Home > Economics, Visual Stimulus > My Car Sucks $7,000 A Year Out Of The Local Economy…Sorry

My Car Sucks $7,000 A Year Out Of The Local Economy…Sorry

Graphic Friday

(click for larger view)

National Building Museum created this graphic in their Intelligent Cities program. Using numbers from AAA, the average American spends $8,485/annually on an automobile. Of that amount, only $1,390 stays in the local economy. The rest, $7,095 per vehicle, leaves the local economy.

Is that intelligent? Is it intelligent for a community to subsidize and facilitate car ownership?

In Traverse City, let’s assume of the 14,000 residents that there is 70% car ownership or around 10,000 primary vehicles. If only 1% of us chose  to give up a car (walk & bike more, ride-share, bus and rent instead), with these numbers that would be $709,500 NOT leaving the economy.

It is a modest goal, 100 fewer cars, but with a big payoff. If we are feeling frisky, we could go for 1000 fewer cars and be that much more resilient as a local economy.

Of course, there are likely other factors to consider, but it isn’t like we haven’t seen this before: Where Your Gas Dollar Goes?.



  1. February 25, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    Nice graphic! I’m all for non-private ownership. In fact, I support radical re-definition of local and regional transportation. I wrote a post about it a few months ago. Check it out – http://aubreygoodman.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/public-transportation/

    I went without a car last year for 7mo. In Tampa, that’s a real challenge. The bus system is laughable, and cabs are not feasible. My saving grace was living in a highly walkable neighborhood and working from home. If there were a car co-op or something similar, I would do that. Sadly, few cities have adopted this philosophy.

    Also, some of the “funds leaving the local economy” can be mitigated. For example, my car loan is through a local credit union, so the payments and interest stay local.

  2. February 26, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    An economic analysis of the utility of the car? I mean, no one pays $7000 for nothing–it must be of some use. Imagine if someone did an economic analysis of slavery and said it resulted in a net loss to the slave owner’s community because of the cost of leg irons–iron which was mined far north in the UP and formed into irons in Pittsburgh. We don’t have a whole lot of time for such one-sided analyses, do we?

  3. February 27, 2011 at 9:46 am

    This info-graphic is a quick glimpse at one aspect of the puzzle. It holds muster by adding perspective to a broader pattern of information that supports the fact that our addiction to the automobile reduces local resiliency. It’s the difference between eating at a local diner and a franchise like McDonald’s. One choice contributes substantially more to the local economy than the other.

    According to the Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey, around 82% of trips made by personal motor vehicle are under 5-miles and 40% are under 2-miles-trips that are easily made by bicycle or, for the latter, walking 30 minutes or less. We don’t drive simply for utility; we drive because that is what we are trained to do and what the built environment and land use encourages us to do. As Susan Piedmont-Palladino writes about this graphic at the NBM blog: “Your city has been making decisions for you for a long time. Those decisions have led to this point: You’re standing in your driveway, keys in hand, wondering why you don’t seem to have a choice. You need socks or cereal. You want to see a movie with a friend. Each of those mundane tasks seems to require a journey of some distance. Why are these things so separated?”

    More than most of us like to admit, we might not be paying for nothing, but we are certainly paying for a heavily subsidized privilege. I say, we don’t have time for more one-sided development patterns and government subsidies of one form of transportation over all others.

  4. maaaty
    February 28, 2011 at 11:09 am

    Great work. I’ve always wondered if there’s a difference in buying gas from a branded Exxon station or a mom and pop that still of course gets its gas from a major oil co.

  1. February 26, 2011 at 12:12 pm
  2. March 2, 2011 at 5:24 pm

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