Recently, the right buyers came along for my Toyota Corolla and took it off my hands. It was really great because the couple that bought the car struck up a conversation with me about frugality, financial independence, and traveling after finding out that I write about this stuff (and live it) for a living.
Apparently, they’ve already read a few books and were interested in learning more. Hopefully, I set them on the right path after about an hour of conversation on various topics. It’s not often that anyone in “the real world” is interested at all in this stuff, so the discussion was refreshing.
I ended up letting the car go for pretty much what I paid for it. I could have gotten more for it, but I decided to pass along a good deal and perhaps some good karma with it. Not particularly capitalistic of me, however. On the flip side of the coin, the car was banged up on the inside and outside from the elderly woman I bought it from back in 2013. It also needed tires. Moreover, insurance was coming up on renewal in a couple of weeks and I was also going to have to renew my registration pretty quickly. I saved more than $1,000 by getting rid of it when I did after factoring in what tires, insurance, and a tag would have cost me. All in all, I’m happy.
So I’ve been taking advantage of Sarasota’s public transportation once more – by public transportation, I mean a so-so bus system. This isn’t a big city, so I’m happy just to have access to a bus at all. Nonetheless, now that I work from home robust transportation isn’t really a necessity anymore.
But I have experienced a renewed sense of appreciation of living without a car. And I’ve come up with 10 great reasons to consider living without a car, which I’m going to share below. Now, not everyone can live without a car. It’s arguably necessary to own a car in many parts of the US, though some hardcore advocates would tell you that unless you live more than 30 miles away from work, you can bike it up all year long. I’m not making that argument, but I also know that it’s more possible to design your lifestyle around car-free living than some like to let on. And I only say that because I’ve done it.
At any rate, here are 10 awesome reasons to go car-free:
I’m a big fan of reducing stress in life. Whenever you peruse the 10 leading causes of death, you’ll notice that quite a few of them share stress as a general risk factor. What better way to immediately reduce stress – and your odds of dying earlier – than to avoid traffic? No more crazy drivers. No more getting cut off. No more driving behind a beige Buick doing 45 mph in the left lane with the blinker on (for all you Florida drivers).
The reduction of overall stress in my life is one reason why I’m not particularly concerned about healthcare expenses in early retirement/financial independence. Stress might not be tangible, but it’s a big factor on your overall quality of life. And quitting your high-stress job is one great way to reduce stress. I know that because I’ve done it and I’ve noticed how much better I feel every single day. Now that I don’t need to worry about traffic anymore my stress is even lower.
Stress kills. We’ve already established that. But you know what else kills? Car accidents. In fact, it’s the ninth most common cause of death in the world. If you can just scratch that one out, why not?
Traffic is stressful. But it’s also dangerous. There are car accidents pretty much every day here in my city. But over the last five years of living here, I haven’t once heard of an accident involving a city bus. Anecdotal perhaps, but I’ll take my chances. If I can avoid the stress of traffic while also eliminating some of the risk of driving in it, that seems like a solid choice.
Ever bought a brand new car? Well, then you lost money about as quick as it gets. As soon as your car is driven off the lot, it’s worth less. Sometimes a lot less. You could basically take cash out of your bank account and light it on fire, which would accomplish the same thing. Except you’d at least get a nice little light show. But you’d be poorer either way.
Depreciation is pretty much a given with owning a car, new or used. I got lucky with an incredible deal on my last car, which allowed me to drive it basically for free over the last year and a half, but that’s incredibly uncommon. Otherwise, you’re paying a lot of money to own a car. Every day it sits in your driveway or garage, it’s losing value. Cha-ching. That’s the sound of cash disappearing.
Speeding tickets. Parking tickets. Running the red – it was yellow! – light. Tickets are expensive and a huge pain in the butt. I’d rather avoid them altogether.
Guess what I’ve never gotten a ticket for? Walking too fast.
Fuel was coming up on $4. Then it dropped below $2. Now, it’s climbing again. Who cares when you’re riding the bus or your bike?
Gas is expensive. I remember living an hour away from work and trekking multiple freeways five or six days a week when I was living up in Michigan many years ago. I was spending something like $300 per month on gas. I vowed to never end up in a situation like that again. So I moved to Florida where the weather made it easier to live car-free and then I later designed my life around public transportation. Hopefully, my fuel bill is pretty much $0 from here on out other than the occasional rental.
