Enjoying the Car-Free Life

Even though I was the one who nudged my wife to get rid of the car, she seems to be appreciating it a lot more than I am. I love it, but she keeps remarking how good it is to be without a car—probably because until recently she was the main person using it. We both grew up in the suburbs, and both her parents and my parents had at least two cars at any given time. You had to drive to get to the grocery store, to get to the library, to get to a friend’s house, to get just about anywhere except the woods.

Once we moved to a city, we still needed a car. She was working in the city, but I was working about thirty minutes away by highway. Then, she was in school and needed to constantly lug things around, leave dangerous areas late at night, and be in several places around the bay within a short time period.

Now we finally both work in the city and can be without a car. We donated it a few weeks ago, and, as my wife keeps remarking, our life is a lot better (and less stressful) now. At a conservative estimate, we’re saving about $2000 a year (and we owned our car, so that does not include car payments). We walk more. My wife gets more reading done on the bus and waiting for the bus. I get dizzy when reading on moving vehicles, so I listen to music and just people-watch. We don’t have to worry about the car being broken into, the car not starting, the car getting ticketed (for street “cleaning”); the car insurance, the gas, parking, oil changes, registration, smog checks… the list just goes on and on.

If you live and work in a city and have ever considered going car-free, I would highly recommend it. I’d also highly recommend reading How to Live Well Without Owning a Car: Save Money, Breathe Easier, and Get More Mileage Out of Life by Chris Balish. We checked that book out of the library, and that was what assured us that taking that final step of actually getting rid of the car… wasn’t so scary after all.

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7 Comments

  1. It’s good to be car-free. I’ll rather use my bicycle instead of driving a car. Many people complain that it is more expensive to live in the city, but if you can do without a car you save a lot of money. Money you can use for other things instead.

    I have lived in the country for some years too. You always use the car, even if you are just going a place near to home.

  2. Oh, how I WISH I didn’t work 30 minutes from my home. Or better yet, I wish I could work _from_ home. I and my wife would love to be car free, I envy you greatly!

    I do what I can by riding my motorcycle to and from work every day, even in the rain. That saves a lot of money on gas (55mpg), insurance ($120/year), and it’s also a lot more fun. But I’d would give a lot to be able to ride a real bicycle to work. That would be perfect.

  3. If only… I am making some headway with my fiancee on this same topic, but the non-traditional is a little harder for her to grasp – I’m on Ubuntu, she’s on Windows, I have a scooter that gets 100 mpg if not higher and she has a sedan… but gradually I find that she uses my Ubuntu desktop more often while her Windows laptop collects dust in the corner, and we take the scooter more places. You are lucky to be in a place where public transportation is famously easier to use, here in Saint Paul MN it’s actually more cost-effective to drive than take the bus ($2.75 each way on the bus vs. 7 miles of driving to work). But kudos for waving the planet!

  4. Well, I used to think the same thing about traveling across the Bay Bridge ($3 in toll by car or $6.20 by subway), but then you have to think about all the hidden costs associated with owning a car. The cost isn’t just the gas and the toll… it’s the worry, it’s the insurance, it’s the repairs, it’s the tickets.

    I don’t know much about public transportation in St. Paul, MN, but a lot of employers offer pre-tax commuter options for those who are taking public transportation, and it nearly halves your travel expenses (with the pre-tax commuter, I was paying about $27 for a monthly bus pass instead of $45).

    In any case, you really have to find what’s right for your situation. My wife and I have lived in this city for six years before getting rid of the car. We had to find just the right time to do it, and we both had to be ready for it. If I didn’t have buy-in from her, there’s no way we would have gone ahead and done it.

  5. Well, since St Paul is pretty small, we have underground parking here for $80/month which gets rid of many of the hidden costs like ticketing, breakins, and even a lot of maintenance. There are a few programs for cheap bus passes – when I was a U of Minnesota student I could get a semester unlimited rides for $60, and at that time neither of us owned a car. Unfortunately I can’t get such a good deal anymore, the equivalent 5 month-passes would cost me $520 :-(

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