Driving costs – a lot more than you think

Driving around in your own car certainly is a special feeling. The car is one of the most popular products of all times. While sharing is becoming more and more common, ownership of an automobile bears some problems: today, there are a lot of other convenient alternatives to the car. Secondly, for many it is simply too expensive to own a car – a trend that is particularly reflected among younger people. But how much does driving a car actually cost? Many will think of the buying price, the cost of petrol, certainly servicing, insurance, and tax. And of course these are all part of the total price we pay to drive our cars. However, there are many more expenses to be covered – many of which are hidden: we don’t realise that we pay for them.

Accidents, Environment, Noise

According to a recent study by the faculty of transport and traffic science of the Technische Universität Dresden [1] in Germany, driving a car includes many hidden costs that most EU citizens are not at all aware of. The research discovered that the overall costs of the approximately 234 million cars registered in Europe include a staggering 373 billion Euros or 3.0% of the Union’s total GDP.[2] Commissioned by the Greens, a major political group in the European Parliament, the study identifies six “extra” cost categories. Among these six categories are, for example, air pollution, noise, or accidents. Thus, the research focuses on the bigger picture – including all indirect expenses created by car driving and not only those that are directly dependent on using the vehicle (such as fuel costs, for example). They argue like this: the damage caused by automobiles on the environment costs money. Car accidents not covered by insurance cost, too, and so do the health problems cars cause by chronic noise annoyances. So all these factors contribute to the total driving costs. Fair enough. Importantly, however, these indirect costs are covered by everyone who pays taxes, not only the car drivers themselves.[3] Thereby, the European average is 750 Euros paid by every citizen for the extra costs that come from car driving per year. Among larger countries, people from Germany and the United Kingdom (UK) pay more than the average. While a UK citizen pays approximately 900 Euros per year, in Germany every person pays more than 1,000 Euros. However, the situation is even worse in small countries with a good infrastructure: in Austria every citizen pays 1,200 Euros and in Luxembourg more than 1,800 Euros per year.

Why should I pay?

The study is golden because for the first time we get an insight into how expensive driving really is. So, how should one respond to such numbers? The effects of driving cost money, which citizens need to pay for. Interestingly, just after the study was published, debates triggered over whether only car drivers should cover these expenses. Why, after all should someone who doesn’t even have a driver’s licence pay for the environmental damage caused by greenhouse gases from cars? On the other hand, people argue that if such a tax law was to be passed, then what about all other machines or factories emitting greenhouse gases? If I am paying for the gases my car produces, I won’t pay for the gas produced by your factory. So the discussions are likely to continue.

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