View Full Version : How much did it cost to keep a carriage back then?

06-04-2015, 07:14 PM
Mrs Elton tediously boasts about their barouche-landau, which seems to the the Porsche Cayanne of carriages. In chapter 41, Frank Churchill puts his foot in it by commenting on Mr Perry's intention to keep a carriage, which was information he was not supposed to know. Mr Weston says he is glad he could afford it. Mr Perry was a doctor, so a respectable member of the community, a gentleman, and presumably not poor. Mr Woodhouse has a carriage of course. So does Mr Knightly, who (iirc) sent it to take the Bates to a ball to ensure they arrived in similar style to their richer neighbours. I think a man was mentioned somewhere who kept two carriages, as if this were an astonishing occurrence. It seems odd in these days of multi-car households that only the elite of society could afford to own a carriage. Mr Knightly and Mr Woodhouse live in properties which you have to be a millionaire to own these days. Carriages are much less complicated to build than cars. Why were they relatively so expensive? Is it actually the carriage that is expensive or is it the stabling and feeding of the horses? Or is it that you need to employ a coach driver?

06-05-2015, 01:13 AM
I think the upkeep for horses was probably quite expensive, but also a few things.

1. You can't measure wealth by today's standards. It's often the case in Russian novels as well that a high ranking character will have estates which would make someone a millionaire many times over today, but that person is also very strapped for cash. I don't think someone like Mr Woodhouse has the buying power of a multimillionaire in today's economy.

2. Cars are more complicated but they are also built in giant factories on an assembly line using the power of economics of scale. I suspect a good carriage would have been more expensive back then than a decent car is today.

06-05-2015, 02:27 AM
link (http://www.jasnanorcal.org/ink9.htm) to article on carriages of Austen's times.

Apparently carriages were bespoke, which probably has something to do with the price.

06-05-2015, 04:23 PM
Yes Clopin, it's tricky to make comparisons. Usually I identify the better off characters with ourselves, because back then, the poor were so much poorer than now. We may not have servants but we do have washing machines. If a character has a big estate and a huge house packed with costly artefacts then I regard them as being comparatively richer than people I know. I wonder what would be an analogy for a carriage. I read a magazine which often has features on recumbent bicycles and human powered vehicles. Because they are built in low volume, often by small teams of people, they tend to be rather expensive. For example, a Leitra HPV costs about 4500 euros. A carriage would be bigger and uses more materials, so you would expect it to be somewhat more expensive. All the same, if a carriage cost the equivalent of 10,000 euros, that is not unaffordable if you think you need one. You would think that a doctor, who would have reason to have one for his visits could afford a gig.