Tell Us Tuesday: Living Car Free

by Kelly · 17 comments

in Tell Us Tuesday

I was inspired by this post to ask today’s Tell Us Tuesday question.

I would love to use my car less.  Now that it is paid off there is very little financial sense in selling it, as it’s over ten years old and still in good shape. Like the writer of the original post, many of the services I use are in my neighborhood, and those that aren’t are easily accesible by public transport. The thing that’s the furthest away for me is my work- only about 3 miles from my home. I’m on the hunt for a cheap, used bike, something I wouldn’t mind being stolen (not that I’d want anybody to steal it though!) and something that I don’t mind leaving outside as I have no good place to store it inside. In September I’m going to make the commitment to ride to work once a week, and then go up from there.

Do you, would you, could you, live car free?


1 CityFlips August 17, 2010

I've recently been posed with the same questions. I have a great car and no car payments. I suppose I could sell it, but I'm not going to. I found a retro cruiser bike in my mom's garage a month or so ago and took it to a bike shop to get tuned up. Cost about $60. I like the idea of biking to work (it's only about a mile), but I work long hours and don't like the idea of biking home at night in a seriously not-so-bike friendly city. A recent development has forced me to reconsider…my parking pass expired! I'm really excited! I've been taking the bus this week (which is free since I have a university ID) and I am going to try to bike at least once per week as well. We can do it!

2 kellyrigotti August 18, 2010

I've been looking all over for used bikes- so far I haven't found one, but the search continues! My former boss had a theory that when people have access to steeply subsidized discounts on public transportation (ie, from passes from their work), they use it less, because as they didn't pay for it, the cost of not using it, on say days that it was raining, was low enough that it didn't bother them. I always found the theory interesting, although he was a jerk about everything else (and wouldn't have dreamed of subsidizing our public transport!)

3 Molly August 17, 2010

I live in downtown Chicago and walk to work, so having a car is pretty optional for me. However, my partner and I did the math, and we've decided to keep the car for now. Reasons: in a few years, he's going to be going all over the city for his hospital rounds (medical school) at all hours of the day, and I don't want him taking public transit at 3 am to get to work on time. He also currently goes to school in a fine neighborhood, but there are some quite unsavory ones in between, and he sticks out like a sore thumb and obvious target. So I will keep our paid-off car for now, and we'll re-evaluate in a few years.

4 Carol August 17, 2010

It's totally impossible in Los Angeles, where the public transportation sucks. The best thing we can aspire to is using the car less by carpooling, which I do when I can. Being in the retail trade with goods to transport, I can't imagine doing without a car at all.

But a lifetime ambition of mine has been to live in an active (but nice!) part of the city, where I could walk to work, walk to shopping, etc. Unfortunately, areas like that are very expensive, and I don't believe I'll ever realize that ambition.

5 kellyrigotti August 18, 2010

Having been dependant upon public transportation in Los Angeles, I understand your point! The other thing you can do besides carpooling (which is great in Southern California because you get access to the carpool lanes) is get a hybrid…which you've already done! (Carol is my aunt, for other readers.)

6 Kayla K August 17, 2010

I would love, love, love to live without a car! The public transportation in my college town is rockin' and the streets are very bike-friendly.

My issue is that while it is easy to get around town without a car, it is impossible to get in between towns. Cities in Iowa are few and far between.

7 kellyrigotti August 18, 2010

Very good point!

8 Bette August 17, 2010

For those of us who live in rural America (or rural wherever!), living w/o wheels is simply not feasible. We live in a small rural town (pop. 230) in the middle of America and have to drive EVERYWHERE! It's part of this chosen lifestyle, the cost of which is simply accepted as a way of life and factored into the cost of living just as food and utilities are. We drive 35 miles to a town where our grocery store, library, health services, etc. are and my husband drives 45 miles to his job. There are many trade-offs to rural living, as there are to living anywhere, and this is what we choose, though it isn't for everyone. Our vehicles are older, paid off, and obviously, high mileage!

9 kellyrigotti August 18, 2010

Exactly! Sometimes I daydream about living in a very rural spot, but then I imagine myself with teenagers, playing taxi!

