Sunday, August 15, 2010

The car dilemma

Whats a prepper to do about the car? Private vehicles are expensive. Even if paid for in cash, there are fuel and maintenance costs. Then there's the government regulation side of things: registration, inspections, tolls, licenses, and insurances. If you have to borrow money to buy a vehicle, well . . . expenses can be quite high. It's not just the price of borrowing money. In my state, it's much more expensive to register a new car compared to an old one. The loan company insists on full insurance coverage. Since I drive old cars without car loans, I can buy less expensive insurance. Right now I only carry liability. Seems like a responsible thing to do. However, in New Hampshire, car insurance technically isn't even required.

So yeah, private vehicles are expensive. What's the alternative?

Some cities are bike friendly. There are bike lanes, the climate is nice, terrain is good, and the local culture supports it. Jobs and housing are close enough for biking to be a viable option. Nice if you can do it. However, much of this country is definitely bike unfriendly. Riders take their lives in their own hands.

Here's one thing most bike proponents often overlook. Bikes piggyback on car infrastructure. Well maintained asphalt roads with good drainage are almost a necessity for commuter bike travel. Sure, some hearty souls love to bounce off rocks on the their mountain bikes. Few would care to do it day in day out to commute to work. Even fewer would want to bring the groceries home riding a dirt mountain trail. Face it, gas taxes pay for the roads bikers ride on. Take the car away, and the good roads go away. No, it doesn't have to be that way. Bikers could be directly charged to support the roads they ride on. It might even work in a few select places. Most of the country wouldn't do it.

Public transportation? In short, it sucks. Outside of a few good corridors, train travel is bad. Too darn often, you can't get there from here. Bus travel? I looked into taking a bus from my place in NH to my dad's in FL. It could be done, but would take a couple more days than driving myself. It even had one 12 hour lay over. 12 hours in some inner city bus terminal? Not my idea of a good time. Cities are cutting their bus schedules and increasing prices just as people need it more.

Too often public transportation is bad, poorly scheduled, inconvient routes, and it's more expensive than it needs to be. Answer me this: if trains are so efficient, why does a train ticket cost so much more than driving a car? Air passenger travel? Doesn't seem right to submit to a strip search without some sort of high speed chase involved. Airlines are for sheep and other domesticated animals.

The thing that really scares me about relying on public transportation is the lesson of hurricane Katrina. Those who relied on public transportation were stranded in New Orleans. Those with cars could drive themselves out of harm's way.

Private planes? Nice dream. Pilots go on and on about the freedom of the skies. What freedom? Darn few can afford or pass the pilot's exam. Then there are all those FAA regulations. Aircraft is out of reach for the average Joe. Fun to have if you've the money to blow, but pretty much in the category of expensive toy.

Boats? There's some potential there. Much depends on the boat and where you plan on using it. Oceans, lakes, and rivers were transportation routes long before there was a single road. When roads decay to dust and brush, the water ways will still be there. If one is darn careful, it's possible to use boat travel with a minimum of regulation and expense. However, not too many people can commute to work in a boat. Still, I can't but help love boats. It's one of my weaknesses.

For most of us, most of the time, we are stuck with cars -at least in the near future. Usually the fastest way to get out of Dodge is with your own vehicle. It might be necessary to leave early enough to beat the crowds. Many types of trouble give an aware person sufficient warning. Hurricanes often have days of lead time. Even civil unrest often has early warning signs. Keep tuned in to the word on the street. You don't have to be a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

For day to day use, most of us still use our cars. We can reduce our costs -drive less, in a fuel efficient vehicle. Even a person who normally bikes everywhere might want to keep an old well maintained car at the ready, just for emergencies.

In spite of the expense, at least for the near future, I'm keeping my old truck. It's the cheapest way to cover the most miles in a reasonable amount of time. Everyone should have other transportation options -a well maintained mountain bike, good hiking boots and backpacking gear, or if conditions allow, a boat. From my house I'm in reasonable canoe portage distance to two different water sheds. People have taken canoes and kayaks from my area to the Atlantic ocean or up rivers into Canada. It's not fast, but it's cheap and doesn't depend on roads.

Whatever you do, don't depend on government infrastructure, roads and public transportation, to always be there. Have a plan B.



  1. I don't care about the expense, I will keep my truck. In this town, if you don't have a vehicle, you're a pedestrian. Like you said, public transportation here is horrible, very slow, and very limited. This place being essentially "in the middle of nowhere" means it's a long way to get anywhere else. However, we are right next to the biggest boat highway there ever was, the intracoastal waterway. Hmmmm, now I'm thinking of boats again. We share a weakness, ha ha.

  2. Matt was working on convincing me we don't need a car...public transport here is ok, we're looking to get a bike trailer, and zipcar for long trips (to see you guys!). Then he realized the hassle of hauling the car seat to get the zipcar. I'm trying to reduce driving as it is, and we're looking at a more fuel-efficient car for next one. Doing what we can...

  3. The original movement to improve roads (late in 19th century) was by the bicycle crowd. When cars came along a little bit latter they thus had better roads to ride on. So technically you could say that at this point the cars are pigging back on the bicyclists.

  4. transportation is necessary for all but agrarian peasants on self sufficient 'steads.
    Transportation is civilization... there is no getting around that. And civilization will continue to eat everything until there is nothing left to support it.

    So drive all you want if that is the cheapest way from A to B guilt free.

    The question of "what's a prepper to do about the car?" is fairly simple. Keep it as cheap as possible and use the money not spent on luxury to secure the necessities for the post oil world.