Giving Up Your Car May Be Easier Than You Think
I had owned a vehicle since my junior year of high school. Like many, I considered it a birthright.
It wasn't until two years ago when both my wife and I worked two miles from our employers that we started to question whether we both needed our own vehicle. Getting over that initial stigma of "downsizing" to one vehicle wasn't easy at first, but the idea gradually started to appeal more to us over time.
And then, we did it. We sold the vehicle that we still had payments on and kept the older vehicle that was in the free and clear.
Not only was it one of the best financial decisions I ever made, but I also feel much better about myself for not depending on a machine (that pollutes the environment) to get around. (See also: 10 Cost-Conscious Commuting Options)
Giving Up a Vehicle Requires Alternatives
Living two miles from work made the transition extremely easy. Living a block away from a bus route made it even easier. In order to successfully make the transition to not owning a vehicle, realistically, you'll need at least one of the following alternatives:
- Live within 2-3 miles so that you can self-power your commute through walking or biking. Note that with this option, weather will undoubtedly throw you some curve balls.
- Live along a bus or other mass transit route.
- Work regular hours and be on a route that permits a significant other, friend, or co-worker to drop you off.
Luckily, I had two of the three. This made my transition extremely easy.
The Benefits of Giving up a Vehicle
There are many:
Money, Money, Money
This is a personal finance blog, so we'll hit that first. I calculated that I have saved about $2800 annually. This was on a used vehicle that cost me $11k. A new, or more expensive vehicle would obviously make this number much higher. Basically add up your monthly payments, insurance costs, maintenance costs, and fuel. Edmunds has a true vehicle cost calculator to help you figure out this number, based on your make and model. And don't forget the money you will save in parking costs if you work in an urban setting.
You can find out your CO2 impact based on the make and model you own and miles you drive at fueleconomy.gov.
Peace of Mind
Having one less possession — in this case probably your most expensive possession aside from a house — is very liberating. It's hard to place a value on it.
Not having to store a vehicle opens up your garage for other things.
The Downsides of Giving Up a Vehicle
The only one for me is not being able to conveniently drive long distances to get to a destination whenever I want. However, I was surprised to find out how little this actually happened. There has literally only been a handful of times in two years. And for those times, there's always the car rental outfits, your friends, or Zipcar.
Over the last two years, I started to realize that owning a vehicle is truly a privilege and not a birthright, or even a necessity. If you can make the move, you won't regret it.