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The Advantages and Disadvantages of Owning a Car

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Few inventions in modern times have had a more profound effect on the world’s culture and economy than the automobile. With about 1.4 billion cars in operation worldwide, the automobile has become a major part of daily life. It is used primarily for transportation but also for hauling cargo and serving as recreation vehicles. Although the car has its disadvantages, it makes many things possible that would not otherwise be feasible.

The scientific and technical building blocks for the automobile were laid several hundred years ago. By the late 1800s, inventors Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz had fitted their horseless carriages with engines that powered them at high speeds. Gasoline-powered vehicles won the competition over steam and electric power.

In the United States, a large population and a wide geographical area made great demand for automotive transportation. In addition, cheaper raw materials and the lack of tariff barriers encouraged American manufacturing. These factors contributed to the rapid development of automobile production. The advent of the assembly line made it economical to mass-produce the Model T, which made automobiles available for middle-class families.

New technological developments have greatly influenced the automobile’s design, performance and safety features. The internal combustion engine, a simple and reliable system, has been improved by the introduction of a variety of fuels, spark plugs and pistons. Other mechanical innovations include the electric self-starter (invented by Charles Kettering for Cadillac in 1910-1911), independent suspension, four-wheel brakes and the Wankel rotary engine.

In terms of social impact, the automobile has greatly expanded personal freedom and created new industries. For example, many women were able to work outside the home during the 1910s and 1920s because they had their own cars. They could take jobs such as nursing or secretarial work that had traditionally been held by men.

Automobiles have also enabled suburban sprawl, with cities becoming crowded with houses crammed together along tax-supported highways. Some countries have largely embraced alternatives to the automobile, like the Netherlands (bikes and public transit) or Denmark (buses).

Pros: There are few conveniences that compare with having your own car. You can avoid traffic jams by leaving for work or class a little earlier or later and can choose alternate routes in case of an accident or construction. You can also save money on gasoline and parking fees by driving a fuel-efficient car.

Cons: Most cars use fossil fuels, which release carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. This contributes to global warming. In the United States, transportation causes 27 percent of the greenhouse emissions. You can reduce your environmental impact by driving a hybrid or electric vehicle, or by carpooling.

Cars require maintenance and must be registered and insured. Drivers must obey traffic rules and wear seat belts. They must also obey speed limits and maintain their cars’ tires, fluids and other parts. There are a number of products and methods that ostensibly improve automobile performance and gas mileage, but most of them don’t. Buying a fuel-efficient car and keeping it properly maintained is the best way to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

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