Living a 'Less than average' Life: Cars


America has a car culture like no other, from its massive interstate highway system and the iconic allure of the "open road" to Detroit's "Big Three." For many average families, life wouldn't seem complete without a gleaming new sedan or sport utility vehicle in the driveway every few years.

But, paradoxically, Americans who've turned their back on what many of their neighbors consider a birthright find that owning less car or even no car at all can be freeing. Cars are a huge expense, especially if you need to have the newest, latest and greatest when it comes to your ride. As of last year, the average new car cost $26,300, according to a study by Comerica Bank.

To put that into perspective, that's equal to 22.1 weeks of median income for the average American family. New and used vehicles made up 6.4% of Americans' spending at the end of last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While that number doesn't sound too bad, by the time you add in ancillary costs like gas, insurance and repairs, that percentage climbs to a much heftier 15.5%.

Can you imagine what you'd do with all that money if you weren't funneling it toward your vehicle? Steven Woolley could. When he and his wife purchased their first home in St. Louis five years ago, he made a deal with himself that he would finally get an honest-to-goodness, arcade-style pinball machine.