Can You Reside With no Automotive?

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If you’ve ever been stuck in a traffic jam, sitting motionless behind a diesel-belching truck as cyclists glide past happily in the bike lane, it may have crossed your mind that you’d be happier living without a car.

But chances are, you quickly brushed aside that notion, imagining just how impractical that would be. After all, the whole modern world is practically built around automobile travel — and with so many places designed to be accessed by car, is living without one even possible?

The answer to that question is far from simple, as it largely depends on your specific situation: where you live, where you work, and what you do for fun. But the question is worth asking — especially if you’re someone who’s happier almost anywhere else than behind the wheel. Going without a car just might be the key to a healthier, more frugal, and less stressful life.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Car-Free Life

There’s no doubt that there are many benefits to living without a car. The perks of a car-free life include:

  • Savings. Owning a car is costly. Aside from the cost of the car itself, you have to pay for gas, insurance, maintenance, and, depending on where you live, parking and tolls. According to AAA, the total cost of owning a car ranges from around $4,580 for a small sedan to $7,173 for a half-ton pickup. Of course, there are ways to keep these costs down, such as or paying off your car loan early. But even if you pinch your pennies, owning a car still costs you thousands of dollars per year.
  • Health. Doctors agree that getting more exercise is one of the best things, if not the best thing, you can do for your health. And one of the best ways to fit more exercise into your day is to walk or bike more, rather than driving. Giving up your car practically forces you to spend more time moving your body, even if you’re only walking to the nearest bus stop.
  • Less Stress. For many people, the hours spent behind the wheel are the most stressful part of the day. Studies at the University of Montreal and Britain’s University of East Anglia both show that commuters who walk or bike to work instead of driving are more relaxed both during their commute and after it. And, in addition to skipping all those hours sitting in traffic, going car-free means no more frantic hunting for parking spaces or worrying about making it back to your car before the parking meter runs out.
  • Less Pollution. If you want to live a greener lifestyle, giving up your car is one of the biggest steps you can take. Going car-free reduces your carbon footprint, as well as your contribution to smog and acid rain.

But going car-free has its downsides too. The fact is, in many parts of this country, it’s really hard to get anywhere without a car. And even when it’s possible to get where you’re going by bus, by bike, or on foot, it often takes a lot longer than driving.

Living without a car is easier in some places than others. Some U.S. cities, such as Boston, Minneapolis, and San Francisco, encourage a car-free lifestyle by having great mass transit systems or an extensive network of bike trails. However, in rural or suburban areas, it’s often hard to get around without a car because there’s limited public transportation and few bike paths — and perhaps not even any sidewalks.

Alternatives to Owning a Car

To determine whether a car-free life makes sense for you, you need to know your options and alternatives. For example, walking and biking can be practical if you live close enough to the places where you work and socialize. And in many cities, mass transit — such as buses, subways, and trains — can take you just about everywhere you need to go.

However, even if there are places you can’t go without a car, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to own one. You might be able to share rides with others, either in a carpool or through a formal ridesharing program like Uber. Alternatively, take part in a car-sharing program like Zipcar, which gives you access to a car when you need it. And if you only need a car on very rare occasions, simply rent one or take a cab.

1. Walking

Walking is probably the simplest way to get from place to place. However, that doesn’t mean it’s always the easiest. Walking has a lot of perks, but it has some serious drawbacks as well.

Advantages

  • It’s Free. Walking from place to place requires no equipment aside from a comfortable pair of shoes. Most people already have that — and even if you don’t, you can buy a decent pair of walking shoes for as little as $40.
  • It Works Everywhere. Not every area has buses and trains, car-sharing programs, or even cabs. But walking is possible anywhere there’s a surface to walk on. And unlike cars and cyclists, you’re not limited to paved roads and paths when you walk.
  • It’s Great Exercise. Walking for exercise offers an array of health benefits. It strengthens your heart, boosts bone density, tones your leg muscles, reduces stress, improves balance, and helps you maintain a healthy weight. And it’s not nearly as hard on your joints as high-impact activities, such as jogging or basketball.
  • You Learn Your Way Around. Walking is a great way to get to know your neighborhood. On foot, you can discover all kinds of interesting hole-in-the-wall businesses that are easy to miss when you’re speeding by in a car. In fact, a study at Britain’s University of Surrey, published on Science Direct, shows that people tend to see their surroundings in a more positive way when they’re on foot than when they’re driving.

