/ Motoring

Why I’m smug about being a non-driver

Traffic jam

Did you drive home for Easter? No doubt it was gridlock, with many starting an 11-day break. And then motorists have to pay excessive fuel costs and wallet-breaking insurance – I sure am happy not to be a driver.

It was sweltering this Easter. So add a bunch of bank holidays and the Royal Wedding tomorrow, that’s made it chock-a-block on the roads.

The AA estimated that there were 18 million car journeys over the Easter weekend. But that’s just one reason why I’m happy I don’t drive a car. I don’t even have a driving licence – something I have regretted over the years. But, as of late, I’ve been a tad smug.

Fuel costs are spiralling

I’ve watched fuel costs soar, with record prices this week. A litre of petrol has gone up by 14.92p since last Easter, with diesel rising by 20.09p, according to the AA.

A two-car family apparently spends over £30 more a month on petrol compared to last year. I’m sure it won’t be long until motorists will have to pay £2 a litre.

Too many added extras

My smugness continues with the unfortunate reality of car insurance. Hikes in the price of insurance have surely made getting from A to B by car even more expensive than rail travel – which is quite a feat to beat in itself.

And since I’d be a new driver if I was to start now, I’d probably be paying similar insurance costs to teenagers. That means it’ll be around three grand. Yeah, no thanks – I’d like to put that towards a house thank you.

And then there’s parking charges, unfair parking fines, yearly MOTs and congestion charges in London. Oh and I’d also have to buy the damn car in the first place. I could go on, but the smell of my own smugness is starting to make me pass out – its fumes rivalling those of the traffic on Marylebone road outside Which? HQ.

Yes, I’m quite happy that I don’t drive. Even though I’m sure my colleagues in Which? Car will vehemently disagree with me.

Sure, rail travel isn’t perfect and my legs can only take me so far, but I don’t feel I’m under any disadvantage. In fact, my bank balance feels a whole lot heavier for not driving. Maybe you’ll give up your car and join me?


I didn’t learn to drive until my mid-twenties. It’s difficult to learn later in life. I’m more assertive than I was at 17. My instructor would ask me to take the next left and I’d deliberately go right (checking my mirrors and indicating correctly of course!) because I knew she was trying to take me on a dual carriageway which I wanted to avoid. It took 70 or so lessons and 3 driving tests before I passed!

I’m so used to using public transport I often set off walking or hop on a train before I’ve even considered getting in the car. I used to have a ‘pay as you drive’ insurance scheme which worked out quite nicely for an infrequent driver like me. But they scrapped it as it obviously wasn’t popular – or profitable! I use the car for some journeys but use public transport where possible.

I’m a non-driver by choice too – I got rid of my car about 3 years ago and haven’t really missed it. Then again, living in london makes it a no-brainer – excellent public transport links, high parking and congestion charges, the price of petrol, higher crime rates etc etc. If I lived in the middle of nowhere though I guess it would be a different matter.

The only downside is that I now have to be much more organised than I used to be. I’m heading up to Grimsby tomorrow morning and only paid £11.55 for a single ticket because I booked well in advance. While I couldn’t drive there for that price, I also know that a walk-on fare probably would have cost me £70 – quite a difference based only on when you book.

The final advantage of being a non-driver is that I won’t encounter Charlotte on the M1…

Linda says:
30 April 2011

I do not agree that taxpayers should be funding your subsidised travels. The railways get roughly 50% of their funding from the taxpayers. This should be cut to zero. Perhaps then we’d see a little less smugness from non car users

Try to use your brain and think before you speak out – likewise the 14 agrees: forget the “smug” non-drivers and for a second consider the people who cannot drive due to age, disability, financial hardship, illness and so on. Remembering that at any moment YOU could become one of them, perhaps through crashing your car or being crashed into by another motorist, or maybe through some terribly illness that I would not wish on anyone such as a stroke, tell me why such unfortunate people should be ripped off by high fares because of YOUR selfish attitude. Bear in mind too that most people in the position I describe are tax payers like you too.

Quite apart from the above also try to think about the fact that non-drivers through choice, smug or not, also pay the taxes to which you refer as if only you pay them.

