I saved $4700 by learning how to get around without a car for a year. Here’s what I did instead.

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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, it 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 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 40-50 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 and why I made the decision not to replace it for a year and what I learned during that 14 month period of time.

 

Living a car-free lifestyle: Frequently Asked Questions

 

 

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. It was such a better, faster commute by train. Since I'd already drastically reduced my car time after taking the job, by the time of the accident two months later in November, I was only using my car 3-4 times a week for errands and the like. 

At first, with the holidays coming up and a bunch of travel on the schedule (accident was November 17th – Thanksgiving and Christmas followed shortly thereafter) I decided to just get through the next six weeks and hopefully 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'd been injured in the accident and wasn't feeling my best, and knew I could put the decision off for a bit. After six weeks I found I rather enjoyed not having the hassle of a car payment, car insurance, car maintenance and decided to just keep it 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 30-45 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. 

In many ways, it made life a lot simpler. 

 

What was the cost of living car-free?

Okay, let's talk turkey.

Total costs included $42.50/month for my MARTA pass to get to and from work. Work didn't reimburse me for this, but they allowed me to save a portion of my paycheck pre-tax to offset the cost. 

I also was living with my now-husband at the time and he did have 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. (About 4/14 months of this experiment).

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 out my Mint.com account so these are pretty accurate. 

 

 

 
 
 

Is it cheaper to live without a car?

 

Yes, it is cheaper to live without a car. You'll save money each month from not having a car payment, but it helped me save money on insurance, maintenance, and gas as well. Just eyeballing the numbers above, I saved around $340 each month by not having a vehicle to pay for or maintain.
 
Ultimately I saved $4,760.00 over 14 months by not having a car. 
 
Obviously, this is a nice chunk of change. It came in handy while we were paying for our wedding, buying our first home together, and saving for our honeymoon.
 
 

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.
  • I think for others (single or in a relationship) it depends on if you live in a major metro area where public transportation is available and if you work from home.
  • If you work from home, it's easy to “batch” 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 they're willing to get creative with how they get and from places.

And for those who say Uber/Lyft is too expensive, I say poo-poo. Owning a car is expensive. Financing a car even more so. With just my car payment and insurance, I was paying over $400 per month for having 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. That doesn't mean it can't be done. You can  also find additional information here:

 

 
 
 
 

How to Get Around With 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 out walking to places instead. 
  • Don't be afraid to bum a ride. Graciously accept rides when offered, and don't be afraid to ask if you know someone going 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 period I'm talking about, I'm so appreciative!)

 

What was your favorite part of getting around without a car?

 

Okay, three things because I can't pick just one…..

 

  1. Getting to see more of the city and learn how all of our roads connect. Buried in your phone and from the comfort of your car, you miss a lot! Like, it's embarassing sometimes how I can't get to a restaurant I've been a few times before because I can't remember how to get there without my GPS.  It was fun to get out and explore on my walk/train/segway commute each morning and now that I do have a car I'm able to rely less on GPS. 
  2. Not having to deal with maintenance. I absolutely despise oil changes, rotating tires, cleaning the thing. My brain just isn't “in tune” to what a car needs. Not having one freed up a lot of mental space for me. It may not seem like a big deal for some, but I liked having more things I didn't have to worry about! 
  3. I purchased my next car in cash. I have a car now and do use it a few times each week. My habit of walking where I can has stuck with me, which I'm proud of. But now I don't have a car payment and that ROCKS and it's money back into my budget each month. It's been so good for my personal finances, I don't know if I could ever go back to having a monthly car payment again. 

 

Here is the awkward photo they insisted on me taking at Carmax that day. But whatever, I was excited.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What other questions do you have about living without a car? Do you think it's something you could do?

 

 

 

I saved $4700 by learning how to get around without a car for a year. Here's what I did instead.
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  1. Reply

    Everything about the video is so funny (your reactions while he’s talking, his eccentric nature, the dog just staring, haha).

    I’ve thought about how a person would go about being car-free in a place that isn’t NYC or Chicago. Austin, TX has terrible traffic (we literally have ONE road for all of the city’s traffic…no other major city in America has this problem). The public transportation buses are good although ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft recently got shut out of the city. Austin’s spread out but I think with some planning and savviness a person could get away with not having a car here.

    1. Reply

      This is a vintage awkward money chat video from 2014..but it’s still one of my favorites. Pat is a very funny guy. A lot has changed since then – he now lives in China!

      Atlanta has a TERRIBLE traffic problem. So much so that people have to plan their lives around it, but that’s awful abut not having to have Uber or Lyft. I’m really curious to try a no-car challenge for 30 days to see the savings.

    • constance k
    • May 27, 2014
    Reply

    I don’t have a car and don’t really need it except when it rains and that doesn’t happen too often where I live so there’s no real need for it.

    • Canadian Budget Binder
    • May 14, 2014
    Reply

    Brilliant! Yes more people need to invest in themselves. He’s not alone many people don’t bother getting involved with employer matched investments which is essentially “free money”. My wife never owned a car while she lived at home or was away at school and yes it kept her fit she says. She walked everywhere. Many people don’t have vehicles and I don’t believe that is the reason people don’t fall in love or are in relationships. Great interview Lauren! Mr.CBB

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