Well… at least I think I am a non-driver, even though I drive almost every day.
Let’s explore why, starting at the beginning. Apologies, this is a little long, and disjointed – bad memory of what happened when, but I did try :p
Learning to drive
Regular readers would know I went to boarding school pretty much for 10 years to 17 years of age, in a different state to where my parents lived. This meant that learning to drive couldn’t be done regularly with my parents. When I was 17, I did take driving lessons during the school term, which I conveniently started at school, and arrived at water polo training at the end of the lesson – essentially avoiding two buses! In Queensland (QLD), the state I went to school in, you can do you ‘learners’ practical test for your licence once you’re proficient in all your skills. In New South Wales (NSW), where my parents lived, you needed a log book of 50 hours of driving to take your practical driving test. I’d hoped to sit my learner driver test in QLD, pass and then convert my licence to NSW when I moved there for university.
My first driving test was booked in November 2002, in the week after the end of school. After graduating, my friends all had a party week on the Gold Coast. The plan was that I would return to Brisbane on the train, sit my driving test and return to the Gold Coast. Unfortunately, in the week of partying and completing schooling, there was a calendar mishap and I got the day wrong. I missed the practical test.
My family planned a holiday in Queensland in January 2003, and I thought I booked another driving test through the rural traffic authority near where we were holidaying. Alas, on the day of the test, I was advised that the assessor was sick, and could I reschedule? Being a short holiday, there wasn’t a time that suited.
From 2003, I lived in Sydney, New South Wales. Under their law, I was required to transfer my learner’s permit to NSW, and then complete 50 hours of driving before taking my test. The expiry of my learner’s permit remained the same, which in effect meant I needed to complete 50 hours in 2 months (though I could complete the log book in retrospect for the hours I’d already completed). However, I’d only done maybe 15 hours with a driving teacher, and the remaining months were during term time where I had no access to a car – my parents were living in Jindabyne in the Snowy Mountains (5 hours drive from Sydney). I did get some driving experience on that drive, in my mother’s work car, a Subaru Liberty. Clearly, the odds were stacked against me! I couldn’t afford to complete the remaining hours with a driving school, and learning to drive is not something I wanted to farm out to aunts and uncles!
For a few years, I just continued to renew my learners’ permit, with no clear goal to getting my licence. I lived in the city, and walked to university. I didn’t need a car! In 2004, my parents returned to living in Sydney, but I didn’t live with them. Lessons were few and far between! I think we had a old beat up Volvo station wagon since I was in late high school as my dad’s ‘drive to the train station’ car, so I got some lessons in that!
I have a licence!
After failing once, I finally got my licence! Actually, I did both my practical tests in Wollongong, where I’d spent my late teens (well, where my parents lived, and I holidayed). It was nice to do the test somewhere I knew well, without the ‘big smoke’ scariness that is Sydney!
In 2009 I joined my current company. One of the hiring criteria was a drivers licence – at least I had one. I finally graduated onto my full unrestricted licence in February 2009, at the ripe age of 23!
I ran some numbers once, in the first two years at my company, I drove more than 20 different vehicles (some were the same model of course). Pretty varied driving history for someone who thinks they don’t drive!
Crowding the Nest (2009-2011)
For my first three years of full time work in my career, I lived at home. There, I shared a car with my brother/s. It was affectionately known as ‘the little car’, and it was a Hyundai Accent that my grandmother passed on when she could no longer drive. It seems I only ever shared with one brother, as the elder of my younger brothers bought a car about the same time the youngest got his licence. Both my brothers took jobs that required the car to get to work, or for the work. I continued to make choices about my work and social life largely assuming I didn’t have a car (or wouldn’t have access to it). Around this time, I got a rider permit and bought a motor scooter.
In 2011, I started the role I’m in today. My package included a car for my use whilst at work, and to get me directly home and back to work. It’s a Hyundai i30, and whilst I don’t love Hyundais, they’ve come a long way since the little car. Still, the fleet within my office has had a fair share of problems – auto locking people out, radios dying, shuddering engines…
Living alone (2012-mid 2013)
When I moved into my own home (the loft), I continued to use the shared car with my brother – it was just a 15 minute train ride away! Thankfully my brother studied at a university near my house, so we often switched it near my house, so I didn’t have to do all the dropping off and picking up.
The work car lived in my one car space at the loft, and when the ‘little’ car visited, it was relegated to the street.
In the past few months, my youngest brother wrote off the little car. He didn’t injure himself, but the car was only worth a few grand and so the cost of repair wasn’t worth it (and naturally we’d not comprehensively insured it). My youngest brother is moving to South America for a year, so he’s not too fussed. Given my level of use, it’s a pretty minor adjustment!
Everyday, I continue to drive to work in my free work car.
Outside of work, I very occasionally use my boyfriend’s car, though it makes me nervous cause he loves that luxury vehicle! And interestingly, my parents have the same model car, that they bought after returning from living in France late last year – so far I’ve only driven theirs once.
Overall, I would happily catch the train to work, if they paid for it! Instead they pay for a car, and money talks. There’s rumours (for more than a year) that cost cutting measures will mean we will lose our cars, instead moving to pool vehicles. I’m ready for the change, having always chosen to live a short walk from a train station. I’m just not looking forward to the rainy days!
So, despite driving daily, I’ve never bought a car. I don’t think I will if I lose my work car. But I did once say to my (younger) self that my first car would be a lovely Audi. And every year I get older, and more financially stable, the more it might be a reality!