My boyfriend owns a car and does all the driving — should I help with car costs?

By: Rebecca Lee on January 20, 2017

Full disclosure: I currently contribute zilch even though he drives me around all the time. Am I a horrible person? Probably.

But let me explain.

Here’s the current situation

Because I don’t drive, I rely a lot on others to get around — especially my boyfriend, Kelvin. He does all the driving in our relationship and I already feel bad about it. Then there’s the financial side of this imbalance, which plays out like this.

Kelvin paid $5,000 for a 2011 Hyundai Elantra with 162,000 clicks. He’s had it for a year now, and by my calculations, the Elantra has eaten up a lot of money.

Here's my boyfriend’s total car spend (which he was happier not knowing).

Car expenseAnnual cost
Auto insurance
As a 24-year-old male in the GTA
Fixes (ex: broken lights)$250
Winter tires$500
Oil changes$120
Gas$1,386 ($40/tank)
Cumulative total
I.e. including the price of the car

Big numbers, right?

At the moment, Kelvin has been tackling those costs solo and won’t let me chip in — I’ve offered to at least pay for gas, so I’m not actually a soulless monster.

We’ve discussed this issue at length and he always says “No, you don’t need to pay”, but should I push back harder and insist? Do I owe him and is this a ‘debt’ that I need to pay?

Here’s what everyone had to say about it

With matters of the heart and of the wallet, answers are never easy. So I asked my friends, family, and the internet for their thoughts — should I chip in for my boyfriend’s car costs?

The responses were surprising. I expected a hard no or a hard yes, but mostly got lots of in-betweens.

In our Twitter poll, 89% of respondents voted, “Yes! It’s only fair”. As in, you should totally pay, what a stupid question! Or at least, that’s how I interpreted this result.

But when I gave people more context, answers were mixed.

Personal finance blogger Desirae Odjick made the point that if a couple isn’t “formally sharing expenses”, helping out with car costs is a nice offer, but not required.

Michelle, a 25-year-old private school teacher, equated rides from a significant other (SO) to rides from a taxi. “You’d pay your taxi driver, right?,” she says. “It’s almost the same thing, except you’re dating one of them.”

She also admits, however, that while her boyfriend does most of the driving when they go out, she wouldn’t pitch in for gas. She has her own car and he wouldn’t take her money anyway.

Of course, that’s the flipside to this question: Would you accept your SO’s gas money?

I dragged my brother and his girlfriend into the conversation. They live together and are in a similar situation — she has her own car and my brother doesn’t drive.

Jon thought the answer was obvious.

“No. Why would you pay for anything?,” he asks. “Aren’t you mutually going to the same places?”

(Yes, most of the time).

And Christie agrees.

“I feel the same way. I mean, he’s my boyfriend”, she says., “And the furthest I ever drive him is to Walmart ‘cause he doesn’t go anywhere anyway”.

(Life in the suburbs, people).

“Sometimes he offers me gas money, but I always say no,” she added.

My mom interjected with, “Isn’t that just part of the privilege of dating you?” and then laughed at her own clever joke.

Here’s where we landed

Only you and your SO can figure this out. It just so happens that getting everyone’s input helped us open up the conversation further.

I want to help pay for some of Kelvin’s car costs because I ‘use’ his car frequently. He thinks accepting my contribution is unnecessary and too complicated.

“Even if you help, what would you pay for and how do we make that balanced? Like gas. Would you pay for a full tank? A quarter? And how often? It’s just too much,” he says.

So after much ado, I still won’t be chipping in for his car costs.

But now we both feel more comfortable with this arrangement. And I’ll still offer to pay for gas from time to time. When he doesn’t accept, I’ll just pick up the cheque elsewhere in the relationship. And he’ll still drive, but he’ll know that I’m appreciative / covertly paying for other things to balance out our relationship scorecard.

We’ve decided this is what works for us, but every situation is different. If you’ve got other thoughts on the topic, let’s talk about it — we’re always on Twitter!