How to Live Life Without a Car

Updated on May 9, 2017

Is it possible to live without a car?

Many people are looking to cut costs as well as embrace a more environmentally friendly life style. One way to do this is to give up your car. Granted, this is not a workable possibility for everyone, but it is a worthwhile change to make and you may find it is easier than you think.

If you live in the country then, obviously, you will need a vehicle to get you into town. Similarly, if you have children, depending on where you live, you may find it better to have a car. For many healthy adults, a vehicle does not have to be a necessity.

This is my story.

How do you get stuff done?

I gave up my car a little over a year ago. I gave it up when the repairs were too costly to make the vehicle a convenience. I live on the edge of town. If I walk a mile in one direction, I will find myself in the country. A mile in the other direction finds me downtown. Downtown is no longer the center of business and commerce that it once was for most small towns across the U.S. Our downtown area does still have many businesses as well as the courthouse and many official offices. The library is downtown as well as a suitable grocery store. Within biking distance there are also a couple of discount sorts of stores like Family Dollar and Dollar General. So anything I need, I can get in a pinch.

Our town also has a bus system, although it is a very limited one. It runs until about 6 or 6:30 pm on weekdays. It takes you out to the greater commerce areas of our town, such as the mall and the hospitals. It takes you along the strip where you will find a larger variety of grocery, department, and other stores. The drivers are all pretty friendly. Periodically, they change the locations of bus stops, but right now there is a place to catch the bus about a block from my house.

How efficient can you really be without a car?

Not having a vehicle of my own has made me more concise with my shopping and errands. These days there are many errands that can be taken care of via the internet, such as paying bills. One must still purchase groceries and other items. I have found that you can do the grocery shopping via the internet also and have it delivered, but I still prefer to go out and do it myself. I have started making this trip once a month. During the month I will make a list so that I will remember what I need. For a while I had a car share with another person. I paid a portion of their insurance and repairs and that person allowed me to use the car for groceries. This arrangement lasted until that person’s circumstances changed. I have considered purchasing a cart—like you see older women push or even a wagon which I think would be a little cooler. These are options I have not entirely ruled out. Currently, when I am making my monthly trip, I will usually borrow a vehicle. But, if that option was not available to me, I could rent a car. Renting a car once a month, plus a day’s worth of gas, is still less than you would be paying to own a car. On the occasions when I run out of bread or margarine before my shopping trip, I can just walk or hop on my bike and go to one of the places near me.

Do you go out much?

I have been pretty lucky. I enjoy being involved in theater. There are two community theaters in our town. One is near the library. The other is a little farther, but I find I can bike there in about thirty to forty minutes. I am also involved with a writing group which meets downtown. The most difficult activity for me to get to is church. So far I have been able to get a ride with others who are going. Self-sufficiency is important to me, and I would be very happy to bike or find my own way, but other members of the congregation would not allow this.

It all sounds terribly inconvenient.

I suppose convenience is all in how you look at it. I do not feel that the convenience of owning a car compensated for all of the other inconveniences it provided like parking and having to maneuver it in bad weather. I live on a hill. Don’t get me started about trying to get up and down the hill in the winter. I am far safer and better off investing in solid pair of boots. I do not worry about repairs and what I am going to have to do if the car gets stranded somewhere. I buy gas when I borrow a car. Other than that, I am regularly unaware of where the gas prices are. It is not a factor that puts any limits on my life at the moment. I am not paying for car insurance, new tags, oil changes, windshield wipers, tires, etc. nor am I worried about when I am going to have time to do that.

What are the benefits?

There are a couple of other things I noticed pretty quickly after getting rid of my car.

One was that I didn’t need it as much as everybody thinks that you do. With that beast sitting in my driveway, I often felt this anxious need to go out and do something: run errands, pick up groceries, etc. etc. I was like a child with a pair of scissors in my hands: you just want to use it. Once it was gone, I kind of felt lighter. I no longer felt the pressure to get out of the house and do something simply because the car was sitting there. I have thus consolidated my trips. And I actually feel calmer.

I also find that I spend less money. Think about it. How often do you run to the store to pick up just one or two things and come out $60 lighter? These days, not me.

The other thing I discovered was that I was actually able to see more of the world when on foot, because I wasn’t rushing past it. I have an affinity for old houses and buildings. I have more time to appreciate them now that I am able to stop without getting in anyone’s way. I see people now. I wave to neighbors. I see woodpeckers and rabbits and spiders with fabulous webs. I notice more of the world.

Do you ever plan to get another car?

There may come a time when I will get another car, but for now, I don’t really miss it.

Have you ever lived without a car?

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Questions & Answers

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      • patchofearth profile imageAUTHOR

        Rebecca Long 

        8 months ago from somewhere in the appalachian foothills

        Denmark is a different place than the U.S., but I agree that it is possible where ever you call home.

      • profile image

        Niels Windfeld Lund 

        8 months ago

        I have never learned to drive a car :) neither has my wife, and we live in the countryside in Denmark and has survived almost 70 years now, traveling worldwide, having kids etc. etc. it is possible !

      • patchofearth profile imageAUTHOR

        Rebecca Long 

        5 years ago from somewhere in the appalachian foothills

        Thank you. Aside from the hassle and expense there are also a lot of ecological reasons to go car-free. Thanks for stopping by.

