I never really mentioned why we personally chose to live without a car. Not that it’s much of a mystery. We don’t even have frugal clunkers to brag about.
To be perfectly honest, I see the stats on my posts about living car-free and they’re never popular posts. Not surprisingly! Most Americans, up and down the socioeconomic class either rent, lease, or own and drive their own cars so us choosing to live car-free is not relevant to many readers.
Cars are a big deal in this country. We had mandatory driver education classes in my high school but not a single class about the basics of personal finance! My husband and I do not own a car for several reasons:
1. We hate driving
My husband and I are just waiting out the clock for on-demand mobile driverless cars. I watched a self-driving car documentary recently and it has me all fired up for the future. I hope they’re economical enough and they roll out the rental driverless cars as soon as possible! What a dream that would be!
Anyways, my husband uses cars as a last resort. He hates driving as much as I do. Sometimes when he’s coming home from work late and the buses are only running once every 30 minutes by then, I say to him, “Honey, just take a Car2Go and drive back home, it’s quicker.”
He would never do it.
Although it would cut his commute to a third of the time (it would also cost about $20.) He says it’s simply because he hates driving. He would rather choose to sit on a bus for 60 minutes and do nothing (which is to read comics and play video games on his phone) than focus on doing something he hates to do (which is driving downtown at night) for 20 minutes.
2. Car cost & savings
I bet you two monopoly donuts you’ve heard of a similar story to this before:
The first thing an (ex)-friend of mine did when she graduated high school was talk her mother into buying her a brand new Toyota for $24,000 for “college.” The mother folded and bought the car for her. She crashed it 3 months later.
Here’s another common tale:
My family never needed a car living in San Francisco. But my mother fell for the “we can’t let people think we’re poor, we need 2 cars” gimmick for a few years. She bought an used Lexus on a grocery vegetable cutter’s salary.
News flash mother, we ARE poor.
My family didn’t need a car. She worked a 15-minute walk away from the crappy basement we rented. That car was parked outside for appearances. I am more frugal than my mother. Even when I moved away for college, if I needed something, I’ll walk to it on foot. I never asked for rides unless people offered first.
I didn’t have issues walking along the side of the road next to big cars; it reminded me of where I came from. I came from a small Chinese village where if you were driving in anything with 4 wheels, people would turn their heads and whisper about you. It doesn’t matter if it was a 10-year-old Honda junk clunker, people would talk about seeing a car for days.
There is a huge cost difference between ownership and public transportation. We’re talking about saving around $500 every month, each month if you include the original purchase price of a used car. I remember taking out my own phone and opening the calculator app to double check my math because I couldn’t believe the difference. Our bus transportation budget never runs over $40 dollars a month.
Frugality isn’t equal. You would have to kill 4-5 years worth of Amazon Prime memberships to save what we do in just 1 month. Car-free and house hacking will boost savings rates significantly faster than snapping receipts for Ibotta.
3. Lamely saving lives
This point is probably only applicable to me but…
YOU SHOULD NOT LET ME BEHIND THE WHEEL.
I’m sure there are a lot of great drivers out there who happens to be nubile 20-year-olds and Asian and a woman…but THIS partially blind, 20 something, Asian, woman driver right here SUCKS at driving.
My attention span is short, motor controls are meh, and neuro-spatial processing (the brain function that tells you if you can fit into a parking spot by eyeballing) is pretty horrific.
I had my original driver ed instructor quit on me and the last instructor I almost drove off a cliff. Thankfully she had a brake pedal on her side because, man, I did not see that cliff…
I like to think keeping me off the road means I’m saving lives.
4. We live in metro cities
I immigrated to San Francisco when I was little. As expensive as San Francisco is, it does pretty much spoil you in terms of most awesome cities to live in. It’s like your first-course meal was king crab, the rest of the meal courses tastes good too…but it ain’t no king crab.
San Francisco is super walkable, entertaining as hell, and the transportation system there was something I took for granted now having lived elsewhere.
Hubby grew up in the suburbs of Marin close to San Francisco. It was the ‘burbs so just picture the archetypical 3 car garage, all-American family. His brother loved cars and his big sister loved to drive.
For some reason, my husband came out hating driving just as much as I did. After he got his license, he continued to avoid driving as much as he could. He has a large tight-knit family, lots of school pals, and he was never without a ride.
