After living abroad for a few years, I found myself coming home to America for a new job. I was headed to Texas, home of big trucks and vast expanses between places. I thought to myself that the first order of business would be to purchase a new vehicle, seeing as how I didn’t own one at the time. On arrival, the guy who hired me offered me a challenge: try living without a car for 30 days; if you hate it, buy a vehicle. I took his challenge and am happy to report that three years later, I am still blissfully living without a car!
Living Without A Car: The Setup
I am not one to back down from a good challenge, so I accepted. It is now three years later, and I am still car-free! How? There are two critical factors to successfully living without a car:
- Proximity – The places you need to get to on a regular basis should be near each other. Living not too far away from your work will be the major factor for most to consider.
- Alternative Options – Living in a community with transportation alternatives will make or break your ability to live without a car.
I work downtown, so I live near downtown; 4.1 miles to be exact. In my community, this is far enough away for the cost of living to be reasonable, but close enough to where I am in the core service area for many alternative transportation services. It’s also a leisurely bike ride or walk if the weather is nice.
Further Reading: Top 10 American Cities for Living Without A Car
Living in proximity to downtown is more expensive than living in the further-out suburbs, but my net savings are huge. When I had a vehicle, I was spending about $1000 a month on the car note, insurance, gas, parking and maintenance. Now, I rarely spend more than $150 in a month for transportation. My rent might be up $200-300, but at the end of the month, I am coming out way ahead. I am also saving a lot of time and headache by not driving in terrible traffic.
I might not have a car, but I do have a very wide menu of transportation options at my disposal. Here is what I use on a day to day basis:
- Public Transit
- My own bike
- My own two feet
With all of these options, choosing the best method for right now is sometimes a burden. To help me figure it out, I turn to the Google Maps App (iOS / Android) and Ridescout App (iOS / Android). Go give those a look and let me know what you think about them by leaving a comment below.
Living in a community with reliable and widespread public transit is awesome. In my community, I have a very good experience with the transit system. When I moved to town, I purposefully looked for housing that was on the same bus line as my office. Now I can go door to door in about 22 minutes on the bus.
Car Sharing services are sweeping the nation. If you live in a community with Car2Go or ZipCar, go get a membership, right now. Both services only charge for the time you use the vehicles (no reoccurring monthly costs). Car2Go is for one-way travel, while ZipCar is for roundtrip travel.
If the weather is nice and you’re feeling like some exercise, check out your local bike sharing program! B-Cycle and Motivate are the two largest bike share programs in the States. To find a bike sharing program near you, click on your state on the map below (this will take you to another site).
Of course you can also walk to where you are going if you have the time. I find that I walk the 4-miles home in about an hour. This is my favorite hour of the day because I get to listen to a podcast, call my parents, or just enjoy the fresh air and lack of emails. You can also invest in your own bike and use that to get where you are going much more quickly than your feet can take you.
Check out Walk Score to see how your neighborhood ranks for walkability and other alternative transportation factors! Learn something new? Please share by posting a comment below or by messaging me directly at @judsonlmoore!