Transition to a Car-Free Life: How Much Money You Could Save

Updated on May 4, 2020
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Katy helps individuals and families understand their financial options and create individualized, actionable plans to meet their goals.

Going car-free helps the environment and your savings.
Going car-free helps the environment and your savings. | Source

How to Ditch Your Car

You might make the decision to give up your car for its many benefits or life might force the decision on you. Whatever your case, your new car-free lifestyle is going to mean some big changes to your daily life. Read on to learn how to make the transition of managing your family and life without a car as smooth as possible.

Guide to living without a car.
Guide to living without a car. | Source

Understand the Savings

If you stop driving and owning a car for the financial benefit, figuring out how much you are actually saving can help you deal with the lifestyle change of getting around without a car. The money you actually save is very dependent on the state you live in, the car you would be driving, and how you use it. Below is a table to show you the upper range that car owners in the US spend to own and operate their cars and the average cost.

Another way you can get an idea of your specific situation is to take the average cost of owning a car per mile it is driven (60 cents per mile as of 2015) and multiply it by the miles you would have driven per year. 10,000 to 12,000 miles per year is a good estimate for someone with a relatively short commute. Add on more if you live far from work or would often be taking your car on weekend trips.

Annual Cost of Owning a Car

2015 U.S. Average
Car Insurance
Varies greatly by state, indivudla
Registration and Fees
Varies greatly by state
Average: 10,000 miles
Average: 5 cents per mile
Traffic Violations
Speeding tickets
Average for an urban residence

Additional Benefits of Not Owning a Car

Ditching your car will probably save you money in the long run regardless but if you do a little digging into commuter benefits at your company it could be even more. Most employers allow you to take money out of each paycheck before taxes if you can prove it is going towards public transportation you use to get to work. The HR department should have information on how to set this up.

Large companies usually offer incentives for their employees who choose a driving alternative for their commute. They might offer to cover a portion of an annual public transportation pass or reimburse employees for bike tune-ups.

Commute Without a Car

One of the biggest concerns of giving up your car is wondering how you can reliably get to work. As something you are going to have to do twice a day for probably five times a week, it is well worth it to come up with a solid commuter plan.

A good plan will optimize the cost of the commute, in both time and money. Now, if the public transportation system in your area seems too daunting you could Uber or Lyft to and from work every day but that will quickly hurt you on the money side of things. Of course, walking is completely free but unless you are blessed with a residence across the street from your place of employment, that could take all day. You're looking for something in between.

Consider official and unofficial ride-sharing opportunities. Many cities offer vanpool services but if there is not one in your area, your coworkers are another good place to look.

Everyone can make the transition to a carless lifestyle.
Everyone can make the transition to a carless lifestyle. | Source

Public Transportation and Smartphones

Ditching your car forces you to become very familiar with your area's public transportation, or lack thereof. Spend some time looking at the bus routes in your area. If you are having trouble finding a route that works for you to check out less conventional public services such as light rails or specialized bus routes that serve colleges or airport lines.

Google is continuing to expand its coverage of bus and rail schedules in Google Maps. This is great news for those of us lacking a vehicle because we can take advantage of their algorithms and base of data to optimize our commutes and transportation.

Input your home and your workplace into Google Maps and make sure you adjust the time for when you need to get to work. Choose a balance of walking, public transportation, and ride-sharing that you know you can manage time-wise and financially. Be honest with yourself about how this new commute will impact your daily life and whether you are able to take the plunge of selling your car.

Running Errands Without a Car

Even if you have your commute worked out, you will feel the loss of a car in other ways. That will happen most on your day off when trying to run errands. The best plan for this is to figure out the things you need regularly, whatever you normally get once or twice a week, and find an alternative to driving. For most, this is groceries and medications. You might be within walking distance of a grocery store but how does that distance sound when you think about carrying bags from your normal grocery trip? You might find making more frequent runs to the grocery store allows you to stay up on fresh produce and have less to carry back home.

Prepare for Emergencies Without a Car

You can have your day to day activities taken care of after you sell your car but what will you in an emergency? You need to take someone to the hospital or someone needs your help across town and there is no time for you to wait on a bus, what do you do? Cases like this are easier to deal with when you live in a bigger city that offers Uber or Lyft services. You might have to wait a few minutes to get the rideshare to come to you but once you climb in the ride will be as fast as if you owned your own car.

Another thing to look out for is a friendly neighbor or nearby friend that you know will give you a ride on the occasions when you absolutely need it. Giving up your car tends to show you who your true friends are.

Not Quite Ready Yet?

If you feel like the above instructions aren't something your life can handle, try taking baby steps! Maybe use public transportation to get to work for one day a week and see if you can increase that. Walk for your next grocery store run or take the train into town for the next event you go to. The permanent "I'm-selling-my-car-today" lifestyle shift will be a huge adjustment so maybe do a few testers so you can work out the kinks before you're officially car-less.

Best Car-Free Tips

Making the transition to life without a car can be bumpy at first but you can make the journey a fun and frugal one by:

  • Have a purpose for the money you save
  • Find benefits from your employer
  • Make the most out of modern technology
  • Work out a strategy for your weekly errands and grocery runs
  • Have an emergency plan

Your Driving Habits

How do you cut down on time spend in a car?

See results

© 2016 Katy Medium


Submit a Comment
  • pattyfloren profile image

    Patty Florence 

    9 months ago from Illinois

    Thinking this would save me some money, but financial disadvantages were not touched on?

  • SgtCecil profile image

    Cecil Kenmill 

    22 months ago from Osaka, Japan

    I lived in San Francisco for a few years and I didn't have a car. That meant no car payments, no insurance, no gas and no maintenance. Now I live in Japan and I still don't need a car. Great article!

  • profile image


    3 years ago

    With a baby I feel like I need the car – just in case I have to rush to the hospital in the middle of the night, or anything... It's just easier with kids. Can anyone with kids and no car comment?


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