      • rajan jolly profile image

        Rajan Singh Jolly 

        5 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

        Really interesting read. I've lived without a car for a number of years and I know it cuts down expenses and tensions a lot. Nice to know you are enjoying life without the hassles of keeping a car.

        Voted up and awesome.

      • patchofearth profile imageAUTHOR

        Rebecca Long 

        5 years ago from somewhere in the appalachian foothills

        There is pretty good public transit in very large cities. There was also a lot more public transit available back in my parents' and grandparents' time. But as the personal automobile has risen in popularity, public transportation has diminished greatly in moderately sized cities like the one I live in.

        I have heard that public transit is far more available in other countries.

        Thanks for stopping by.

      • midget38 profile image

        Michelle Liew 

        5 years ago from Singapore

        Sorry, something happened while I was submitting the comment! I meant to say that a car depreciates in value, so it is moe cost effective to take a train or bus. Parking is also expensive, so it makes more sense to cut costs by traveling via public transport in Singapore where we live.

        Thanks for sharing this well-written hub. I am passing it on.

      • patchofearth profile imageAUTHOR

        Rebecca Long 

        5 years ago from somewhere in the appalachian foothills

        Thanks for stopping by. It's been two years for me, and I still have no plans to get a car.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        5 years ago from Olympia, WA

        I love this! Currently I live without a car for all intent and purpose. My wife has a job that requires her to be out five days a week with her car, so five days a week I do not have transportation....a first time for me...and I have found I don't miss it at all.

        I love your thoughts in your profile about sustainability. You will be seeing me visit again. :)

      • patchofearth profile imageAUTHOR

        Rebecca Long 

        5 years ago from somewhere in the appalachian foothills

        America used to have a decent commuter train service. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case.

      • patchofearth profile imageAUTHOR

        Rebecca Long 

        5 years ago from somewhere in the appalachian foothills

        At the time I bought my house I had a car. I didn't think much about the location in terms of how easy it would be to get around if I no longer had a car, but it has turned out to be a plus.

      • beingwell profile image

        beingwell 

        5 years ago from Bangkok

        Voted up! For us, the wiser choice would be to commute via train or cabbies. It's faster and way cheaper! :)

      • That Grrl profile image

        Laura Brown 

        5 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

        I've only had a car for 2 years out of all my adult life. I don't miss it too much. I live in a small city where the bus is good. It stops at midnight but I'm almost always home before then. The bus stop isn't far from my house. At other places I have lived it was more of a walk. When I move now, I look for the bus stops and that is a big part of my deciding on which place to move to.

      • patchofearth profile imageAUTHOR

        Rebecca Long 

        6 years ago from somewhere in the appalachian foothills

        I'm kind of semi-rural, but I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.

      • toomuchmint profile image

        toomuchmint 

        6 years ago

        Great hub! People may think living without a car is only possible in cities with great transportation system. It's exciting to hear the Car Free Diet can also succeed in rural areas. Useful!

      • carozy profile image

        carozy 

        6 years ago from San Francisco

        I love this hub. I've been without a car for a while since mine is in repair. For the last time, that is, because going without it has taught me how little I actually need it, especially since I live in a city with great public transit and my work pays for my public transit commute to work and home. There are also the benefits of being able to read in the bus and the lack of stress ~ no more traffic worry, rage drivers, or parking worries. It's all good, environmentally and I'll be saving lots of money once I sell it. So I'm totally with you on this. Voted up and useful!

      • patchofearth profile imageAUTHOR

        Rebecca Long 

        6 years ago from somewhere in the appalachian foothills

        Fennelseed,

        Good to hear from you. I did find that I was calmer. I don't think I realized the urge to go and do simply because the car was there-- much like putting a pair of scissors in the hands of a child-- they must cut because they have the scissors. I have found since I gave up the car that I have saved quite a bit of money. Thanks for stopping by.

      • patchofearth profile imageAUTHOR

        Rebecca Long 

        6 years ago from somewhere in the appalachian foothills

        Lizam1

        It's really interesting to hear what people are doing in other parts of the world. I agree that having kids makes it more difficult to do with out a car. I have heard of car shares, but don't really know what they are. In the past, when I have had a car, I never went the finance route either. I always bought old cars. Thanks for stopping by.

      • Fennelseed profile image

        Annie Fenn 

        6 years ago from Australia

        I like your ideas and your thinking. Your comment that you actually feel calmer without a car is interesting. I think riding a bike is a great way to get around and you are right you do see and appreciate so much more. I do have a little car, but take the bus to work each day. I could probably do without it and I wonder if I would feel calmer, quite possibly. I certainly wouldn't have the expenses of maintaining it. A great thought provoking hub. My votes to you poe!

      • Lizam1 profile image

        Lizam1 

        6 years ago from Victoria BC

        Currently living without a car in Victoria BC. We do have great buses - if I were not a mum I could manage. However I also need one for work and with the kids it's trickly so we are buying an oldie this weekend - don't want to go the financing route and pay hundreds out in interest - been there done that. If our local car share co-op was more reasonably and realistically priced I would have joined that for sure.

        When I lived in London UK didn't have a car for several years - good transportation though.

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