“”or maybe through some terribly illness that I would not wish on anyone such as a stroke, tell me why such unfortunate people should be ripped off by high fares””

So you view paying the true cost of the service as ‘ripped off’. Its not being ripped off, its paying what it costs. People already feel they’re ripped off by fares when in fact they’re still not paying what the service they use actually costs, they’re still being subsidised.

I also feel the taxpayer should seek better value for money in its subsidy of public transport. Its an unprofitable business and wouldnt exist but for the taxpayer’s help, already this Government is cutting the Government subsidy and passengers will be forced to pay closer to the true cost of their journeys, just like drivers. In terms of Dave’s argument about disability, my mother is disabled and car is her only viable means of transport, even if the disabled person cannot drive you can get financial help, motability car for someone to drive you to where you need to go in it. The elderly receive bus passes anyway (something i do not think should be cut).In most cases people who have severe disability need a car (even if its not them driving it), not a bus. Because getting on and off of trains, catching taxi’s, walking places etc isnt possible for them. I think there should be some sort of system for fuel duty rebate for disabled drivers, Bus operators get a rebate, and Trains pay hardly anything and still cant turn a profit. Planes pay no Fuel Duty or VAT on fuel either.

The Government raises money (5p i think) per each mile travelled by car, but it loses 6p a mile travelled by Bus and a shocking 21p a mile travelled by Train. The car is the most economic form of travel when all costs are taken into account, proving personal transport is still more economically efficient than trains and buses. We obviously need trains and buses in society, not everybody can drive a car but we need to look for better value for money in the system. I dont think any form of Transport should be a rip off, transport is the most important part of any economy’s bloodline and is vital.

I’m not a smug non-driver, – I can’t drive. I just don’t have an aptitude for it. After 50 lessons I I was getting nowhere, and anyway I can’t afford to have more lessons and run a car, even if I did pass. I’m sick of how there is a mindset in society that everyone must drive, and it is getting very difficult to find a job where they accept non-drivers. I would say the smugness lies on the driver’s side.

evie says:
29 April 2011

I do drive, but try to use the car as little as possible – partly for environmental reasons, but also because of the cost. I used to go to work by bus, but when fares were increased I changed to my bicycle, although there are still a few days when I go by car. Unfortunately where I live in Sheffield it is very hilly, so buses only follow a few set routes into the centre. This means that if I want to go anywhere other than the centre, public transport is not practical, and I’m afraid I can’t cope with all the hills yet! However I would hope soon to be able to hire a car as and when necessary, rather than have it sitting on the drive and costing money every day.

I’m a driver, but I recently sold my old car. My girlfriend and I now share just her car as it made no sense having two old uneconomical cars in the household.

However, in the week, we don’t drive at all. I commute from St albans to London and live 10 minutes walk from the station so no need to drive in the week at all unless we’re shopping.

We did just do St Albans to Beddgelert (Snowdonia) and managed to bypass all the traffic on the M1 and M6, we took the M40 and had no problems. No issues on the way back either, until we got to the M1 which was closed, so we took the M40 again.

We drove loads of places (you need a car in Wales) and including the journey there and back, only took 2 tanks of fuel. For a 2 litre turbo, that ain’t half bad.

So filling the car up now costs £15 more than it used to, honestly, big effin deal. The amount of enjoyment I get from driving negates any price increase.

So I actually feel more smug than you Patrick, I love driving and I have a fast car. I enjoy going to track days and thrashing down autobahns and nordschleife’s. I have 7 years no claims on my insurance and can afford the price increases because of the freedom and enjoyment that my car gives me.

Also I don’t live in London and am at the age where it doesn’t matter to me if I don’t 🙂

Smug Alarm!! 🙂

I don’t drive either, partly because I hate it, partly because it’s expensive, and partly because (I know most people don’t like to admit this) I am extremely bad at it.

But because I’ve never owned a car, and have only driven a few times after I passed my test, it doesn’t seem like much of a loss. I can understand why people who don’t live near a train station, or who travel to out-of-the-way places regularly, might want one, but I think some people become used to having a car (or a friend with a car) on hand that they forget the joys of public transport.

