Could You Live Without a Car? – Car(e) Free Living

Posted on Friday, December 17, 2010 - 0 Comments

Tiny Car in Amsterdam

In the fall, of ’07, I decided to start a lifestyle experiment. I would get rid of my car and live a car free existence. Not because I’m some sort of environmental crusader (not that I have anything against them), I just don’t want credit for that sort of thing when it’s not my intrinsic motivation. I figured by selling my car I could earn some money and then subsequently save heaps on car insurance, gas, maintenance, parking tickets (yeah, I used to get a lot of those), you name it.

Ok, actually the way it happened is a drunk driver totaled my car. Thankfully, I wasn’t in it. This sucked for many reasons. First, my car was completely paid off, no payments! Second, I had just returned from traveling for 3 months and had lowered my car insurance to the minimum and hadn’t raised it back to normal yet (I’d just returned). So, you guessed it, I got nuthin’ from my insurance company, which would have been fine since it was the drunk’s fault and all, and the police showed up (I was not there) and took him away and filed a police report and an accident report. Wait, they DIDN’T file an accident report? LA’s finest. Oh well.

Regardless, I was faced with the decision of what car to buy. As you know, or assume, a car is essential to your survival in Los Angeles. I’m a born and bred Angeleno. For the most part, we don’t walk, or ride bikes, we drive.

So I did the obligatory going to car dealerships and test-driving cars. I compared prices, shopped for deals, considered the lease vs. buy strategy and imagined what life would be like in a plethora of different cars. I imagined myself in a muscle car (would I need to rock the 70’s ‘stache to drive one?), a luxury car (do I deserve something that fancy?), a truck (a real man drives a truck, you know), a Prius (great gas mileage, good price, so slow…). The list went on and on.

Finally I decided NOT to choose. I would live without a car. No car payment, no monthly insurance, no weekly fill-ups, no maintenance, no parking tickets, no oil changes, no car washes, no chance of getting totaled by some drunk. Woo-hoo! I was free.

So I walked, yes walked (how charming), down to Vroman’s Bookstore and picked up a copy of “How to Live Well Without Owning a Car: Save Money, Breathe Easier, and Get More Mileage Out of Life”.

I voraciously poured through its pages and was psyched to undertake this new car free lifestyle. If your sensing that it wasn’t all roses, you’re right.

Some things were easy:

  • Right away I saved a bunch of money. Approx. $550 USD per month in car ownership and its related expenses.
  • I walked everywhere and realized I love walking.
  • I learned that my neighborhood had a walkability score of 97. (You can check yours here: www.walkscore.com).
  • I lost weight from all the walking without even trying. Gym membership, see ya!
  • I talked to a lot more people in my neighborhood and made more friends. I wasn’t driving in an isolated box anymore.
  • I found lots of cool local restaurants and shops. Family owned places where people get to know you and really take care of you.
  • No more road rage.
  • I enjoyed staying local.
  • I treated friends to lunches, dinners, and drinks in exchange for rides and car loans. I still came out way ahead financially (remember: no car payment, insurance, etc…) and had people to run errands with.
  • Running errands became a social activity as people joined me in this normally boring, but essential, part of life.

Some things were hard:

  • I didn’t have a pimpin’ ride with which to impress the ladies. Actually, this wasn’t a negative at all. Most women had no problem with my car free lifestyle and those that did weren’t right for me anyway.
  • I had to learn to plan things better. For instance, I couldn’t always be as spontaneous as before. If someone called and said “meet me at x bar/restaurant in 20 min.” and it was outside my comfortable walking zone, I was left with four options:
  1. Beg for a ride
  2. Don’t go
  3. Take a cab (very expensive in LA)
  4. Rent/Borrow a car

Ultimately this dilemma saved me money as I went out A LOT less often. Also improved my health; less restaurant food, less drinking, more sleep. It makes anyone feel better.

  • I found out, real quick, how my friends felt about me, and my car free lifestyle. I had friends, who lived 20 min. away (this is considered close in LA), who did not visit me once in a whole year while I was car free. So your friends may not all be on board with your not having a car.

All in all, I love not owning a car. The freedom and cost savings are perfect for my lifestyle. How about you?

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Algis

I have an insatiable wanderlust which takes me to some crazy places where I try strange foods, pretend I'm a local and talk with elephants. Keep reading...

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