Cars Eat Time

People see cars as great time-savers, but it depends what you measure.

In 1974, Ivan Illich wrote about the amount of time spent by the average American in a car. In 2006 Lyn Sloman applied the same logic to the average Brit. “The typical car owning Briton today devotes nearly 1,300 hours a year to his or her car. It takes him over 500 hours to earn the money first to buy the car and then to pay for petrol, insurance, repairs and parking. He spends another 400 hours every year sitting in his car while it goes and while it waits in traffic jams. More than 250 hours are devoted to a myriad small tasks associated with a car: washing it, taking it to the garage for repair, filling it with petrol, looking for the car keys and walking to the car, de-icing the windscreen in winter, and finding a parking space at the end of every trip. Finally, he has to work about 100 hours every year to earn the money to pay the extra building society interest because he has chosen a house with a garage rather than one without. All in all, the typical British car driver in 2005 devoted three and a half of his sixteen waking hours to his car.” 

But surely it’s worth it? Isn’t public transport slow compared with going by car. In fact, research shows that people consistently under-estimate the time taken for car journeys, and over-estimate the time taken by using public transport. Think about your own journeys and consider the results.

Time Waits For No-one

Time is the one resource we cannot expand. When you are driving, you are wasting that precious time: you just can’t do anything else. It’s your life: do you really want to devote your precious time to a car?

Source: Lyn Sloman, Carsick, Green Books, Dartington, 2006