Disadvantages

  • It’s Slow. It takes a lot longer to get anywhere on foot than it does on wheels. So if you walk to work, you’ll have to get up earlier in the morning to make it in on time.
  • It’s Tiring. Walking is less strenuous than many other forms of exercise. But even so, there’s only so far you can go on foot without wearing yourself out.
  • You’re Exposed to the Weather. In inclement weather, walking just isn’t pleasant. And if the weather conditions are severe enough, it could even be dangerous.
  • Cars Are a Danger. Although it’s possible to walk just about anywhere, it isn’t always safe. Highways are designed for cars, not pedestrians, and drivers aren’t likely to be on the lookout for people traveling on foot. In many areas, it’s not even legal for pedestrians to walk along or across a major roadway.
  • It’s Harder to Haul Things. When you run errands in your car, you don’t have to worry about carrying everything home. You can easily fit six bags of groceries into the trunk, or even lower a seat to make room for a couple of two-by-fours. When you’re on foot, you’re limited to what you can carry in your hands or in a backpack.

Bottom Line

All in all, walking is most suitable for making short trips in developed areas with good sidewalks. It can also work for slightly longer trips — a few miles at a time — if you’re in reasonably good shape and have time to spare.

2. Cycling

Cycling Alternatives Owning Car

Riding a bike has many of the same advantages as walking — and some of the same disadvantages as well. However, it also has its own unique pluses and minuses, and it’s often possible to find ways around the disadvantages with good planning and a little extra equipment.

Advantages

  • It’s Cheap. If you already own a bicycle, cycling is nearly as cheap as walking. True, unlike a pair of shoes, a bicycle does require a bit of regular maintenance. But compared to cars, bikes are a lot cheaper to buy and maintain.
  • It’s Good Exercise. Just like walking, cycling is a great way to work regular exercise into your daily routine. With a bike, your daily commute becomes a way to stay trim, strengthen your muscles, and keep your heart in good shape.
  • It’s Much Faster Than Walking. A moderately fit person can walk at an approximate rate of three miles per hour. By contrast, a moderately fit cyclist can travel at around 15 miles per hour on city streets. So if you live six miles from your workplace, it would take two hours to get there on foot, but less than a half-hour on a bicycle.
  • You Can Go Where Cars Can’t. With the exception of major highways, bicycles can go nearly anywhere cars can. But they can also go many places that cars can’t. For example, many parks have paths that are closed to cars but open to cyclists and pedestrians. So on a bike, you can often take a shortcut through the park, skirting around traffic and enjoying a more scenic view. And when you get where you’re going, there’s a good chance you can chain your bike up right outside the door instead of having to hunt around for a parking spot.
  • It’s Possible to Haul Stuff. For as little as $15, you can attach a basket to the front of your bike. For a bigger investment (approximately $50), you can equip the back of the bike with a wire rack and a set of panniers, which hang over the rack like saddlebags. You can even hook up a cargo trailer — which can be purchased for approximately $150 — to the rear of your bike. And if you don’t wish to modify or add anything to your bicycle, simply wear a backpack.

