A year ago, I traded in my expensive, new vehicle for an older, cheaply insured clunker. It saved me well over a thousand dollars in insurance and gas costs over the following 10 months. However, after the most recent incident in which the engine stalled in a parking lot and my car had to be towed home yet again, I decided I just wasn’t going to drive anymore.
Since then, I’ve been walking, biking, riding the streetcar, and hailing the occasional taxicab whenever I need to get around. Granted, I’m lucky – Walk Score rates my neighborhood in New Orleans 75 points out of 100 for walkability. But other cities – such as New York, San Francisco, and Jersey City – have even higher ranks.
Advantages of Not Owning a Car
My car is presently parked at home, as I haven’t yet decided whether I’ll keep it or get rid of it once and for all. If I decide to cease car ownership altogether, I estimate that I’ll save $815 a year in car insurance, about $1,100 a year in gas, and a minimum of $250 in maintenance costs. The possibility of saving at least $2,165 a year is enticing.
Consider how much you can save by eliminating the necessary expenses that come with car ownership:
1. Auto Insurance
Before I downgraded my vehicle, I owned a Mustang GT, which I purchased new. Having a 500 horsepower sports car in a city with a high crime rate meant I spent $257 a month on car insurance alone. I owned the car for two years, spending $9,252 in auto insurance during that time.
Sure, you can find ways to save on your auto insurance, but you could also just sell your car and not have to pay for coverage at all.
2. Maintenance and Repairs
Sitting in the auto shop on a Saturday morning waiting for an oil change is tedious and time-consuming, and it costs a lot of money. Last year, I got four oil changes that cost $45 each, which means I spent $180 on oil alone over the course of 12 months. Replacing tires, purchasing new windshield wipers, going to the car wash, and having tuneups and repairs completed by professionals can cost you thousands more. You can of course take on DIY car maintenance, but it isn’t for everyone.
I work from home, and all of my friends live within three miles of my doorstep. I didn’t drive much, but I still needed to fill up twice a month. With an average cost of $52 per fill-up, I was spending approximately $104 on gas each month – or $1,248 a year. Rather than trying to save money on gas, eliminate your car altogether and save up to thousands of dollars annually.
Tips to the Live Without a Vehicle
Living without a car has not been an easy adjustment to make. However, with a bit of effort, you can get by simply and cheaply:
1. Familiarize Yourself With Public Transportation
If you plan to take the bus as a primary mode of transportation, it helps to have a route map and a schedule. For example, some of the streetcars in my city stop running at midnight, while others run 24 hours. Being familiar with the schedule will keep you from having to wait – or from getting stranded.
Furthermore, look for a discount card. The public transportation authority in New Orleans sells monthly cards to frequent riders. By loading up my card, I save $0.25 per ride (paying $1.00 instead of $1.25). Your city may offer something similar.
2. Purchase a Bike
Riding a bicycle is a great way to get around. Not only is it environmentally friendly, but it helps keep you in shape. I purchased a used bike at a garage sale for only $50 – you can also check websites such as Craigslist, as well as your local newspaper’s classified listing for a great deal on a used bike.
After you make your purchase, be sure to invest in a good bike lock. Bikes are difficult to locate once they’re stolen, making them prime targets of theft in urban areas.
3. Get a Weather App
If you own a car, weather isn’t much of a concern when you need to go out – you just have to make it from the front door to the driver’s seat. If you’re walking or riding a bicycle, however, it’s a different story. I suggest getting a weather app and checking it often.
Many apps are available for free:
- The Weather Channel app shows national and local weather. It also sends alerts if bad weather is approaching. It is available for all smartphones and tablets.
- My-Cast features a weather radar and local results. It is available for the iPhone, Android, and Blackberry.
- Weather Underground uses more than 20,000 local stations. This app has the most specific results available I’ve found. It is available for the iPhone and Android.
4. Plan Ahead
When I first ditched my car, I would forget I wasn’t using it anymore and frequently told people things such as, “I’ll be there in five minutes!” However, when you’re walking, you can rarely get anywhere in five minutes.
Rather than being late for the rest of my life, I started mapping out how long it takes me to get to certain places. Now I know that I can walk to the local bar in 10 minutes, the supermarket in 15, and my friend’s house in 20. Create your own routes, and plan ahead to avoid being late. Google Maps offers walking directions based on the availability of sidewalks and pedestrian paths.
5. Borrow a Car When You Need One
By utilizing a car borrowing service, you can still access a vehicle whenever necessary. Car borrowing services provide you with access to a car, gas, and insurance for a flat fee that is cheaper than what you typically pay for car rentals. You can take the car for a few hours or the entire the day, run your errands, and leave it at one of the drop-off centers. These services aren’t widely available yet, but check out Zipcar to see if there is a car borrowing station in your area.
I’ve now gone a month without my car. The first week was difficult, but since then I’ve learned to love the new setup. So far, I’ve only spent $22 on public transportation, which is $128 less than what I typically spent on gas each month. Furthermore, I feel better. Now that I’m walking and riding my bike more, I have plenty of chances to exercise, and I feel like I’m getting into great shape.
Do you live without a car? What other tips do you have for getting around town?
(photo credit: Bigstock)