Rounding it up
The overwhelming majority of Canadians—about 84%, to be more specific—own a car.
There are many costs associated with car ownership, including fuel and insurance fees.
For young Canadians, buying an eco-friendly car is likely a wise investment.
Getting a car is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make in your life. It may determine where you live, what job you end up taking, and whether you can take a vacation or embark on other journeys across Canada. Many younger Canadians are justifiably concerned with the costs associated with owning a car; plus with public transit as an option, is a personal car really necessary?
As it turns out, there are many benefits to owning a car as a Canadian. Familiarize yourself with these pros and cons of car ownership before buying your first automobile for a grand Canadian road trip.
Car ownership is incredibly popular
Canadians are no strangers to the world of cars. An overwhelming majority of Canadian adults own a car, with a decently sized minority owning more than one. While it’s impossible to determine exactly how many people own a car at any given moment, due to constant car crashes and sales, data indicates that approximately 84 percent of surveyed Canadians own a car. Another 9 percent of Canadians don’t currently own a car but want to own one in the future. Approximately 37 percent of surveyed Canadians owned two or more vehicles. These cars are doubtlessly used for a wide variety of purposes every day, ranging from work commutes to personal vacations. Nevertheless, most cars aren’t actually driven that often.
The Angus Reid Global report indicates that the average Canadian only spends about 380 hours behind the wheel every year. For the remaining 8,380 hours of the year, the cars are sitting idle, usually in a driveway or parking lot. About 63 percent of survey respondents indicated that they didn’t even use their cars on a daily basis. Some younger Canadians are thus reasonably concerned that they’ll spend huge sums of money on a car only to have it sit around for most of the time they own it.
The benefits of car ownership
If most car owners barely make use of their automobiles in the first place, why bother buying one at all? The truth of the matter is that owning a car delivers a myriad of benefits even if you only make use of your personal vehicle a few times every week. For both young adults who are just getting started and senior citizens enjoying retirement, cars grant a level of personal freedom that’s virtually unmatched by other methods of transportation.
Canadian college students may also find that owning a car grants them unique privileges despite the additional financial responsibilities such ownership entails. They allow students to go on road trips, visit family and friends, and take care of their daily shopping needs.
The risks of car ownership
Owning a car isn’t always ideal. There are many costs associated with owning a car. The initial purchasing price is just the first of many bills you’ll have to pay to get behind the wheel. Canadian drivers are also legally required to purchase car insurance if they want to hit the open road. Much like the fact that you’re required to have a credit card to rent a car in Canada, you’ll need auto insurance if you want to go far without being pulled over.
It’s important to understand that auto insurance can be quite expensive. Still, it’s a very wise investment and can save you huge sums of money in the long run. While paying your monthly insurance bills are never enjoyable, that insurance coverage may be the only thing standing between you and financial ruin should someone else total your vehicle before driving away. It’s thus critical to remember that the “pros and cons” of car ownership in Canada can be quite nuanced.
One of the biggest cons of owning a car is regularly paying for gas, not to mention other maintenance costs. The overall costs of owning a vehicle can be incredibly high, and they can also be quite confusing. That probably explains why two-thirds of Canadians aren’t aware of the “true cost” of owning a vehicle. Be prepared to pay for the following if you own a car in Canada:
Depreciation - Virtually every time you start your engine and use your car, it loses some of its value to wear and tear. While some rare vintage models may become more valuable with time, the overwhelming majority of cars simply become worth less over the years.
Fuel - You can’t get to your destination without having some gas in the tank. According to the CAA, fuel is probably the most costly part of owning a car for most Canadians, who spend an average of $1,500 each year filling up their gas tanks (with a compact vehicle).
Environmental damage - Toxic emissions, which were once brushed under the rug, are now fueling global climate change like never before. Young Canadians want to save the environment and preserve our planet for future generations. With gas-powered automobiles, that’s incredibly difficult. Even with electric cars becoming the standard, environmental costs should always be factored into car ownership.
The risk of personal danger - Driving a car is one of the most dangerous things that the average Canadian or American does on a regular basis. In fact, car crashes are the leading cause of death for young Canadians. As useful as they are, remember that cars are incredibly dangerous to operate, even under pleasant conditions. This is a strong incentive to get insurance early in life.
Making the most of car ownership
Despite the risks of car ownership, millions of Canadians decide each year that purchasing an automobile is the right decision to make. Thus, getting the most out of your purchase is essential, so new owners should familiarize themselves with proper automobile maintenance.
Routine maintenance, which may refer to an oil change or replacing an air filter, will probably cost the average Canadian car owner a few hundred dollars each year. Depending on the make and model of your car, routine maintenance could be more costly—and time-consuming—than you’d initially expect. Always inquire about routine maintenance before buying a car, especially if you’re picking a brand with a limited dealership or maintenance presence in your region.
Taking regular care of your car is the only surefire way to mitigate depreciation. Even then, depreciation is ultimately unavoidable to some extent. Over the many years of owning a car, the loss in value from depreciation is probably the most expensive price the average Canadian will pay when it comes to car ownership. Regularly clean the interior and exterior of your car while practicing safe driving habits to mitigate depreciation.
Always stay on top of your insurance payments. Having insurance coverage will give you the legal right to drive while also affording you financial protection in the event of a collision. Worried about the price of auto insurance? Try bundling it with your home insurance to see if you can save money on both plans by combining them. Never miss an insurance payment, or your insurance fees will go up.
Finally, take some steps to familiarize yourself with auto theft, which is one of the most expensive and frustrating types of crime that regularly besets Canadians. It costs all Canadians millions of dollars each year and may happen to you regardless of where you live and drive.
There are many pros and cons associated with owning a car in Canada, so weigh them carefully to find out if it’s worth it for you.
Ryan Severance is a professional freelance author and the owner of American Scribe LLC. With degrees in political science and socio-legal studies, he writes about business, politics, and law for clients around the world.