The "Cheap Cars" Myth

MLewyn's picture

One sprawl lobby argument I have occasionally is heard: "So what if people have to drive to reach jobs in sprawling areas? Used cars are so cheap that even poor people can afford them!"

But these used cars still cost money to maintain. A recent Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story gives us one reason why this argument doesn't quite work: the story of one person who bought a cheap used car, only to discover that the rundown vehicle had "stalled for the last time."   A charity saved this particular woman by getting her a slightly newer used car- but presumably, that car will age too, and require lots of money for maintenance before it too breaks down.

In addition, used cars, like new ones, require insurance.  Unfortunately, insurance rates are higher in rundown urban neighbohoods- and in fact, some insurers won't insure some drivers in such areas. 

Because of these costs, used cars are not a substitute for a better transit system and for making suburbs less car-dependent.

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