Linda – I think your comments are a bit unfair – the trains are for everyone, whether you choose to use them or not, so there’s no real problem with them being part-funded by the taxpayer. Taxpayers fund so much – children’s centres, sports groups, car parks – that no individual could ever get round to using all of them, but they still provide value to society even if they don’t benefit everyone individually.

LINDA says:
5 May 2011

Its untrue to say that trains are for everyone. We dont have trains on the Isle of Skye. I have no option other than to use a car. Why dont Which campaign for rural dwellers.? Perhaps because the majority of your revenue is generated from city dwellers living in the South.

Dear dear Linda! You are on a rant arn’t you?

Presumably you chose to live on the Ise of Skye? I assume you were not exiled there for some reason? IN that case you could, if it was really desperately important to you, move to a mainland location with access to trains.

HOwever, that isn’t really the point: none of us deserves and still less has the right to be sanctimonious about the rest of society in the way which you and the people posting “agrees” to your remarks, are being.

Nikki si absolutely right and if you want to get into a “why should I pay” argument lets mention that many of my taxes will pay for services that only apply to offshore islands and maintaining services such as healthcare to them which I won’t ever use. However I’m not saying that you should be denied access to NHS emergency treatment just because there is no hospital on the isle of Skye.

I think your comment about Which?’s revenue is also laughably inaccurate, but I am forced to admit that the number of people sharing your view on here does make me fear as I have before that many of the people who get involved in Which? are, the better off and the more than slightly ego-centric.

I don’t understand why Dave’s getting so much stick! It seems like the main disagreement is about what the taxpayer should and should not be funding. Essentially the taxpayer will always end up funding some things that you don’t use and some things that you do. If you have a car you won’t use as much public transport (but even then I’d challenge the majority of people to say that they *never* use public transport).

We’ll all have differences of opinion on how much of each service the taxpayer should fund, but it would be crazy if the taxpayer didn’t fund any public transport at all – we’d all have to have cars! That would make any journey painfully slow because of congestion, it would drastically increase emissions, not to mention costs for the average household.

Linda – I appreciate your point that there are services in more rural areas that could be supported better, but I wanted to let you know that Which? *does* work on these issues. We try to work for the benefit of all consumers, so we don’t like people feeling left out. To pick two examples, we’re currently looking into the issue of heating oil (a huge problem in certain rural locations where people have to rely on heating oil instead of gas, and prices are rising rapidly), and we have also been looking into broadband speeds, as we’d like to see all homes with access to fast broadband: https://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/broadband-rollout-frustratingly-flops-into-2015/

Your comment about our revenue – I don’t know the answer I’m afraid or which geographical area gives Which? the most subscriptions. But what I can tell you is that we try to choose our campaigns based on the impact they will have for *all* consumers, whether they subscribe to Which? or not. Consumers who subscribe get the benefits of the magazine, the reviews, etc, and consumers who don’t subscribe (even those who have never heard of Which?) still benefit from our campaigning work. You can see more of our campaigns here: http://www.which.co.uk/campaigns

If you do have any ideas about issues that you think Which? should be getting involved in, do contact us – we can’t promise to follow up everything, but we do want to hear from consumers – rural, city-dwellers, everyone – to make sure that we’re best representing their views.

Sara says:
10 May 2011

I see that the red flag of socialism continues to flie high from the Which? flag pole

Well said Nikki, I hate the argument “it doesn’t benefit me so therefore it shouldn’t exist”

What I should also stress about my previous point is that my driving style has changed slightly since petrol has been going up and up. I can still drive and enjoy it, its just that I use the car in a different way in order to get more miles out of the tank.


a) Look 3 cars in front of you – judge their speeds and lift off accordingly using the gears to slow down. Slowing down whilst still in gear uses NO FUEL AT ALL. Knocking it out of gear still requires a little bit of fuel from the choke to stop it stalling. If done properly, this will decrease wear on your brakes, clutch and tyres as well as decreasing fuel consumption. Increased wear on clutch and gears will only happen if you drop the clutch too violently

b) Keep a good average speed, try not to brake suddenly

c) Accelerate constantly without taking the revs above 2,000 (it is possible if you have the right car)

d) Check your tyres regularly

So with these things in mind, it is possible to still run your old car until you can afford a new one. I average 320 miles to the £85 fill up, if I drive as directed above, I average 420, an extra 100 miles!

