Could You Live Without a Car?
Alternative options to owning a car.
September 6, 2018 6 min read
For many people, a car feels like an everyday necessity of life. But with new technologies and alternative transportation options, people are discovering it’s possible to live without a car. And we’re not just talking about those living in a city like New York. Living car-free is becoming more accessible in more places across the country.
There are many reasons someone might want to live their life without a car. Whether you’re environmentally conscious or trying to save on car costs, it’s actually easier than ever to learn how to get around without a car.
After looking at monthly payments, insurance, gas, maintenance, parking, tolls, registration fees and unexpected costs like accidents, flat tires or break-ins, the average annual cost of a car is nearly $9,000.1 And that’s if you’re only driving about 40 miles per day. With road trips or long commutes, it’s easy for a car to cost even more each year. Just think, these savings could go toward an exotic vacation, new home décor or put into a savings account for rainy-day fund.
Clearly there are some financial benefits to tossing the keys. But what exactly are your alternatives to owning a car?
Apps like Lyft and Uber have made getting around simpler than ever. You can hitch a ride with someone else morning, noon or night. You wouldn’t have to pay for insurance and gas because your driver is responsible for that, and these companies regularly offer coupons and passes to make the services cheaper. The rides can range in cost depending on your destination, and prices can surge at certain times of day, but overall, the rates are reasonable. You can also get a general idea of how much a ride may cost ahead of time with ride estimators.
Public transportation systems vary greatly from city to city. For example, Atlanta’s MARTA rail system goes from the airport to downtown to the suburbs, while the only light rail currently in Kansas City is exclusively downtown. Then there are buses. It may take a few trips to figure out your exact route, but after a few tries, you’ll find the repetitive schedules are relatively easy to figure out. Plus, most major cities have an app of some sort that is updated in real time.
Many cities have adopted car-sharing services like Zipcar that let you rent cars on an hourly basis. There are designated parking spaces for these cars where you can pick them up when you’re ready and drop them off when you’re finished. Memberships can cost as little as $7/month, and the driving rates are around $8–$10/hour.2
Weather permitting, riding a bike is a great way to get where you need to go. Plus, there are plenty of attachments you can connect to your bike to help you transport more than just yourself. A kid’s seat trailer is perfect for taking your child to the park or carrying your groceries back from the store.
Similar to car sharing, bikes are appearing in cities available for hourly rentals. If you don’t own a bike, you can simply borrow one of these to get to your destination. Different businesses have made their bikes available in different cities. In Dallas, LimeBike has put bikes all over the city, while Divvy is popular in Chicago. A simple online search should help you see if any companies offer easy-to-access bikes in your area.
Some cities are considerably easier to navigate on 2 feet than others. New York is considered the most walkable city in the nation, followed by San Francisco and Boston.3 This is helpful because those cities also have the highest parking rates. You could expect to pay about $541 a month to park in Manhattan.4 If you can get yourself around town easily without a car, you can save some cash while adding to your daily step count.
If you want to take a trip out of town for a long weekend or any reason, you can always rent a car. You won’t have to worry about changing the oil, rotating the tires or any of the wear-and-tear maintenance. The price may vary depending on the vehicle and region you are in, but generally, spending a couple of hundred dollars once in a while could still save you much more in the long run.
If you don’t live in a city with a taxi on every corner, you’ll be pleased to know many taxi services have an app, too. Just like ridesharing, you can call a taxi on demand or reserve a cab ahead of time. It all depends on where you live, but finding a cab is easier than ever before.
Nowadays, everything you need is only a few taps away on your phone. Groceries, meals and even personally styled outfits can be delivered to your home in a couple of days (if not hours). There’s no need for a car to run errands when someone else can make a store run for you.
One question you may have is “how will I get to work without a car?” Simple: Carpool. Talk to your co-workers who live near you about getting a ride with them. In exchange, you can share the costs for gas, tolls, parking and other expenses as well as provide your DJ skills by finding the best music for each ride.
Another option some people have available to them is working from home. The internet has made it easier than ever to be available from anywhere, so your employer may allow you to work from home a few days a week. If you’re lucky enough to have this option, your commute may only be from your bedroom to the kitchen table.
So, could you live car-free?
Honestly, whether you could get around without a car or not all depends on you and where you live. You will need to consider your situation and the services available in your area, your ability to carpool or work from home, and how far you’re willing to walk or bike. Living without a car is not for everyone. But if you’re looking to steer clear of some financial burden, help the environment or have some other reasons, perhaps it’s time you started considering if you could live without a car.