I Was Car-Free in Los Angeles for 4 Months. Here's How Much I Spent Getting Around

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  • I spent about $375 per month getting around Los Angeles without a car.
  • That consisted of $1,010 for rideshares and $501 for rental cars over four months.
  • Being car-free could work well if you have a remote job or live in an area with efficient public transportation.

It sure beat a costly car payment.

In much of the United States, cars are the most convenient mode of transportation, but they've been far from affordable lately. The average new car price nearly hit $50,000 to start the year. That has saddled more and more drivers with car payments of $1,000 or more.

It's enough to make almost any driver consider being car-free. After all, car payments are often one of the biggest expenses, which means they also have a significant impact on people's personal finances. Eliminating your car payment could free up a lot of money for you. But you're still going to need to get around, so that means you'll need to think about how much alternative transportation would cost.

Last year, I spent about four months living in Los Angeles with no car. Now, Los Angeles definitely isn't known as a walkable city. It's very spread out, and owning a car is usually recommended. Just how expensive is it to get around without a car there? It's actually not as bad as you might think.

How much I spent being car-free in Los Angeles

For the most part, I got around Los Angeles using rideshares. I walked when I could, but its reputation for not being walkable is well-earned. Driving, or being driven, is often the only good option. Here's how much I spent on Uber and Lyft rides:

  • 11 Uber rides: $226.60
  • 51 Lyft rides: $783.17
  • Total: $1,009.77

In case you're wondering why I used Lyft so much more often, it's not because I'm a devoted fan. One of my rewards credit cards earns bonus points on Lyft rides, so I used that whenever it was an option to get more back.

That means I spent about $250 per month on rideshares, which isn't a whole lot. But those weren't my only transportation costs.

I also rented cars twice. Once was through a traditional rental company for $222.97 for a weekend trip to Palm Springs to see family. The other was through Turo for $277.87 to move from one short-term rental to another. I rented each car for longer than I needed so I could drive myself around Los Angeles for a few days. That's $500.84 in car rental costs.

My grand total, including rideshares and car rentals, was $1,510.61 for my entire stay, which comes out to about $375 per month. Comparing that to typical car ownership costs, I'm pretty happy with how much I spent. Even if you own your car outright and don't have an enormous car payment, the average cost of car insurance is $240 per month. There's also gas and maintenance, which could easily tack on another $200.

Is it worth it to go car-free?

Not having a car worked out great for me, but to be fair, I work from home. I don't need to commute anywhere five times per week. If I had an in-person job that was a $20 ride away, I would've been spending $40 per day. Multiply that by 20 working days per month, and it'd cost $800.

You could potentially save money by going car-free in either of the following situations:

  • You work remotely or have a hybrid work arrangement. The less often you're required to be at an office, the more viable not having a car is.
  • You live in an area with efficient public transportation. This rules out quite a bit of the United States, but there are exceptions.

If you're not sure whether you'll spend more or less without a car, run the numbers to find out. For example, if you have a regular commute, plug it in to Uber or Lyft to see how much it would cost you. Do the same with places you go often, and you can come up with a rough idea of how much being without a car would cost you.

There are times when it's inconvenient not to have a car. But it's certainly possible to do it, and you might not need to spend a massive amount of money. If being car-free is a good fit for your life, it could end up saving you money like it did for me.

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