Save money by living without a car

Thursday, May 24th, 2012 By

The Dutch queen Juliana riding a bike during a visit to the island Terschelling. The Netherlands, July 11, 1967.

Living without a car is possible, with some planning. (Photo Credit: Public Domain/Dutch National Archive/Wikipedia)

Living without a car may seem like a pipe dream, but it is achievable. It can save you a great deal of money and time that used to be claimed by automotive upkeep, repair and waiting for tow trucks. Walking, bicycling and using public transportation are all ways to save big.

Estimating the savings

Begin your journey toward living without a car by estimating how much money you’ll save. It is very possible that you’ll be able to save $500 to $800 or more per year by not paying auto insurance premiums. If you live in a city with high crime and accident rates, or own a fast, often stolen model of sports car, the premium amount can double. Over the life of a vehicle, auto insurance premiums typically end up costing more than the vehicle is worth.

Gasoline, which has become quite expensive, likely costs a car owner well over $1,000 per year. Automotive maintenance can cost a few hundred each year, too. Assuming no expensive repairs are required for a newer vehicle (a newer vehicle that’s already paid for – otherwise, add several hundred dollars per month for a car payment), the total amount sans loan payments for a car garaged and used in an area with normal crime and accident rates is well over $2,000 per year.

More on maintenance and repairs

Vehicle maintenance and repairs are a fact of life. Living without a car can cut these significant expenses from your budget. Oil changes, transmission service, belt replacement, battery service, tune-ups, radiator fluid replacement, tires, shocks, brakes, alignment and many more related automotive maintenance and repair tasks are relatively expensive even if you do them yourself. Involving a mechanic adds labor costs more, and can get expensive, particularly with vehicle repairs.

Gassing up and emptying your wallet

With an average fill-up cost of $52 per visit and $104 per month, gasoline can cost $1,248 or more per year. Gas-guzzling older (and even some newer) trucks and SUVs can cost much more to fill the monster-sized gas tank. Living without a car means saving thousands of dollars annually.

Get to know your city’s public transportation system

If your city has an effective bus, trolley or subway system, get a route map and schedule right away if you’re serious about living without a car. Learn the schedule and see how it fits with your work, school and errand schedule. Then consider the savings of buying a monthly commuter or student pass. For less than the cost of filling a car’s gas tank, you can buy unlimited use of public transportation for an entire month.

Bicycling for health and savings

Riding a bike is an even cheaper option than public transportation, and it is better for your health and the health of the environment. Find a bike at a garage sale, on Craigslist or in your local newspaper for $50 or less, then buy a chain, lock, helmet and tire repair kit. You’ll save a bundle each year over what you’d pay for an automobile.

Pay attention to the weather

Weather is a concern if you’re bicycling or walking to your daily destinations. Up-to-the-moment weather reports obtained via radio, TV, the Internet or a mobile app can be invaluable when planning shopping trips, city outings or any other type of trip.

Think about time differently

A trip that takes five minutes in a car or on a bike will take longer walking. When you have spare time, map our walking routes that you will travel regularly to get a sense for how long they take. Google Maps’ walking directions can also be useful, but it may not be as precise. If you’re walking to and front the grocery store, you’ll also have to bring a backpack or folding cart, or just plan smaller trips, more frequently.

When you absolutely need a ride

If your car-free lifestyle hits a snag and you absolutely need a car, calling a taxi is an option, if expensive. Better to befriend someone who owns a car and would not mind loaning it to you in an emergency. Another option in some larger cities is a service like Zipcar, where you can borrow a car for a flat fee that is typically cheaper than what a car rental company would charge.

Living in Los Angeles without a car


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