Today, we live in Seattle. Seattle is a pretty populated metropolitan city with decent public transportation as of late.
The public transportation system has become more robust with the incoming streams of young tech workers and other professional transplants. The sleepy, grunge-y Seattle is as unfamiliar as the skyline now (and we’ve only been living here 3-7 years!) Our transportation options here are fairly plentiful. We keep alive by bus, bike, rail, Lyft and various rental car programs.
Washington state has no state income tax. Washington have a very high sales tax, property tax, and auto taxes to raise funds in other ways. If you are a high-income earner (as our family is) – it’s a very clever idea to be minimalist and go car-free.
5. Parking anxiety
Parking anxiety is especially steep if you’re living in the city. Everything is so cramped. On the rare occasions that we do need a car to attend an event or party, we take a Lyft and not deal with parking. For all other occasions, we bus or walk to it, making cars and parking a non-issue.
I had a friend who would gladly drop $500 on a meal alone but would drive for an hour so she doesn’t have to pay for $8 parking.
In a cheapo to cheapo way, I can understand that. But the last time she came out with us, her and her husband spent 35 minutes looking for free parking, found it, parked and walked 12 blocks on foot back to the concert hall which took even more time.
The whole time I’m thinking, why didn’t you ditch your cars and Lyft here?!
They did this all the time, every single day. Both of them worked downtown and drove downtown to find parking every day. They were waitlisted on the company parking list for 2 years before finally securing a parking spot. THEN, they shell out an extra few hundred dollars every month to park in that empty plot of GROUND that kept them waiting for 2 years. It boggles my mind! Completely misplaced patience…
Legit Benefits of Having No Car
Driving a car is very helpful when it comes to long distances, as it lets you have more comfort and more flexibility when you’re on the road. But what about navigating short distances, such as a trip at a store a couple of blocks away? If you live in a place where everything is in moderate distant, driving a car would be more of a hassle if you include the cost and maintenance. It also involves your health bill. Those few blocks of walking and jogging could help your overall health.
Walking, or preferably, biking your way when going in a moderately near place will not only save you time, it will also save you money for gas and parking.
2. No more tickets and parking problems
If you’re a car owner, you should know how hard it is to park your car, especially in places where a lot of people have their own vehicles. Parking illegally will also earn you a ticket when you’re caught. And last but not least, parking can consume a lot of time and patience and money. This is especially true when you’re parking in more populous cities.
According to Streets Blog USA, cities like New York will cost you more than $700 a month. That’s a lot of money just for parking your car. In more populous cities, it is better to live without a car, as one of its most underlying problems is parking. The average cost is about $200 while other states will only cost parking about $30 a month. Location is a big factor for car cost. If you want to avoid parking problems, consider other transportation methods such as commuting.
3. Help in reducing pollution
Not owning a car will also help in reducing pollution in the air, which can cause a lot of health problems. According to UCS USA, nearly half of all Americans are not living and breathing in an air that was approved by the federal air quality standards. This means that the pollution in the country is one of its biggest problems. Poor air quality increases the risk of respiratory problems which can be life-threatening at times.
The culprit for pollution, especially in the cities where the population is denser, are passenger vehicles and heavy-duty trucks. The pollution that it brings in the atmosphere is from the particle matters which are produced in vehicle emissions. Cutting vehicle usage, as well as the number of vehicles in use, can help in easing this problem. When you’re not using your car, you can help in the improvement of the environment.
4. Ease traffic congestion
There is nothing worse than running late in the morning (either for work or for school) and being caught by a heavy traffic jam. According to Brookings, the real causes of traffic congestion in the country is the millions of people with private vehicles who try to move at the same time of the day as everyone else. In addition, this load cannot be handled by the road system. One of the best ways to avoid traffic and to help in getting rid of this problem is by reducing private car usage.
So that sums up all the big reasons why we live without a car. It turned into a bigger rant than I thought but I’m too sleepy to edit this now.
I think it feels more freeing to forgo a car. I know I’m just a kooky girl online and my reasons might not be convincing to anybody but they make sense to me.
We both hate driving, parking, pumping gasoline and paying a few thousand dollars for metal boxes with wheels. We both like (hobby actually!) shoveling money into savings and watching the money jump month after month. Only a percentage of that lends itself to living car-free but month after month, year after year, it’s going to add and compound beautifully.