Insurance is also expensive. I was paying less than $70 per month on my Toyota, and that was for maximum coverage across the board. Not bad, but it’s still $70 I’d rather have in my pocket. Auto insurance can easily run over $100 per month, especially if you’re driving a new car. Think about it. $100 per month is $1,200 per year. If you have an investment portfolio that’s generating a 3.5% yield, it would take almost $35,000 just to pay your insurance bill. That’s nuts, right? And that’s just the insurance bill. Not gas or depreciation or anything else.
In addition, there’s liability here. Not only are you paying for the privilege to insure yourself and drive your car, but you’re also taking on a ton of responsibility and liability every time you get in your car and drive anywhere. Make one wrong move and you might be in serious trouble – financially and legally. I’d rather ride the bus, keep my cash, and lower my liability.
I worked in the auto industry for about eight years. And I worked at car dealerships – in the service department. I know firsthand how much car repairs and maintenance can cost. Hint: it’s not cheap. One electrical issue on a modern car can run hundreds or thousands of dollars to fix, and typically these aren’t DIY repairs.
Even just the basic oil changes, occasional tire replacements, and minor repairs here and there – your best case scenario when owning a car – can easily run hundreds of dollars per year. Again, it’s cash I’d rather have in my pocket. The city bus service never asked me to pitch in on a set of tires. I just pay my $1.25 to go across town.
I lived for years without a car. Then I got used to the convenience and luxury of car ownership once more. Complacency. It gets the best of us.
But since being without a car again I’ve been walking more than ever. It’s awesome. Whereas before I had the option to get in the car to drive just three or four miles down the road to run an errand or two, I now have to accomplish most of that by foot. My feet are complaining, but my heart and gut aren’t. Riding a bike is another great way to get around the city and stay in shape at the same time. Look, a car is great. It’s easy. You just get in and go – thousands of miles at a time, if you want. But easy isn’t always better. I know for sure my health is already improving. For instance, Florida requires residents to turn in license plates once they sell a car, if they’re not replacing the car. The DMV is about 1.5 miles away from my apartment. What did I do? I threw on my workout gear, grabbed the plate, and jogged there and back. I usually would have driven that distance. Now, I have no choice. Being forced to stay in shape isn’t a bad way to go.
I’m not going to go on a rant about how humanity is ruining the planet or anything, but global warming is obviously a real trend. I figure if one can help out by driving less, why not?
The buses here in Sarasota feature some hybrids, which is pretty awesome. And walking is emission-free. So is riding a bike. Being car-free is better on my health and the planet’s health.
Being A Part Of Society
It’s easy to get in a steel box on wheels and go where you need to go. You can largely avoid people, turn up the music, and almost completely forget you’re a part of society. That’s good or bad, depending on your perspective. I’m an introvert, so I definitely see the benefits of living like that.
However, it’s not a bad idea to spread your wings a bit and operate a little outside your comfort zone. I can’t tell you how many interesting conversations I’ve been a part of when riding the bus. These are experiences I would have never had had I just got in a car and driven somewhere. Now, these experiences aren’t always good, but they’re experiences nonetheless. Life is meant to be lived, and it’s easier to do that when you’re an active part of the world. I get to actually take in the sights when I’m on the bus. I can pay attention to people, the scenery, the sun, the clouds, and the world around me. That’s just not really possible when I’m paying attention to stop lights, traffic, and signs.
I’m not saying you should immediately sell your car(s) and commence biking/busing/walking everywhere from now on. Like I said, it’s not realistic in many areas of the country due to our infrastructure (or lack thereof). However, I would recommend that you think long and hard about whether the tangible and intangible costs of car ownership are really worth it for you, and whether or not it’s possible to change your lifestyle so as to more easily accommodate car-free living. I was previously living in a rural area in Michigan that made it pretty much impossible to get by without a car. I moved, broadened my horizons a bit, and customized my life.
Freedom from a car now gives me freedom to avoid the monetary costs of car ownership, experience the world around me in a more vivid and visceral way, and improve my health. Doesn’t get much better than that.
How about you? Ever thought of living car-free? Why or why not?
Thanks for reading.
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