Disadvantages

  • There Are Some Costs. A good bicycle can be expensive. A hybrid or recreational bike, suitable for commuting and tooling around town, will set you back anywhere from $400 to well over $1,000. However, there are ways to lower this cost. For example, it’s possible to buy a used bike in good condition for as little as $100 (or perhaps even less). Or, if you’re only planning to ride occasionally, you can save by joining a bike-sharing program, which lets you “check out” a bike when you need one. These programs cost around $85 per year, plus an extra fee if you need to use a bike for a long trip. Along with your bike, you also should expect to invest $200 or so in extra gear, such as a helmet, bike lock, and lights.
  • Bikes Attract Thieves. One of the problems with riding a really nice bike is that it’s a target for thieves. There’s nothing quite as frustrating for a bike commuter than to leave work and find a broken cord and lock where a pricey bicycle should be. Fortunately, a solid metal U-lock will deter most thieves, and a decent one only costs around $60.
  • Some Maintenance Is Required. A bike is much less complicated than a car, so it’s much less work to maintain. You can learn to do much of the basic maintenance yourself, greatly reducing trips to the bike shop. For example, be sure to keep the tires properly inflated and the chain lubricated, and replace brake pads and tires whenever necessary. Expect to spend at least a few minutes each week and around $200 each year to maintain your bike.
  • It’s (Usually) Slower Than Driving. Even the fastest cyclists can’t ride as fast as a car traveling at highway speeds. Investing in an electric-assisted bicycle, or e-bike, can boost your speed, but these high-tech cycles usually cost thousands of dollars. Furthermore, many highways are closed to bikes, so riding a bike often forces you to take a more roundabout route. On the other hand, cyclists can use some paths that are closed to cars, so in some cases, riding a bike lets you take a shorter, quicker route. Also, when you’re riding on the shoulder or in a dedicated bike lane, you can often glide right past traffic jams on the road. So depending on where you’re going and how bad the traffic is, riding a bike could be almost as fast as driving — or even faster.
  • You Show Up Sweaty. One problem with riding your bike to work — or anyplace else where you have to look presentable — is that you can show up sweaty and dirty from your ride. You can carry a change of clothes in a backpack or keep a suit at the office to change into, but you still need to allow extra time to clean up and change.
  • Weather Poses a Risk. Just like walking, riding a bike exposes you to the elements. Furthermore, cyclists have to mind the road conditions, keeping in mind that snowdrifts that can be maneuvered in a car may be an impassable obstacle for a bike. Investing in the proper gear can make hot-weather and cold-weather cycling more manageable, but it’s never going to be as safe or easy as driving.
  • Cars Pose a Risk. When you’re traveling in a dedicated bike lane, you can generally avoid traffic, although you still have to be careful at intersections. But if many of the roads in your area have a lot of traffic and narrow shoulders, they’re potential death traps for bicyclists.

Bottom Line

Riding a bike is best for short to medium trips — say, 15 miles or less — in bike-friendly areas. This includes bicycle and pedestrian paths, roads with dedicated bike lanes, and streets with a wide shoulder and not too much traffic.

3. In-Line Skates

Skates Alternatives Owning Car

In some areas, you can get around with a different kind of wheels: in-line skates. Skating is sort of a middle ground between walking and cycling. It falls in between the two in terms of cost, speed, and convenience.

Advantages

  • Low Cost. A pair of skates costs between $50 and $150. That’s a little more than a pair of walking shoes, but quite a bit less than a new bicycle.
  • Improved Speed. Strapping on skates can boost your speed to around 10 miles per hour. That’s significantly slower than riding a bicycle, but it’s still more than three times as fast as walking.
  • Portability. Unlike a bicycle, skates are portable. When you get to your destination, you can just tie them together and sling them over your shoulder. This also makes it easier to combine skating with public transportation. You can skate to the station, then hop on the train, carrying your skates with you. There’s no need to look for a place to lock up your bike first.

Disadvantages

  • Weather Is an Issue. Like walking, skating exposes you to the elements. It’s a lot of fun on a bright, sunny day, but it’s pretty unpleasant in severe heat or cold. And in heavy rain or snow, it can be even more dangerous than walking.
  • It Requires a Paved Surface. You can’t cut across rough territory on skates the way you can on foot. You don’t need a full-sized road, but you do need a smooth surface.

Bottom Line

Skating is practical pretty much anywhere cycling is. It’s good for trips of up to 10 miles wherever there’s good pavement and clement weather.

4. Public Transportation

Public Transportation Alternatives Owning Car

In many cities, it’s easy to get around without a car. You can go practically anywhere by using buses, subways, and light rail. However, this option isn’t available everywhere, and it’s not always as convenient as driving.

Advantages

  • Cost Savings. The cost of public transportation varies from city to city. However, in many big cities — such as New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago — you can buy a one-month transit pass for between $100 and $150. This grants you unlimited travel on most city buses and trains. By contrast, the cost of owning a car, according to the AAA study, is $382 to $598 per month. So giving up your car and switching to transit can save you anywhere from $232 to $498 per month, or $2,784 to $5,976 per year. In many cities, the savings are even greater because parking is so expensive. According to a June 2017 report from the American Public Transportation Association, in the 20 cities with the highest transit use, a two-car couple who gave up one car would save an average of $9,797 per year.
  • A More Relaxing Ride. Driving on crowded city streets can be very stressful, and the time required can vary greatly according to traffic. A 2014 study at McGill University found that drivers feel more stress during their daily commutes than people who use mass transit.
  • More Free Time. When you’re sitting on a bus or a train, you don’t have to focus on the road. You can use your time for other activities, such as reading a book or checking your email. So even if it takes longer to get to work, at least the time isn’t wasted.
  • No Parking Hassles. Parking spots in the city are often scarce — not to mention expensive. When you ride on a bus or a train, you can just hop off at your stop and go.

