Buy a car and move to the suburbs? (Pittsburgh, Millvale: apartment, rentals)
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The title says everything... Should we buy a car and move to the suburbs?
Here is a little bit more context:
Me and my wife have lived in Pittsburgh for 5 years without owning a car. We both study at universities in the Oakland area and we have rented an small apartment in Friendship. Right now the rent plus all utilities (including internet access, a must for us) is about $800 per month.
During these 5 years we have managed quite well without a car, but we are starting to feel tired of missing out on a lot of stuff that you can't do without a car (like staying out late for dinner or not having to catch two buses to go to the mall....)
I have been doing some research and I have realized that the rents are a lot lower if you move outside the city (we know for sure that we do not want to buy a house right now).
So my question is this: What are the best places to live outside of the city? And, more importantly: if we move, would we save enough on rent that we would be able to afford a car? (Keep in mind that according to official data, the total cost of owning a car - including gas, oil and insurance - is at least $300/month)
Another important detail is that, because we are graduate students, we actually do not have to go to the university everyday. If we work from home, we can actually get away with going to Oakland 3 days per week.
It's simple math. Are the suburban rentals you see $300 cheaper per month? (Your utilities won't change.)
Where to live? Pick somewhere that still has a good bus route. That way you and your wife can go places separately sometimes.
To save money, consider areas like Millvale, Etna, Sharpsburg, Blawnox instead of further into the suburbs where rent is higher.
I suggested those four towns because they are fairly affordable, have good bus routes, and very convenient to Oakland.
If you chose Millvale or Etna, you only need to ride one bus to get to the mall.
Thanks for the reply. I agree that it is simple math, but the main problem is that, although I can find houses online with rents that are $300 less than what I am paying now, actually going out and checking if those are places that I would like to live in is complicated (since they are always in areas that do not have bus service)
So I guess what I should be asking is if you think is it possible to find a decent place outside of the city that you can rent for $500 to $600. And if so, where?
I will definitely check out Millvale, Etna, Sharpsburg, Blawnox like you suggested.
I think (just eyeballing it, without looking at hard rent numbers or car numbers) that unless the car cost comes out way less than $300 (which maybe it could with a really cheap used car) this doesn't pan out too well. You say, if I'm not mistaken, that the $800 is what you're paying including the utilities and internet? That's not a number you'll just handily beat elsewhere. A $500 rent is going to be at least $600 for comparison to your $800 (probably a little more than $600) then you have the car costs. It's certainly not impossible but I don't think it's a slam dunk at all.
Unless you're really tired of where you are now or something, I think it would be more practical to stay put and join Zipcar. They aren't right around the corner in Friendship I guess but there are two cars on Centre (at Graham and at Negley) that shouldn't be too far to walk. If you're going to hang out somewhere not school, the city is probably going to have more draws than the burbs. But only you know what your preferences are like that. I live in the burbs (okay, I live in the STICKS comparatively, but close enough ) and if I don't want to hang out at my house I have to drive somewhere. That doesn't mean everywhere in your budget outside the city would be like that, but it is fairly common. You didn't mention what if anything you like to do in the city; I'm just making an assumption that there are SOME things. And if you move out, you'll suddenly be driving to all those, or taking a longer bus or needing a transfer or who knows what but likely to be more inconvenient for those things.
I live in the city and pay a lot less than $300/month on gas, insurance, and etc.
How do you plan to commute to Oakland? If you're using a car, do you have access to a parking lot or garage? If not, you might be better off using the bus system to commute as Oakland parking is notoriously awful.
@greg42: Yep. The $800 I pay now include everything. And I think you might be right, if you factor all costs, it is though to find housing for less than $600. The links Hopes posted look really nice (better than where I am now) but they don't include utilities.
I checked zipcar a while back, the prices are really good if you only need a car for 1-2 hours, but if you want to have the car for an afternoon or an evening (to go to the mall or for dinner and a movie) you are better off just renting it from Hertz or Avis IMO.
About stuff we like to do: we are not really into the nightlife. We do enjoy going out to dinner though. We often go to the Waterfront just because it has some shopping and entertaining and we can get there by bus fairly easily. (Walnut Street is within walking distance but a little to pricey / snotty for our taste...)
@Tirade: I was factoring the car payments into the $300/month figure... But you do raise a good point about parking in Oakland. Parking is definitely something we have to take into account.
I guess I will look for houses in the neighborhoods Hope suggested... Please let me know if you think of other places that might be good.
I would look around the city for a little less expensive rental. I rented in Highland Park for $450 a month included all for a one bedroom. It was on the border of E. Liberty and Lincoln Larimer, but I only had one situation at my home. The rest of the shootings and such were at least three or so doors down, so not too bad.
When you factor in all the costs, your plan is really going to be a lot more expensive than $300/month. Even with Zipcar being more expensive for longer outings, I think that will still be a less expensive lifestyle for you. And the thing about the Zipcar lifestyle is it is only as expensive as you want it to be--once you have committed to a completely autocentric lifestyle, you are stuck with it unless you want to move again and sell your car.
Okay, this thread is getting to me a bit. Firstly, NO I wouldn't move to the suburbs to own a car. What you might think you will save in rent will eat you alive in inconvenience. Secondly, if you want a car start looking at a secondhand cars that are around $4-5K with current inspection. Look on Craigslist and put in "by owner". You might be able to finance it if you have to, but it is always better to save your money to buy a car. Insurance on a less expensive car is much less and you can carry liability only to save more money. Don't change your whole life for a car and move to suburbs. You can still live in the city and have a little car. If you just aren't comfortable with a used car, there are cars with payments as low as $180ish a month. It is tempting sometimes, but used cars are still your cheapest way, but you do need to plan to buy a car instead of some impulse purchase. I just bought a secondhand car for an amazing deal. I used Craigslist search Tempest and ended up having to go to Hagerstown, MD to get the car, but I am someone that knows cars well and knows what he is doing.
Don't kill your lifestyle to move out of the city for the sake of owning a car. Look in the city to a less expensive place to live and save for a used car. Take your time and plan.
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