How to Live Life Without a Car
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.