Disadvantages

  • Not Available Everywhere. The biggest problem with public transportation is that, in many places, there simply isn’t any. This is most often the case in rural and suburban areas, but even in some cities, transit stops are few and far between.
  • Longer Travel Times. Even in cities with plenty of buses and trains, there isn’t always one that’s headed straight to where you want to go. Getting from point A to point B often means taking multiple buses or trains, which makes your trip longer. A 2015 study at the University of Michigan found that the cities where most people commute by transit (rather than by car) also tend to have the longest commute times. For instance, in transit-friendly New York City, the average commute is nearly twice as long as in car-dependent Oklahoma City. Check Mapnificent to see how many places it’s possible to reach in a given time using your city’s transit system.
  • You’re On a Strict Schedule. If you drive to work, waking up a few minutes late in the morning just means you arrive at work a few minutes late. But if you commute via public transportation, running a few minutes late could mean missing your bus and having to wait for the next one. Depending on the schedule, that could make you as much as an hour late. Going out at night can be an even bigger problem. In many cities, the buses stop running late at night. So if you miss the last bus, you could be stranded until morning.
  • It’s Hard to Haul Stuff. Most city buses and trains don’t provide much storage space for baggage. So if you take a bus or train to the store, you can’t bring home a carload of groceries. You’re limited to what you can fit in a backpack or beneath your seat.

Bottom Line

Public transportation is a great option if you happen to live in a city with a good transit system. It’s especially useful for commuting, since many urban areas have extra trains and buses running during the morning and evening rush hours. 

However, even for city dwellers, mass transit can’t always get you everywhere you want to go. For instance, if you often visit friends who live in the suburbs, you can’t always count on trains and buses to get you there.

5. Getting a Lift

Getting Lift Alternatives Owning Car

Even if there are some places you can’t get to without a car, that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be your car. Often, if you don’t own a car, you can share rides with friends or coworkers who do.

In theory, you can go anywhere and carry anything in a friend’s car that you could in your own. In practice, however, you can usually only share rides to places that your car-owning friend is going too. A good friend probably won’t mind giving you a lift to the airport once in a while. But if you ask for a ride to the grocery store every week, that’s taking advantage of the friendship.

However, if you don’t have a friend who wants to go where you’re going, it’s sometimes possible to get a ride from a stranger. Slugging and real-time ridesharing are two safer ways to find drivers who are willing to give you a lift.

Carpooling

If you have coworkers who live in your neighborhood, you can carpool to work together. Carpooling has many advantages:

  • Save Money. Four people riding in one car spend less on gas, tolls, and maintenance than four people in four separate cars. In addition, one car needs only one parking place, so you can all share the cost of one parking permit.
  • Reduce Traffic. Carpooling reduces the number of cars on the road. That means less traffic during the morning and evening rush hours, which makes the commute less stressful.
  • Prevent Pollution. A single car with four people also produces less pollution than four separate cars. Having fewer cars on the road helps cut down on smog, acid rain, and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Enjoy the Company. Sharing a ride with coworkers is a good way to get to know them better. Chatting with your friends on the way to work is a much more pleasant way to pass the time than sitting alone behind the wheel cursing at the traffic.

The main drawback of carpooling is that it only works if you have people to carpool with. If you work at a small company, the chances of having coworkers living nearby are slim. Also, carpooling requires you to be on a stricter schedule in the morning. If you run late, you either miss your ride or make all your coworkers late along with you.

Slugging

In many cities, rush-hour drivers pick up extra passengers so they can use the faster-moving HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes on the highway. This practice, known as “instant carpooling,” or “slugging,” is most common in Washington, D.C.

To catch a ride this way, you have to stand in a “slug line” with other passengers seeking rides. Then you wait for a driver to pull over and call out a destination that matches yours. Slug-Lines.com explains where to find slug lines in the District of Columbia area.

