I Have Lived Three Years Without a Car

It has been over three years since I sold my van. I wanted to go car-free for one year, write a book about the experience, and then move on with my life.

I honestly believed that I would purchase another vehicle once the experiment was over. I enjoy traveling on occasion, have family to visit, and prefer buying some consumables in bulk. Aside from that, it gets cold here in the winter; I knew that I would prefer driving to work during inclement weather.

Three Years Later…

I realized the other day that I haven’t even seriously considered buying another vehicle since my one-year fast ended. While I still admire beautiful vehicles and borrow one on occasion I have no desire to purchase one of my own.

What?

I know that I can save the money to buy one. It might take a bit of time but I am a pro when it comes to sniffing out bargains and saving up for big purchases. Money wasn’t the problem, so what was going on? It was time for some soul-searching.

I have to plan my shopping trips now but that has made me a better consumer. I have eliminated a lot of impulse purchases simply by eliminating how many times I go to the store. While I may spend a bit more money when I borrow a car or ask a friend to take me somewhere (I pay for gas and enjoy treating them in some small way as a thank you), I still spend less money than I did when I could go shopping whenever I wanted.

I love the fact that I no longer have to concern myself with maintenance duties. I no longer have the fear that a breakdown is going to decimate my monthly budget. I feel an odd sort of relief when my friends tell me of their latest automotive woes; I don’t have to worry about that any longer.

I also feel better than I have in years. I can walk across town at a decent rate of speed regardless of weather without getting out of breath. I can even jog for short stretches now, something that I’ve not been able to do since 1995.

Even better, I realized that I’m saving a small fortune every year. I no longer have to budget $50 a month to pay for car insurance or $100 for my annual taxes. That might not be a huge amount of money but it adds up over time.

While I am no longer able to visit my beloved aunt as often as I like we are closer than ever due to regular phone calls and Facebook chats, and when we do see one another, we make every moment count.

I get to spend more time with friends as we plan trips together. We both save money by splitting the cost while receiving the added benefit of good companionship during the excursion.

I have gotten better at planning my purchases beforehand. Since I never know when I will get to visit a certain store, I save up the money ahead of time for pet supplies, personal care items, and anything else I know I will need to buy soon. This allows me to take advantage of spur-of-the-moment opportunities when they arise.

The time has come for me to admit to myself that I am really, truly content without a vehicle.

Have you ever considered eliminating your car? What is holding you back if you are? Please share your stories in the comments below.

5 thoughts on “I Have Lived Three Years Without a Car

  1. EcoCatLady

    I love this! I have considered going car-free for years but I haven’t quite been able to make the leap. I only drive about 6-700 miles per year these days, and I know it’s crazy to keep paying for insurance and taxes with that little driving, but I’m just nervous about giving it up.

    The main issue for me has always been my cats. It’s hard to get a cat to the vet on a bike, and while I could probably borrow a vehicle for scheduled visits, I’ve had some really sick kitties the past few years, and trips to the emergency vet in the middle of the night have been… well, much more common than I’d like to think about.

    My other issue is home improvement projects – that’s been the story this year… beating a path to the Home Depot in order to get everything I need. I’m sure I could order things and have them delivered… but honestly, there are times when you just need xyz thing and you don’t want to wait a week to get it.

    Still, it’s an idea that I toy with frequently, and when my 27 year old car finally bites the dust, I may just take the leap.

    Anyhow, congratulations… I am super impressed!

    1. Annie Post author

      Hello EcoCatLady!
      It is scary to give up your vehicle. I was really worried about it myself. As it was, I parked my van for six months or so before I was able to work up the nerve to actually list it for sale.

      That said, there is an amount of adaptation you have to go through in order to eliminate your vehicle. It becomes much harder to just zip to the store when you need a single item in a hurry. In my experience, it teaches you how to decide what is truly important in your life. Do you really need XYZ right now, can you wait and pick it up the next time you are out, or do you even need it at all? I ask myself this question a LOT these days. For instance, right now I’m running low on bathroom tissue. I work tonight but it is a pain to carry home in the cold. Should I walk across town and grab a pack when I’m off work tomorrow, or what?

      I’ll doubtless go ahead and grab a package of bathroom tissue at work tonight. That way I don’t have to worry about going anywhere on my day off and can relax. But it is questions like this one that I deal with on a regular basis now. Should I pay a bit more to grab X at work, or walk a bit farther to save a few cents by visiting another store after work? Is the money saved worth losing 30 minutes walking and picking through another store when I can grab the item in question at the store I already work at?

      As for your pets, you could make arrangements for a friend to drive you, or to borrow their car to transport them in an emergency. It isn’t perfect, but it is something to consider. You could even invest in one of those pet carriers with the over the shoulder strap to ride your bike to the vet if you don’t want to walk with them, or make a spot on the back of the bike to strap your pet carrier to. There are lot of options if you are determined enough to consider them.

      For the record, several friends and family still don’t understand why I’m content without a vehicle. Sometimes it puzzles me as well but I can’t argue with the truth: I’m content without one.

      Good luck, whatever decision you make!
      Hugs, Annie

      1. EcoCatLady

        Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply. The reality is, that I am extremely fortunate – I live within easy walking distance of 2 grocery stores, and if I hop on my bike, that number expands to half a dozen or so. Plus, I’ve got pretty much everything else I need within less than a mile – even a veterinarian, if I was willing to switch to a different one.

        It’s really a question of how to haul stuff. I’m sure I could invest in a trailer for my errand bike, and I could also make better use of delivery services. And if the city comes through on its plans, we might actually get real sidewalks in my neighborhood – which would make it all the more convenient to get around on foot.

        Honestly, I’ve only driven 644 miles this year, and I’ve paid $648 in insurance alone! That’s sorta crazy!

        Anyhow, we’ll see what the future brings. At the moment I just consider my car to be a luxury item, and it’s a luxury that I’m happy to have. But when the time comes that it needs a major repair, that equation could easily change. I might have to actually face my deep-seated fear of both taxis/Uber and asking people for favors! The horror!

        Thanks again for such a thought out reply!

  2. MacKenzie Drake

    I know a lot of people who won’t live anywhere without a car, despite the struggle to keep one running and legal. Personally, I’m happy without for all the reasons you’ve given. Too, when it comes to bulky or heavy items, nowadays it’s sometimes easier and cheaper to have the stuff delivered, instead of paying someone local to haul the big stuff here.

    1. Annie Post author

      It is really becoming less expensive to have things shipped. It is also becoming the best way to find many items, since local stores are going the way of the dinosaur.

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