Eye-opening Analysis for Personal Finances Using GIS!

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Did you ever wonder if you could save money by getting rid of your car and using ride-sharing, ride-hailing, and rentals?

My wife and I are in a fortunate situation where we both work close enough to ride a bike or walk to work and have often wondered – do we need to own a car? Not many people have that luxury. However, people who live in the city or near great public transportation might have the same question.

Mapping Out the Financials

I decided to use my GIS skills to help me find the answer. Fortunately, I was already using specialized apps to track my car trips (Automatic) and finances (Mint) . Data in these apps gave me the costs of my car ownership per year, including maintenance, fuel, and parking expenses.

Using the data from Automatic, I was able to separate trips into short trips of less than 20 miles and long trips of more than 20 miles. I loaded short trips into Esri®’s ArcGIS Online and performed a spatial query to remove short trips that started from a point more than 20 miles from my house. Next, I ran a script on this data with the Uber API to determine a cost per trip. This process provided me with the cost of all the short trips for the year. For the long trips, I confirmed the number of days per trip and multiplied by the cost of a car rental.  

And the Winner Is…

Ultimately, my calculations confirmed that for us, car ownership was more cost-effective. Car ownership costs were roughly $6,000 annually, driving 13,371 miles in one year. The Uber estimate for the 1,109 short trips (4,396 miles) was approximately $12,310.50. Even if we considered reducing our trips to less than 10 miles or less than 5 miles, our Uber costs would still be higher with the lowest amount calculated at $7,585. Since the Uber costs were higher than car ownership, I did not perform the rental analysis.

Check it out for yourself and let me know if it works for you in the Comments section below.

Steps to Analysis 

Car Ownership Cost:

  • Estimate cost of car ownership per year using data from Mint and Automatic applications. Factor in all possible costs, including maintenance and fuel expense data, car price, and cost of parking.

Short Trip Cost:

  • Export Automatic trip data from the past year to an Excel file. Filter out all trips greater than 20 miles.

  • Download trips from ArcGIS Online and run a script using the Uber API to determine a price for each trip. Add up costs for all trips under 20 miles using Uber to determine a total for your short trip cost.

  • Download trips from ArcGIS Online and run a script using the Uber API to determine a price for each trip. Add up costs for all trips under 20 miles using Uber to determine a total for your short trip cost.

Long Trip Cost:

  • Using Automatic data, determine the number of days spent over the last year driving your car more than 20 miles from home.

  • Multiply the number of long trip days by the cost of a car rental.

Final Comparison: 

  • Compare the car ownership costs to the combined short trip and long trip costs to determine whether car ownership is right for you or not.