Long-time listener, first-time caller. Yesterday, we completed the sale of our only car and have fully committed to a life free of car ownership. Now, I say this knowing that for a good number of Americans, life without a car, even two, would be either 1) impossible or 2) deeply impracticable/impractical because of family size, geography, climate, etc. We happen to live in a place with good weather, an urban space conducive to being car-less, and have a small family (just the two of us and our pups).
That said, I wanted to share how we ended up here, the things we considered, and what made us finally jump the car ownership….ship. Perhaps if you’re on the fence this can help you decide.
To set the stage, here is what it was costing us to own/maintain one car for one year, assuming no major problems:
- Loan payments: $3,600
- Insurance: $1,400
- Gas: $720
- Maintenance: $200
Annual Total: $5,920
Two and a half years ago, we moved from the Midwest to Sacramento, CA. Now, much of California (and a good deal of Sacramento and the U.S.) was built around car culture. However, the “Grid” (Sacramento’s urban core) is very, very walkable and dense compared to your average suburb. As it is just the two of us and we don’t plan on having any children for the foreseeable future, we got a one bedroom apartment downtown that is equidistant (~1 mile) from our respective offices. This allowed us to walk to work. We bought some solid rain gear (spring is wet here!) and new bags. We also made use of the city’s light rail system as needed. This dropped our car use to once/twice a week and every other month for a trip to visit family ~150 miles away. At this point, it never occurred to us to get rid of our car. How could we? You have to have a car!
The first year here, rats got into our engine compartment and chewed a wiring harness and some other electronics. Apparently, Priuses (Prii?) use soy in their plastics and rodents find it tasty. $3,000 in damage, $1000 of which we paid in deductible.
That same year, JUMP launched a bike share and Sacramento has become the largest market. You can get and use an electric assisted bike and cruise at up to 20 MPH for $1 for 15 minutes then .07 per minute after. These helped with trips that were a bit long for a walk or when it got hot in the summer. Still, we kept the car.
This year JUMP launched electric scooters to compliment the bikes, they’re 0.15 a minute. GIG Car Share also launched and deployed 200+ fully electric cars you can walk up to and rent with their app or an RFID car they send in the mail. Their billing can be by time or distance and it always gives you the cheapest rate when you conclude a trip. You can park anywhere public (metered even!) at no cost to you so long as your parking doesn’t violate a posted sign within 12 hours. For example, if city services are coming to that street the next day and you park there at 9 p.m., you’re gonna be billed for a parking ticket. Ask me how I know. 🙂
Also this year, some upstanding citizen stared a gunfight at the bar across from our apartment where our car happened to be parked on the street. It caught a stray bullet through the engine compartment, shredding all manner of things. Total repair cost: ~$11,000 of which we paid a $1,000 deductible.
We ended up not having our car for two months and really didn’t notice. We had a longer trip come up one weekend and rented a car on Turo for $50 a day and it was super easy. Like, scarily easy.
We started ordering household goods (cleaners, detergents, etc.) on Amazon and this meant we only need to go to one store, Trader Joe’s, in a typical week. If we really wanted to, there are three grocery delivery services we can make use of.
So we started to wonder why we’re shelling out so much money to let the most expensive thing we own sit on the street, largely disused and waiting for some fresh headache to happen. We looked at our credit card statements for the two months we didn’t have the car and added up every transportation-related expense: JUMP bikes and scooters, light rail tickets, UBER rides, GIG car rentals, and the TURO rental. The total came to ~$200. If we hadn’t taken the weekend trip with the Turo rental, $100. We compared this to the $840 we would have spent just on payments and insurance. Then we realized we would need new tires this year as well and, at that point, we really got excited about how much we stood to save. Coupled with ancillary benefits like being more physically active, reducing our environmental impact, and the stress of dealing with repairs, we couldn’t sell the car fast enough.
It’s now at the local CarMax for someone who needs it!
Tl;dr – a series of unfortunate events coupled with living in a city with services conducive to being car-less saves couple some serious coin.