back to articles | February 08, 2021 | Jeff Good

Categories: Tips & Insights For Car Buying Vehicle & Buying Research Useful Automotive Information

Should You Own a Car in a Big City?

Living in a big city can come with a lot of advantages (and, sure, some disadvantages). If you don’t mind crowds, city living offers events, experiences, food, and culture.


Living in a big city can come with a lot of advantages (and, sure, some disadvantages). If you don’t mind crowds, city living offers events, experiences, food, and culture.

These cities also have vast public transportation networks that means that you can easily get to just about anywhere for a low price. Which is why many residents in large metropolitan areas decide against owning a car for their day-to-day living.

But owning a car does come with freedom and a lot of other benefits that many city slickers enjoy. So if you’re living in a large city, it’s fair to ask the question—is owning a car in a big city right for you?

Here are some things to consider.

Your Gas Mileage Will Suffer

While all car owners are constantly on the lookout for ways to maximize their gas mileage, one of the immediate downsides of living in the big city comes from the extra money you’ll be spending on gas.

This shouldn’t be surprising—there’s a reason why gas mileage differentiates between “city” and “highway” when calculating miles per gallon. But it’s still a reality that car owners have to accept while living in a big city.

The reason why so many people in a city don’t own a car has a lot to do with gas concerns. Public transportation is readily available, relatively convenient, and much cheaper than car ownership.

A Car Makes Running Errands Easier

From groceries to furniture shopping, having a car in the city makes common errands much easier. For anyone who has had to lug five bags of groceries, or takeout from their favorite restaurant onto a public bus can appreciate the ability to go straight from the store to your home in the comfort of a car (without all that heavy lifting).

By having a car, your errands are easier, quicker, and a lot less uncomfortable. For many, that benefit alone is worth the extra costs of insurance and gas.

Parking Can Be Expensive (or a Nightmare!)

If you’re used to living in a more suburban or rural area, the idea of having to spend time or money finding a parking spot is completely foreign to you. But if you have a car in a big city, you’ll likely discover that finding a parking spot can be a major headache.

In more densely populated areas, in order to find a parking spot, you’ll either find yourself paying hundreds of dollars a month for your own parking spot, or you’ll be spending ten, twenty, or even thirty minutes at a time trying to find an open place to park.

For many, the stress and anxiety of actually parking your car once you hit the road is enough to stop them from even considering a car in the city.

You Have the Freedom to Travel

Who doesn’t love a good road trip? When you’re living in the city, sometimes it’s nice to get away and take in some fresh air. But if you don’t have a car, your options are limited and excited. No matter where you go, you’ll likely end up having to rent a car to get to your destination (unless you take a bus, which can be inconvenient in its own way).

But having a car means that any time you want to go for a day trip or a road trip, you have that ability and freedom. You can also use your car to explore the outskirts of your city that might not be accessible by public transportation.

Owning a car brings with it the freedom to pick yourself up and go somewhere new whenever the impulse strikes. That’s especially true when living in a big city.

Traffic Can Cause Headaches

One of the immediate negatives of car ownership in a big city is the congestion you’ll have to deal with on a daily basis. In fact, drivers in cities lose an average of 100 miles per year to traffic jams and gridlocks.

Not only does city traffic take away your time, it also is extremely stressful. No one likes to sit behind a line of cars standing completely still with no sense of relief in sight, and traffic is a leading cause of road rage.

In addition to the emotional impact, heavy traffic in cities means that there is a higher rate of accidents, especially minor accidents that, while not hazardous to your health, lead to costly repairs.

But Driving Is Still Faster Than Public Transit

Even with traffic, driving to your destination in a city will get you there faster than public transit almost every time. With public transportation, you have to wait for the correct train, bus, or subway to arrive. And once it does, you make frequent stops, so a three mile trip that can be driven in ten minutes by car can take half an hour on a bus.

While some might enjoy the ability to sit down and read a book on the train, if you’re looking to get to work, home, or anywhere else as quickly as possible, you’re better off having a car than relying on public transportation.

Ultimately, the Choice Is Yours

At the end of the day, there’s no straightforward way to determine whether owning a car in the city is right for you. It depends on the individual. For some, the freedom and efficiency of car ownership makes purchasing a new or used car a slam dunk.

Others are perfectly content taking their time to get to their destination, or even prefer avoiding the stress of traffic and looking for parking. Others still might not love taking public transportation, but want to avoid the extra costs associated with owning a car.

Owning a car is a major choice, with costs for insurance, gas, and upkeep but also the freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want. But if you decide that car ownership is right for you, make sure to go to to get started on your ownership journey.