We run a 2000 Ford Festiva which we bought new just before DS1 was born (my old Ford Capri convertible didn't have a big enough back seat to take a child seat). Up to now it has been pretty reliable, but yesterday it started missing and then stalled when I was parked with the engine running and the air con on. It took a couple of attempts to get it restarted and I noticed that the LCD display on the clock radio flickered and went out - a sure sign of an electical problem. Luckily there's a garage close to my workplace where I normally get the car serviced, so I dropped it in for a quick check. Sure enough the battery wasn't being charged when the engine was running, so the alternator needed replacing. As this would be done the next day I decided to also get the routine 10,000km service done at the same time. I got a lift home from someone at work that lives close to home, and this morning had to catch the bus to work. Even though a city express bus departs only 200m from my front door, having to change buses in the city to get to work means that the bus trip takes just over an hour, whereas the trip by car usually takes around 45 minutes. Public transport is quite relaxing - I can close my eyes and nap on the way - but it isn't as economical as you might expect.
The two bus fares required to get to work cost a total of $8.80 each way, so travelling to work by bus each day would cost around $4,224 pa. By comparison our car uses $35 in petrol each week (including a couple of trips on the weekends), and probably an extra $1000 each year in servicing and tyres. Depreciating the full purchase price over a ten year worklife, costs around $1,300 pa and insurance and registration another $800 or so each year. Hence taking the car to work each day costs around $4,780. Even if I can slightly cheaper bus fares by buying weekly or return tickets, the car isn't that much more expensive to run than using public transport for one person. Once DW goes back to work (she works in the same suburb as me) we will share the car costs, so it will be cheaper to travel to work by car than it would be taking the bus! And the ability to use the car in the evenings and on weekends definitely makes it good value for money.
Anyhow, the car wasn't ready to take home this afternoon - although the alternator had been replaced, the service had required a clip for the brakes that wasn't in stock, so I had to get another lift home tonight, and will catch the bus to work again tomorrow.