In the non-profit world, finding and maintaining funding is vital to continued existence. In order to continue to receive funding, non-profit agencies must be able to show their donors how much of a difference the money they contribute makes. Non-profits call these differences outcomes. When you think about providing low interest-rate auto loans to people who have jobs but are relying on public transit, borrowed or broken-down cars, or rides from family, friends, and co-workers to get to work, the outcome of having reliable transportation seems obvious. A person can get to work and thus increase their job security, secure regular wages, and maybe even go further from home to get to a job that has better pay and/or benefits.
At The CARes Project, our motto is “Into a car and onto financial independence,” for this very reason. Having reliable transportation of your own increases your mobility and ability to earn an income. However, we are also finding that when we ask our customers what the biggest difference a reliable car of their own makes, getting to work is among the last things to be reported. It’s the little things that make the biggest difference to our customers:
1) Having space to carry things. People who have always had access to their own vehicles rarely stop to think about the value of trunk space and a back seat. But when you rely on a friend to drive you somewhere or you have to use the bus, the luxury of space is not available. For example, how do you buy groceries if you don’t have your own car to transport the groceries home?
a) You buy as many groceries as you can carry in bags in your arms and you walk home.
b) If you ride the bus, you buy what you need to get through the next day or two. If your bus route is long, you cannot buy frozen foods or foods that will spoil if out of refrigeration for long. And, it all has to fit on your lap, along with whatever else you may be carrying.
c) You buy groceries at a convenience store. We have found that almost 80% of our customers who need assistance with a car loan are also living in a food desert.
So, if you do not have transportation, you may be buying your groceries at the convenience store within walking distance. Now, think about what your diet consists of if you rely on convenience store food items as your grocery options, and think of the cost of a bag of chips or a gallon of milk at a convenience store as compared to a grocery store.
d) You pay for a taxi or rideshare service to get to the grocery store- an additional $1-2 per mile to add to your grocery bill.
e) You pay for your groceries to be delivered – again, an additional cost, along with a minimum amount of groceries that have to be ordered.
f) You order food to be delivered through a Door Dash/Grub Hub type of service – also a very costly way to get around not having a vehicle to get your own food.
2) Visiting family on holidays or going on a vacation. Owning a vehicle offers opportunities to visit with friends and family, whether gathering together for holidays, special occasions, or even vacations. In your own car, you can actually pack everything you need to take, and have space for the kids too :), at no extra cost. To travel any other way means purchasing a ticket for each person, paying to mail items ahead, limiting what you can bring with you due to luggage limitations, and staying overnight in costly hotels near airports, plus possibly still having to rent a car when you get to your destination.
3) Decrease in stress and anxiety. Think about it—what are the conveniences, besides going to and from work, that your own reliable transportation offers? If your child misses the bus, you can get him or her to school. If your child wants to participate in after-school activities, you can pick them up. If you get sick, you have a way to get to the doctor and the pharmacy. If a friend or family member calls and needs your help, you have a way to get there, and transport them if transportation is needed. If your child discovers you are out of glue at 9 at night and needs it to complete a school project for the next morning, hopping in the car and driving to a 24-hour Walmart is a completely doable thing.
Knowing you have a way to get around if you need to go out is a security that many people are not even conscious of. If you have always had access to a vehicle, take a moment and think about what your life would be like if you did not have a car. Would you be able to live where you live? Would you be able to go about your daily activities as conveniently as you do now? How much more would it cost you (not just financially, but in terms of time as well) to do what you normally do in a day or a week, if you had to rely on paid services or public transit to bring you what you need or take you to where you need to go?
While having your own vehicle will certainly get you to work, and thus provide the income you need to live your life, vehicle ownership provides much more than a way to work. It provides peace of mind, mobility, the potential to be healthier, both physically and nutritionally, the opportunity to increase social interaction and improve relationship bonds., and a decrease in stress and anxiety. Who would have thought a car could do so much?!