Giving up the car – by the numbers

me and my first car

I often dream about giving up our car, and relying on cycling, mass-transit, and car shares. One of the benefits of living in the city is that there are many alternatives to driving that are cheaper, better for your body and also better for the community. This is why my blog is about “urban frugalism.”

While I don’t think it’s practical for us right now (we have 3 children who still need car-seats), I decided to live the car-free life vicariously by running the numbers to see if it’s at least financially feasible.

If I amortize the cost of car ownership, it’s about $350 monthly. Let’s see what we can get for that amount of money, when it comes to car-free alternatives:

Zipcar is a car-sharing service. The closest car is by the grocery store in our neighborhood. Not totally convenient, but at least it’s available.

Cost: $5/month + $7.75/hr. If we booked 2 one-hour trips per week, that would be $67 a month

Here’s a site that lists taxi fares. Taxis get you from point A to point B directly, but they are rather pricy. They’re good for errands where you need to schlep a lot of stuff.

Cost: $2.50 meter drop + $2/mile. If we took 3 four-mile trips per week, that would be $144 a month

Uber is a new towncar service that features quick pickup, online payment, and nicer cars. It would only be used for times when we needed to get somewhere fast.

Cost: $7 meter drop + $3.75/mile. If we took 1 four-mile trip per week, that would be $88 a month

Finally, the lowly metro bus. It’s cheap, but service is constantly being cut back. Pair your bus ride with a bit of a walk or bike ride, and you can get almost anywhere in the city. If you have the time.

Cost: $2.50 fare. If we took 4 trips a week, that would be $40 a month

Total cost: $339 a month, approximately the cost of car ownership.

Free options: Cycling and walking. Not only are they free, but you also get exercise so you can cancel that gym membership (and also save on long-term healthcare costs down the line). Bumming rides from others for the cost of fuel sometimes works, but don’t become a pest to your friends and family.

This is something I’ll periodically check in on, as our children age and the car-free lifestyle becomes more realistic for our family. I think it sends the right message to our children that skills such as creativity, physical exercise, and advance planning are more rewarding than simply getting behind the wheel whenever you have to get somewhere. Best of all, those are skills you can teach children whether you’re car-free or you have an entire fleet of vehicles in your yard!

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