I’ve been tempted to try living a car free lifestyle since I recorded an #awkwardmoneychat episode about it wayyyy back in 2014. (It’s no longer on Youtube and instead lives in my secret vault.) Honestly, car free living never seemed doable in a “car city” like Atlanta, but be careful what you put out into the universe. Before I knew it, the opportunity for living without a car presented itself, although not in the way I expected.
Many may not know this, but back in November 2017 (on the night before I left for this trip with Barclay for the Uber Visa Card), Rich, Roo and I got into a bad car accident.
We were rear-ended at a very high speed by a driver not paying attention when we braked to let the car in front of us make a left turn. The driver in the oncoming car was distracted by a fight with his girlfriend and easily hit us at 40 to 50 miles per hour. Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt (although Roo still shakes in the car). But it completely totaled my vehicle…and left me with a lingering creaky hip I can’t seem to shake, but that’s another story!
That’s the abbreviated version. But the point of this post is to tell you what came after I lost my car, why I made the decision not to replace it for a year and what I learned during that 14-month period.
Living a car free lifestyle: Frequently Asked Questions
What does car free mean?
Simply put, car free means you live without a car.
Why did you ultimately decide to live car free?
I started a new full-time job back in August 2017, and I was already using MARTA to get to and from work. The train was such a better, faster commute than driving. Since I’d already drastically reduced my car time after taking the job, by the time of the accident two months later, I was only using my car three or four times a week for errands and the like.
At first, with the holidays coming up and a bunch of travel on the schedule (the accident was on November 17 – Thanksgiving and Christmas followed shortly thereafter), I decided to just get through the next six weeks. I hoped that by the first of the year, I’d know how much I was going to receive as a settlement and be in a better place (mentally) to shop for a car.
I had been injured in the accident and wasn’t feeling my best, and I knew I could put the decision off for a bit. After six weeks of living without a car, I found I rather enjoyed cutting costs by not having the hassle of a monthly car payment, car insurance and car maintenance. So I decided to just keep my car free lifestyle going!
How did you get around without a car?
- Using public transportation
- Ubers and Lyfts
- Borrowing a car at times (mostly from my boyfriend-now-husband)
- Cutting down on short trips 30 to 45 minutes out of town
- Rich bought this Segway as a Black Friday treat the Thanksgiving before. It never got much use until after the accident, and then I began riding it around everywhere. (You may have seen it on my Instagram stories!).
Was living without a car in a city like Atlanta difficult?
Not at all. Uber and Lyft have really changed the game. I was always able to go almost anywhere I needed to in town. Even though I have a car now, I still prefer to have someone drive me, so I don’t have to fuss with parking.
99% of the time, I’m able to get a ride-share car at any time of the day (or night)!
But again, my job was very close to where I lived, which is not the case for most people in Atlanta. (Although if you can, you should consider it – being commute-free will CHANGE YOUR EFFING LIFE.)
My world did shrink. For about a year, I really only lived within the 20-mile radius of our midtown apartment building, my downtown office building and the barre studio I frequent.
Was it frustrating to miss my friend’s kid’s first birthday because Rich had the car that day? Yes, but for the most part, I really didn’t mind.
But in many ways, my car free lifestyle made life a lot simpler.
What was the cost of living car free?
OK, let’s talk turkey.
Total costs included $42.50 a month for my MARTA pass to get to and from work. Work didn’t reimburse me for this, but it allowed me to save a portion of my paycheck pretax to offset the cost.
I also was living with my now-husband and he had a car, which I borrowed a lot when he wasn’t using it. This cut down on my need for Ubers when we both worked in midtown Atlanta.
My Uber trips went up drastically after Rich started a new job and began commuting 45 minutes each way.
Here’s a sexy Excel image of what my transportation costs were like with a car vs. without. I took the average expenses from my Mint.com account, so these are pretty accurate.
Is Uber cheaper than owning a car?
It depends on how often you need to drive and the distances you go when you take Uber. For me, taking Uber’s cost about $200 less than paying a car payment plus insurance. I live in a highly walkable neighborhood, and technically while I lived car free, our household was a “one-car family” because my live-in partner allowed me to use his car sometimes.
Is it cheaper to live without a car?
Yes, it is cheaper to live without a car. You’ll save money each month by not having a car payment, but it helped me save money on car insurance, maintenance and gas as well. Just eyeballing the numbers above, I saved about $340 each month by living a car free lifestyle and not having a vehicle to pay for or maintain.
Ultimately, I saved $4,760 over 14 months by not having a car.
Is it possible to live without a car?
- It is possible for any couple with one working vehicle to become a one-car family with a little strategic planning. This is if you live in an area where ride-share is available and there are a handful of public transportation options, such as the bus or train. It also helps to have a train or bus stop close to the places you need to go.
- I think for others (single or in a relationship), it depends on whether you live in a major metro area where mass transit is available and if you work from home.
- If you work from home, try saving trips by “batching” your errands into one round-trip Uber ride or by renting a Zipcar.
- I don’t have a family, so I’m not sure how feasible it is to get around without a car if you have children.
Ultimately, I think it’s possible for anyone to live without a car if you’re willing to get creative with how you get to and from places.
And for people who say Uber or Lyft is too expensive, I say poo-poo. Car ownership is expensive. Financing a car is even more so. With just my car payment and insurance, I was paying more than $400 per month to have a car. Do you know how many Ubers you can take for that amount?
Where can you live without a car?
Obviously, urban areas are better than rural ones when you’re living a car free lifestyle. But that doesn’t mean it can only be done in a big city. You can find additional information here:
- How to Decide if You Can Live Without a Car (LifeHacker)
- 15 U.S. Cities Where It’s Easiest to Live Without a Car (AOL.com)
- 10 Cities You Can Retire in Without a Car (The Street)
- Reflecting on One Year Without a Car (Millennial Boss)
How to Get Around Without a Car: My Tips
- Utilize public transit. MARTA in Atlanta has a bad reputation (it really doesn’t go many places), but the more I used it, the more appreciative I became of all it has to offer. Perhaps preconceived notions about public transit are keeping you from experiencing the cost savings.
- Invest in good shoes, and try walking to places that are within walking distance.
- Ride a bike to your destination.
- Don’t be afraid to bum a ride. Graciously accept rides when offered, and don’t be afraid to ask if you know someone is going somewhere at the same time you’re going.
- Not only does sharing rides promote time for talking, but it’s also better for the environment. (And to Sarah, Shelby, Esther and Rachel, who gave me a lot of rides over the 14 months I’m talking about, I’m so appreciative!)
What other questions do you have about living without a car? Do you think it’s something you could do?