Rental Report: Should I Keep My Car?

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Editor’s Note: This biweekly sponsored column is written by Rick Gersten, founder and CEO of Urban Igloo, a rental real estate firm that matches up renters with their ideal apartments, condos or houses. Please submit any questions in the comments section or via email.

In a lot of places, cars are a must. Sidewalks, public transportation and walkable neighborhoods just don’t exist everywhere. One of the greatest assets of the Metro D.C. area is the public transportation network and endless neighborhoods with everything you need right outside your front door. If you are relocating to the area keep in mind that having a car can be expensive. But if you work or go to school where public transportation is readily available, then perhaps getting rid of those wheels is a good plan. Here are a few items to consider when weighing the pros and cons of keeping your car.

Rent – Living within a half mile walk to the Metro can cost about 30 percent more than living just a little further away. With rent prices pushing $2000, that can certainly be enough to make you want to move a few miles out and hang on to your trusty vehicle. But there is so much more to it.

Parking – Parking in this area is difficult to say the least, not to mention pricey. It isn’t just parking at home you need to think about but parking at work. Depending on where you work, that could carry a hefty price, especially if you work somewhere in the District where Metro and buses are easily accessed. Parking at an apartment or condo can range anywhere from $50-300 or more. Same goes for monthly parking at garages in the heavy traffic locations. Some of the outer Metro stops have parking available for less, so that is an option if you choose to live further out. Prices for monthly Metro parking passes range from $45-65 per month.

Registration – If move to Arlington County, you will not only need to register your car with the state of Virginia, but also the county. You will have to pay personal property tax on the vehicle annually, and you will need your Arlington County permit. Personal property tax is based on the value of the car, and the Arlington County decal costs $33.00.

Time – This is one a lot of people may not really think about. But what is your time worth? Depending on where you live and work your commute time can be up to an hour or more with traffic. If you are able to hop on the Metro and be home in 20-30 minutes perhaps a Metro accessible/walker friendly apartment might afford you a better quality of life.

Exercise – Ditching the car will force you to either walk or bike around. Getting a little exercise on the way to work is a win-win. Not to mention the benefit of walking off some of those calories you ate while enjoying one of the hundreds of restaurants Arlington has to offer. And on a beautiful, spring weekend it is easy to head in to DC for sightseeing using Capital Bikeshare.

Worried about not having a car for emergencies? This area has that covered. You can always rent a car. Only need a car to head to Costco for two hours? Check out a car sharing service. With Zipcar or Enterprise CarShare you can rent a car for an hour or two just to get what you need.

Out on the town and catching a cab has you stressed? No worries there either. You can use an on demand car service such as Uber or Lyft, and with phone apps, catching one of these cars is right at your fingertips.

Having a car gives some of us a sense of security. For others, it can be a relief to ditch the wheels. If you are somewhere in between, and you are going to work or school where Metro or buses are an option, it is worth considering a little higher rent and losing the car. Don’t forget to think about parking costs, registration, and quality of life when making your pro/con list. While neither option is perfect, your family situation (think kids with hockey gear) and priorities will dictate which option may be better for you.

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

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