Slugging is free and is often faster than public transportation. The obvious downside is that it’s not available in most cities. And even if you happen to live in Washington, slugging isn’t a sure thing, like taking a bus. Chances are you’ll find a driver who’s headed to where you want to go, but you can’t always be certain.

Real-Time Ridesharing

If you don’t live in Washington, D.C., you can still find people to share rides with through a real-time ridesharing site. Real-time ridesharing isn’t the same thing as commercial ridesharing programs such as Uber (discussed below). 

Instead, it’s simply a way for drivers looking for company to find passengers looking for a lift. SpaceShare and the “rideshare” section on Craigslist are two sites you can search to find a driver who’s heading your way.

Unlike slugging, real-time ridesharing is an option in all parts of the country. However, there’s still no guarantee that you can find a driver who wants to take you where you want to go. Your chances are better if you live in a big city, where there are lots of drivers and passengers to match up with each other.

Also, ridesharing sometimes comes with a price tag. A quick search of Craigslist for my area turned up only a few listings from drivers offering free rides, or asking only for gas money. Most listings were from drivers seeking money for a ride — basically, unlicensed taxi services. If you’re going to pay for a ride, it’s safer to take a real taxi.

6. Taxis and Ridesharing

Taxis Ridesharing Alternatives Owning Car

Ridesharing systems such as Uber and Lyft have more in common with a taxi service than with an informal carpool. When you sign up with one of these services, you create an account, download an app, and put your credit or debit card on file. 

Then, when you need a ride, you use the app to signal a driver who’s in your area. The fare gets charged automatically to your credit card.

Ridesharing vs. Cabs

Of course, it’s still possible to call a cab the old-fashioned way. Traditional cabs often cost more, but not always. In general, for long trips at fast speeds, ride sharing is likely to be a cheaper option. But for short trips, the traditional taxi costs less, even with the tip.

Also, Uber and Lyft often raise rates based on demand. By contrast, taxis generally charge the same amount per mile at all times. So in high-traffic areas, or at busy times of the day, an Uber ride is likely to cost more than a cab. 

Taxis have other perks compared to ridesharing companies. For instance, many Uber and Lyft drivers have compact cars that don’t give you a lot of room to stretch out. Also, these drivers don’t always know their way around the city as well as a seasoned cabbie.

On the plus side, using a ridesharing app can be more convenient than hailing or calling for a cab. These apps allow you to track where drivers are, so you know how long you’ll have to wait for your ride. You can also rate different drivers and avoid being paired with the ones you don’t like.

Advantages 

  • You Can Go Anywhere. Both taxis and ridesharing services can take you anywhere within driving distance. This makes them a good choice for traveling out to the suburbs, where mass transit doesn’t always go.
  • Ready on Call. With taxis and rideshares, you set your own schedule. You don’t have to sit at the station waiting for the next bus or train to show up. You can just call for a ride at any time — even late at night.
  • Room for Baggage. A cab or rideshare car has a trunk that can stash your belongings. That comes in handy when you’re coming back from a shopping spree loaded down with purchases.
  • You Don’t Have to Drive. If you’re heading home after a night of bar-hopping, you’re probably in no condition to drive yourself. With cabs and rideshares, you have a sober driver who can get you home safely. These services also work if you can’t drive because of a disability or because you don’t have a driver’s license. And if you’re in an unfamiliar city and don’t know your way around, a cab or rideshare lets you leave the driving to someone who does.

Disadvantages

  • It’s Pricey. Although Uber and Lyft can cost less than cabs, neither option is exactly cheap. In New York City, you pay a minimum of $2.50 for a cab or $7 for UberX, with higher costs for longer trips. By contrast, a ride on the New York City Subway costs a flat $2.75 no matter where you’re going.
  • You Pay While You’re Parked. If you have several errands to run, you don’t just pay for the time you spend on the road. You also pay for each minute your driver sits outside waiting while you shop. So if you spend 40 minutes doing your weekly grocery shopping, you can rack up quite a hefty bill. Also, with ridesharing services, drivers aren’t actually required to wait for you. If your driver isn’t willing to wait, you’ll have to call for a new ride when you’re finished shopping.
  • Urban Areas Only. Ridesharing services are only available in certain cities. The Uber and Lyft websites have lists of cities where these services run. Taxis can also be hard to find outside of urban areas.