10 Bette August 24, 2010


Transportation costs as well as the amount of time required to travel to and fro are a serious consideration of a rural lifestyle for sure. We try to combine errands when we drive “into town,” and find that lots of lists and planning are really helpful. My son takes piano lessons in town, and so that is our day to also grocery shop, go to the library, and run all sorts of errands. It’s kind of like a marathon! Like I mentioned, there are trade-offs to everywhere one may chose to live. On the positive side, we’ve found that we save a boatload of money by not eating out. The nearest decent restaurant is 35 miles away, so it’s much easier to cook and eat at home which has become routine for us out of necessity. When we do eat out, we usually plan for it, make much better choices, and combine it with other errands/trips, so it is an enjoyable treat, not routine.


11 Valerie August 18, 2010

Very true! If I want to shop anywhere besides Walmart, it's an hour to an hour and a half to the nearest shopping center.

I'm moving to the Seattle area in a few weeks though, and I'm looking forward to hopefully using the car less.

12 Jennifer Beedie August 18, 2010

I have been without a car dor sometime, it died 2 weeks before my ex husband. Being a single parent I have had limited funds so I am to get a new or even used one. This is my take, either way its not easy. With no car inevitably you will need to go somewhere that public transportation can’t get you. Sometimes the time spent taking trains and buses are double/triple what it would be with a car. Having a car you have to worry about parking, repairs, gas. I think the ideal situation is one like you suggested. Have the car but leave it parked sometimes.

13 Pippi August 19, 2010

We lived without a car for years here in Vancouver. When we got married my father-in-law offered to help us buy a car and take care of the payments for a certain amount of time. We thanked him and asked if we could take a raincheck since we couldn't even afford the insurance at the time.

A year later my husband got a new job that required him to have a car. We took his dad up on his offer, got a car, and paid off the loan extra fast by adding to the payments his dad made. Now my husband has access to a city vehicle so a car isn't necessary for work anymore but since it's paid off we've kept it. While we could get around without it it is really useful, especially now that we have kids. We can get out of the city easily, go camping, and knock-off several errands in one day. I also enjoy not taking the bus to and from Ikea. With shelves. So we'll keep our car and try to minimize its use.

14 @TheSkinnyOn August 19, 2010

After college I moved to New York City and relied on public transportation (mostly subway) for about 5-6 years. 2 years ago I relocated to Connecticut (suburbs) and let me tell you, trying to get around up here with no vehicle is just about the most frustrating thing you can imagine. My neighborhood also has zero access to public transportation. As of 2 days ago I FINALLY purchased my 1st vehicle (ever…I'm 28 years old) I have always hated the fact of investing money in something that will instantly depreciate in value and obviously the maintenance, gas and insurance become extremely costly. My commute to work is about 30 miles round trip per day. I need to seriously start budgeting!! Does anyone here have any tips for a first time car owner?

15 Donna Freedman August 20, 2010

I live in North Seattle and gave away my car last year — to my daughter and her husband, who were moving to another state (with the strong suggestion that they remember this when they're picking out my nursing home!). Within 1 to 1.3 miles is just about everything I need: supermarket, Asian/Western market, library, post office, bank, drugstores and movie theater. I'm also on or near several bus lines.
I'm much calmer and happier now that I don't stress over parking the car, insuring the car, fixing the car, putting gas in the car and worrying that someone will run into the car. Occasionally I miss it — when it's sleeting sideways and I have to be out and about, for example. Most of the time I'm very content.
Your mileage may vary, of course; if I had small children or a chronic illness, I probably wouldn't be able to do this.
If it's kosher to post URLs, I wrote an MSN Money article on this subject:

16 Kim Woodbridge August 20, 2010

Thanks for linking to and reading my article. My main point was that being able to live car free really depends on where you live. I am currently visiting my brother in rural Vermont and it wouldn't be possible to get by without a car. Well, it's possible because people did it 100 years ago but it would be very difficult. When my brother picked me up in the train station it was the first time I was even in a car in almost a year!

I don't live car free to be frugal though – I find with where I live and how I want to live that a car is a burden rather than something that makes my life easier.

Another point I forgot to make in the article was children – I only have one. It would be very hard to do with more children and not having a car is definitely easier for people who don't have kids.

17 Diane August 27, 2010

In the dry season here in northern CA I make an effort to use my bike for everything, and the car only to drive at night or for long distances. It works well – I spent $26 on gas for all of this month, which is well less than what I typically spend. Plus I get tons of exercise too. And I generally don’t overbuy at the grocery store because I have to haul it all home (I learned my lesson the time I went to the big Asian supermarket and came back with 3 bags of groceries and a flat of mangoes strapped to the top of the rack!)

My car is 13 years old with 124K miles and I plan on having it at least 20 years, so am happy to walk/bike/BART it when I can to enable that to happen.

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