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Car Costs Are Absurdly High. I’m Saving Thousands Driving a Moped Instead

It now costs me just $5 to fill up a tank of gas.

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I didn’t think twice about ditching my car for two wheels and a rear rack basket. 

Sure, it’s not going to be everyone’s first choice. But trading my dusty gray 2015 Ford Focus for a cherry red Buddy 125 scooter was the best financial decision I could have made last year. 

My car was already paid off, but maintenance, insurance and gas were adding to my credit card debt. Now, I’m saving more than $4,000 annually.   

A moped isn’t compatible with every lifestyle. It just happens to work well for my life in Austin, Texas. Now I pay a fraction of what I used to for transportation expenses. The average monthly cost of owning and operating a new car in 2023 was more than $1,000, an increase of 13% from the prior year.

Why ditching my car made sense

Giving up my car for a moped wasn’t a hard decision. My mom ditched her car 10 years ago after the transmission failed and came home with a baby blue moped. Six months later, my dad pulled up with a matching one. I guess you could say it runs in the family.

Since I owned my car, I was planning to drive it until the wheels fell off. However, after a bad accident in 2018, the lifespan of my Ford Focus was in peril. The insurance company wanted to total my car, but I ended up getting it fixed. Once it hit 55,000 miles, it started breaking down like clockwork.

After the engine crapped out last July, Ford said repairs would cost about $9,000. The dealership offered me $50 for it, so I sold it to a scrap yard for $2,000 instead. 

A week later, I bought my moped.  

How much I’m saving without a car

As I learned the hard way, car expenses add up quickly. And given that the average monthly car payment for a new car is $726, the cost is even higher if you’re still trying to pay off your vehicle. 

Before switching to a moped last year, I shelled out more than $5,000 on unexpected car repairs, bringing my total yearly cost to more than $10,000 after factoring in routine maintenance, insurance and gas. When the engine needed to be replaced last summer, purchasing a new vehicle wasn’t an option. 

I bought a lightly used Buddy 125 from a scooter shop in Austin for $2,800. I’m supposed to change the oil every 1,500 miles, so instead of paying a shop $50 to do it, I can do it myself for about $15. The fuel capacity on my Buddy is about 1.6 gallons, so with the average gas price in Texas at $3.20 a gallon, I pay around $5 to fuel up my moped. 

When I did the math, I found that I’m saving around $4,721 each year. That total doesn’t include a monthly car payment, unexpected contingencies or costly repairs. The savings would be even more significant if you drive longer distances, or if you’re still financing your vehicle, which can add up to more than $8,000 a year, according to Bankrate data

Here’s how my savings break down:

Car costs without a monthly paymentMoped
Insurance $1,800 a year$80 a year
Routine maintenance$2,000Less than $100 a year
Gas (fill up 2x per month)$720 a year$123 a year
Parking $504 a year$0 a year
Annual total$5,024$303

The other advantages to driving a moped

I knew getting a moped would have its pros and cons, but I was excited about being more of a minimalist. Besides the cost-saving, here’s what ultimately sold me on the transition from car to moped:

It’s practical in Austin

Austin is scooter-friendly if you live within city limits and don’t need to commute far for work. I live about 20 blocks from downtown, so I’m comfortable going about 10 miles in any direction on my moped. Since I work remotely, I rarely go outside this radius anyway. It’s also free to park your moped anywhere in Austin, which is a huge plus. 

You don’t need a motorcycle license in Texas to drive a moped

Unlike motorcycles, which require a Class M driver’s license, you only need a valid driver’s license to drive a moped in Texas. However, I highly recommend taking a safety course if you’re unfamiliar with how to ride a moped or want to get more comfortable before diving in. 

The weather is tolerable

So, what if it rains? Well, yes, that’s going to happen, and it’s going to suck. But that’s what rain gear is for. I won’t lie, scooting can be irritating on a hot day. But with sunscreen and a good pair of sunglasses, the sun has yet to stop me. 

How to save on transportation costs and keep your car

A moped won’t make sense for everyone. As an able-bodied person without any dependents, I make a moped work for my lifestyle. But it’s not a practical choice if you’re risk-averse, commute to work or have kids. 

If you need to keep your car while cutting back on transportation costs, here are a few things you can do to save money:  


Talk to your coworkers or friends and try carpooling to work or school. This is a great way to share the cost of gas or reduce the time you spend behind the wheel. 

Take public transportation

If you live in an area with public transportation, you can save a substantial amount of money by taking the train or bus. Of course, the lack of accessible public transportation makes this impossible for many folks: Nearly 45% of Americans have no public transportation options at all, according to the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy

Get an e-bike or electric scooter

If you live within reasonable biking distance of your job, consider getting an e-bike or electric scooter. You’ll need to consider physical restrictions, the distance you need to travel, how much weight you carry and the terrain (a mountainous electric scooter ride doesn’t sound very practical – or appealing). Joseph Kaminski, CNET’s senior associate technology editor and e-scooter enthusiast, takes an electric scooter to the office in New York, and he saves more than $132 a month by ditching his metro card.  

Use gas rewards programs

The price of gas is up this spring, so take advantage of gas credit cards that offer rewards for what you spend at the pump or charge your EV. The best gas credit cards offer as much as 5% cash back on gas station purchases or EV charging, and some cards even offer rewards in categories beyond just gas. 

Rent a car for occasional trips

Maintaining a car in major metropolitan areas like NYC can cause a major headache, so many folks don’t have cars at all. In fact, NYC has the lowest percentage of households that own vehicles in the country, according to TitleMax. If you’re paying to keep a car that you only use occasionally, try budgeting for an occasional rental car instead. And then you don’t have to worry about moving your car on street-cleaning or snow days. It’s a win-win.  

To hear more about the ways I’m saving money, check out how I take advantage of compound interest, how I avoid spending money over the holidays and how I balance saving and paying off debt

Liliana Hall is a writer for CNET Money covering banking, credit cards and mortgages. Previously, she wrote about personal credit for Bankrate and She is passionate about providing accessible content to enhance financial literacy. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor's degree in journalism, and has worked in the newsrooms of KUT and the Austin Chronicle. When not working, she is probably paddle boarding, hopping on a flight or reading for her book club.
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