I've Been Car-Free for 4 Years. Here Are the Biggest Pros and Cons
- Being car-free could save you money and be more convenient.
- There are downsides, like not having as much freedom or flexibility.
- Reliable alternative transportation is a must if you decide to get rid of your car.
I'm happy with a car-free life, but it's not right for everyone.
In 2018, I decided to move from the United States to Colombia. As part of my moving prep, I sold my Nissan Altima on Craigslist. Even though I knew I had to do it, not having a car felt strange. Up to that point, I'd had one my entire adult life.
Since then, I've been car-free. I've lived in six different cities, visited several others, and I've managed with alternative transportation. I get around using ride shares, walking, public transportation, and the very occasional car rental when I need it.
If you're tired of paying for auto loans, insurance, and gas, going car-free may sound appealing. It certainly can be, but it's also a huge lifestyle change, so it's helpful to know what you're getting into.
The benefits of being car-free
The best part about not having a car is that it can save you quite a bit of money, because owning a car is often expensive. The average new car payment recently reached $656, and that's just one of the bills a car adds to your life. There's also car insurance, gas, maintenance, and possibly parking, too.
You'll still need to get around, though, so there is a tradeoff. If you don't have good public transportation, you may need to use ride shares more.
In my case, I've still come out ahead. I've averaged about $250 to $300 per month in ride shares while spending a few months in Los Angeles. That's much less than I'd pay for a decent car and all that comes with it.
Another thing I love about not having a car is the convenience factor. I never have to search for parking when I go out or get home, and there's no overstating how nice that is. I also don't need to worry about taking a car in for maintenance or dealing with any of those annoying mechanical issues that can come up without warning.
Last but not least, I walk a lot more now than I did when I had a car, and that's a plus for me. I enjoy walking around and exploring new places, and it's a good way to stay active.
The biggest issue with the car-free life is that it's not realistic for everyone. It works well for me because I work remotely, so getting out of bed is pretty much my daily commute. Depending on where you live and your lifestyle, not having a car could be anywhere from inconvenient to practically impossible.
You are giving up some freedom and flexibility when you don't have a vehicle. You don't have the option of hopping in your car and driving wherever you want at a moment's notice. So even though being car-free is often convenient, it can also make some things more complicated.
Need a couple of items from the store? You'll have to walk, pay for a ride share, or use public transport. Want to visit a nearby city for a few days? You may need to rent a car to get yourself there and back. Relying on ride shares to go places? Sometimes Uber and Lyft don't have anyone nearby, which is an issue when you're on a tight schedule.
It's definitely harder to get around without a car. In most cities, you can do it, but other transportation options all have their downsides:
- Walking is great, but it's time consuming and not an option for long distances.
- Public transportation is hit or miss depending on the city, and it usually takes much longer than driving.
- Ride shares are the closest thing to driving, but they can be expensive.
How to decide if you need a car
If you like the idea of being car-free, but you're not sure it's feasible, here are a few questions to think about:
- How will you get around? Plan what your usual methods of transportation will be, whether that's ride shares, public transportation, a bike, or something different.
- How much will it cost? Estimate what you'll spend per month and compare it to your current costs with your car.
- Will it be more or less convenient? If finding parking is always a hassle and you don't drive much anyway, getting rid of your car could be a massive relief. But if you need to drive places often, it could be frustrating relying on ride shares or public transportation.
It's also a good idea to take the car-free lifestyle for a test drive (pun intended) before you commit. Spend a few weeks living as if you didn't have a car to see if you like it and how much it costs. Trying it out is the best way to discover if it's a realistic option for you.
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