so LINDA, use your initiative, if you live on an island, buy a boat! 😉

Tom says:
6 May 2011

Why buy a boat when there’s a bridge?

a) Because a boat is cheaper than a car
b) There is a train station in Mallaig

But having said that, I guess that living on the island of Skye, commuting to anywhere other than on the island probably isn’t in your list of priorities. So I stand by my point of buying a boat

Dawn says:
6 May 2011

Dean. Clearly you have never experienced the winds on Skye. A boat is a ludicrous and impractical solution for shopping and taking kids to school – a 50 mile round trip.

Seems to me that this thread has provoked a lot of indignation from a small number of very selfish people on the Isle os Skye and in London. I’m glad I don’t live and won’t ever through choice go to live in either place.

That aside, I have not drive once since my driving test because I fail to see how I can afford, still less justify affording, a car when it costs so much compared to public transport and feet. My partner, a driver for over 15 years, has recently sold his car and reverted to public transport because of the crazy cost of running a car coupled with the fact that traffic jams and lack of parking spaces make travel by car much harder work and less reliable than public transport.

I accept that offshore island dwellers don’t have access to trains and mostly not busses either, and if they will insist on living off-shiore but also trying to work / send the kids to school / shop on the mainland I can see that the ferry alone is probably not completely practicable, but for the vast majority of the British Public that is not the case.

And regardless of whether you really do need a car, or just fancy a Chelsea Tractor as a status symbol, there is no justification ever for the sort of selfish and ignorant comments that have come from at least one poster on this board.

Ben says:
8 May 2011

Judging by the votes issued by people on this page you have lost the argument by a substantial majority. Why not give up gracefully? You know what they say! – when you’re in a hole stop digging

Tess says:
8 May 2011

Dave D – I’ve never heard such sanctimonious and inaccurate drivel as from your 2 posts.
Please accept that not everyone agrees with your socialist’s rants. Most people think that tax payers money is being wasted subsidizing commuters – most of whom can afford the full fare.

You wouldnt pay teenage premiums if you started driving in your mid 20s. You may have an expensive premium in your first year but at that age, 1 year NCB can cut alot off next years policy. Pay £2500 for year one, £750 for year two. It comes down fast the older you are. I have no problem with people who decide to not drive thats up to them but can they not accept different people live differently rather than try and provoke some sort of war over it? Neither method suits everybody, nobody will win this argument.

Nothing would make me go back to buses and trains. Ive known alot of people who say they ‘have no need to drive’ but when they do, within a year they say they couldnt live without it. But i live in an area where not having a car affects you, jobs are harder to come by, less choice, employers here prefer car-driving employees as they’re more reliable, i can go to cheaper supermarkets out of town with a car and my mother is disabled and she couldnt leave the house without a car. Theres no such thing as ‘enjoyment of public transport’ as i remember taking buses and trains to college and work over 10 years ago and 2 out of every 5 days one of them was either late or cancelled, its too unreliable.

I’d be lost without my car, i can go where i want, whenever i want, i dont need to rely on anybody else. That is worth a huge amount to me but you never miss what you never had. And ive calculated if i used buses and trains to get to where i work, which isnt particularly far at all, i’d be spending around £50 a week in a combination of bus and train fares, and it would take me three times longer as a round trip but i can drive it on about £25 of petrol. Tax is only £20 a year and my insurance is under £300 a year. In total motoring costs me around £1600 a year at most, without MOT/servicing etc which has been very cheap and reasonable with this car. Public transport would cost me almost £2.5k and thats just commuting, nothing else. Yes i had to buy the car in the first place but its bought now and serves more uses than a use-once rail ticket. I could take three people with me in my car into the next town for less than it would cost for one of us to buy a rail ticket. And it’d be quicker. £1600 a year for commuting, shopping, going anywhere i like at any time vs £2400 purely for work commute for me alone? No brainer.

Just to follow up even if the car did lose on the cost argument and it cost me more than public transport, to me, being able to go wherever i want at whatever time would be worth paying extra for. A train fare just takes you to where the train wants to go when it wants to go there, a car can do so much more and would be worth paying extra for in my view.