Leading a Car-Free Life

Many people love the idea of becoming car-free for a variety of reasons. They stay fit, save money, help the planet, reduce traffic jams, and open up parking spaces for others.

Making a choice to live car-free may feel like a journey and may even leave you a little panicked. However, being able to help your budget, while also reducing your eco-footprint and helping Mother Earth might be worth it.

Sure, it will probably be uncomfortable at first leading a car-free lifestyle. You may feel inconvenienced and “different” from many others, but those feelings could eventually dissipate. Below are things to consider if you are planning on leading a car-free life.

Costs of Car Ownership

The first thing to examine when considering a transition to a car-free life is your actual cost of car ownership. Review your financial accounts to see how much you spend every month on car expenses, like parking, gas, car insurance, and maintenance. To get a better estimate of all costs you may have overlooked during your monthly review, be sure to review expenses from the previous year.

Factor in the cost of your car, any interest on a loan if you took one out, depreciation, how much you pay each year in deductibles and insurance. Your car is worth less in value the minute you drive off the dealer's lot. Each day you have it parked in your garage or driveway, it is losing value.

Evaluating Car Usage

Now it is time to assess your vehicle usage. Ask yourself some questions such as:

  • Where do you frequently drive?
  • How often do you go there?
  • How long does it take to get there (how far away)?
  • Why do you have to go there?
  • Does going to this place support a goal or fulfill a need?
  • Are your typical stops near your other stops?

By asking yourself these questions, you may find that most of your regular stops are not that far from your home and could be in walking or biking distance.

Alternative Transportation Methods

To live car-free, you need alternative transportation options. What methods do you plan on using? You could:

  • Walk
  • Bike
  • Take a bus
  • Take a train
  • Take a taxi
  • Take an Uber, Lyft, or Zipcar
  • Skateboard

If you live in a rural area, it might be more challenging to live without a car, but that does not mean it is impossible. Not everyone can live without a vehicle. In many parts of the U.S., it is, necessary to have a car, but this does not mean you cannot use it less.

Side Benefits

There are several potential advantages of living a car-free life which include:

Better Health. Although you may have gotten used to the luxury and convenience of having a car, in many situations, you can get where you need to go by walking. As you know, walking (or biking) is exercise, which contributes to good health. Your feet might hurt a little at first, but walking can do wonders for your heart and shed off some of those unwanted pounds. Walking can also help to clear your mind and improve stress, as endorphin levels increase when you exercise.

Being Part of Your Community. When you own a car, it can be too simple to hop in, crank your music and forget you are a part of a community of other people. If you are introverted, you may welcome this avoidance. However, it cannot hurt to take yourself a little bit outside your comfort zone.

Walking or even riding a bus can lead to you meeting people and having interesting conversations. You may even make a friend. When you walk, you can take in the scenery like the blue sky, white clouds, the sun, and the sights and sounds around you. You cannot do this when you are too focused on traffic, lights, and signs.

Being Kind to the Environment. Most experts believe that global warming is real, and if you can make a difference, wouldn't you want to? Walking and biking are emission-free, and many of the public transportation options are hybrid vehicles and eco-friendly. Living without a car may not only be better for your health but for the planet as well.

If it is impossible for you to be totally car-less, maybe you can try using your car less. You can walk or bike for local errands and only use your vehicle when you cannot walk that far. Choices, as mentioned, are car share programs and Zipcars that you could use now and then. While you are still “technically driving” with these programs, they are cheaper than owning a car. Anything you can do to minimize your time behind the wheel can help save you money.

Information presented in the Northwest Financial Wellness Center is provided for educational purposes only and is not related to actual Northwest products or services. Northwest makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness or specific suitability of any information presented. Information provided should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal or tax advice. Northwest recommends you consult a professional for any specific guidance you are seeking.