of other options available for under a grand, including an S-type Jaguar for those who like to commute in style.
So we allocated a £1000 car-buying budget, and assumed 25 per cent depreciation per year.
Using the Micra as our example car, insurance would cost around £350 with a no-claims discount and tax would be a straightforward £130 per year.
Assuming the car is picked carefully, we budgeted for a service costing £300, an MOT costing £55 plus a maintenance budget of £600 each year.
With petrol costing an eye-watering £1.40/litre (or £6.37/gallon), fuel costs would be high. Assuming the car did 40miles per gallon driving 54 miles a day (27 miles there and back) for five days a week, 48 weeks a year, the cost would be around £1988 per year. Yikes.
But there are ways of reducing the cost of petrol. You can check where the cheapest petrol garages are, for example, by visiting PetrolPrices.com.
For a bigger saving, you should try car sharing. If you can find someone who lives and works near you, then you can travel in each other’s cars and the cost of petrol will be a lot cheaper.
You also have the flexibility of deciding to stay in town if you want to have fun in Edinburgh.
Why not try a fuel-efficient car? Admittedly, they tend to be the cars that have been launched recently – and so don’t really come into the “banger” bracket – but there are also fuel-efficient cars that were launched seven or eight years ago and would be cheaper. How fuel efficient is your car? That’s a big factor in any fuel costs you rack up.
The way you drive will also affect costs. Avoiding hard braking, and drive at a more consistent speed – 55mph is the most efficient – to reduce fuel usage.
We’re also assuming free parking, which is clearly a rarity close to Edinburgh city centre.
One way of reducing parking costs would be to park a bit further out – on a residential street where you can park for free – or use work car parking as much as possible. Some companies offer priority car parking spaces for car-sharing employees as well.
But if you work in the city centre and going further out is not an option then parking will be a problem and a significant extra expense.
Insurance is another important cost to consider if looking at the banger option. We have factored in £350 with an existing no-claims discount but that can vary considerably.
For a 20-year-old male, the cost of insurance will generally be much more expensive, but for an older woman or man it is much lower and therefore much more attractive. You often find insurance rates are lower if you are married because the insurer thinks that the person will be much more stable.
So, the grand theoretical cost per year of buying and using a banger for the daily commute would be £3672 per year.
Now, we should stress that we’ve done a lot of estimating here. And we’ve assumed that the “banger” is reliable enough to run for a few years with no hideous problems.
The alternative is the train. You could get a one-year season ticket covering the journey from Dunbar to Edinburgh for £1636. That’s a lot cheaper than the car, but it’s also a lot more expensive than the bus. You can currently get an annual bus ticket for £945 a year.
But with the train at least, you have the certainty of knowing you will never be landed with a huge cost out of the blue.
With a car, for example, you might suddenly find that you are hit with a major maintenance bill.
So driving the car is clearly the most expensive of the three, but perhaps it’s not as expensive as you might have expected. And at least it gives you the freedom to make other journeys in your car at the weekend.