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
What does car-free mean?
Car-free means you live life 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. 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 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 was ~$200 less than paying a car payment plus insurance. I live in a highly walkable area and technically while I lived car-free, our household was a “one-car family” because my live-in partner allowed me the use of his car sometimes.
Is it cheaper to live without a car?
Ultimately I saved $4,760.00 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.
- 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 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 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…..
- 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.
- 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!
- 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 an awkward photo of me 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?