Bottom Line

Taxis and ridesharing are a good choice for city dwellers who need to travel to the suburbs and vice versa. They also come in handy late at night. Calling for a ride is safer than walking home at 2am, and it’s less of a hassle than hurrying to catch the last train.

However, because of the cost, these services only make sense for occasional use. Taking a cab for a grocery run once per week is probably cheaper than owning a car. But using one to get to work every day would be a real budget-buster.

7. Car-Sharing and Car Rentals

Carsharing Car Rentals

Want to drive without the hassle of owning a car? Both car rental agencies and car-sharing programs, such as Zipcar, give you access to a car only when you need it.

Rentals vs. Car-Sharing

Car rentals and car-sharing programs both give you temporary use of a car, but in different ways. With a rental, you pay for your car by the day. You also pay for gas, insurance, and parking, if needed.

With car-sharing programs, you pay a monthly fee to get access to a fleet of cars. On top of that, you pay by the minute, the hour, or the day when you check one out. Gas, insurance, and parking are all included.

Which service is the better deal depends on how you use it. In the U.S., a basic Zipcar membership costs $9 per month, or $90 for a full year. On top of that, you pay an hourly rate that’s usually between $10 and $20. You can also get a full day of use for $90 to $120. 

Car rental costs vary by city, time of year, and type of car. On peer-to-peer rental sites like Turo, some low-end models cost as little as $25 per day, while pricey sports cars rent for upwards of $1,000. 

With this wide a range, it’s hard to compare the cost of renting versus car-sharing. But in general, renting is likely to be a better deal for long, infrequent trips. There’s no monthly charge, and you can probably pay less per day than you would with Zipcar.

However, if you regularly need a car for short trips, car-sharing is probably a better deal. If you use a Zipcar for an hour at a time, 10 days per month, you’ll pay a maximum of $209 for the month. If you had to rent a car for each of those 10 days, you’d most likely pay at least $250.

Advantages

  • Cheaper Than Owning. For infrequent users, both car rentals and car-sharing are cheaper than owning a car. According to the AAA study, owning a car costs the average driver $4,580 to $7,173 per year. By contrast, using Zipcar for short trips 10 times per month would cost around $2,500 a year. And for very rare users, renting a car for two weeks per year could cost as little as $350.
  • You Can Drive Anywhere. Once you’re behind the wheel of a rental car or a shared car, you can take it down any road in the country. You’re not limited to areas you can reach through transit or reach on foot without tiring.
  • Plenty of Cargo Space. Renting and car-sharing give you a whole trunk to carry luggage, shopping bags, or anything else. You can also rent a bigger vehicle, such as an SUV, if you want to haul home a piece of furniture or several board feet of lumber.
  • No Fee for Waiting. Unlike a cab, a rental car doesn’t sit there running its meter while you take care of your errands. You can go from store to store, running in and out, and pay the same hourly or daily fee.

Disadvantages

  • Costs Add Up. Renting and car-sharing are affordable choices if you only need a car occasionally. However, they can get expensive if you use the car regularly. If you took a Zipcar to and from work every day, leaving it parked at your workplace for eight hours, you’d need to pay for a full day’s use during about 23 days per month. In this scenario, your monthly tab could come to as much as $2,769 — far more than the cost of owning a car.
  • Limited Locations. You can go anyplace you like in a rental car or shared car. But to get the car in the first place — and drop it off when you’re done — you have to live within striking distance of a rental office or car-sharing location. Zipcar is available in more than 300 U.S. and Canadian cities, but many states have only one or two locations. Car rentals can be found in most good-sized cities, but there aren’t many in smaller towns.
  • Reservations Required. To rent a car or check out a Zipcar, you need to reserve the car ahead of time. This means they’re not really a good option for spur-of-the-moment trips — for instance, if something in your house breaks and you have to make an unplanned run to the hardware store. You can try to reserve a car for immediate use, but you can’t be sure there will be one available. Also, when you reserve a Zipcar, you only get it for a fixed length of time. You can use the app to extend your reservation if your plans change, but only if the car hasn’t been promised to someone else.
  • You Have to Drive. Driving in heavy traffic is stressful whether you own the car or not. With a rental or shared car, you’re the one who has to worry about avoiding accidents and navigating through crowded streets. Rentals and car-sharing also aren’t a good choice for nights out, when you may be coming home too sleepy or tipsy to drive safely. And, obviously, driving a rental isn’t an option if you don’t have a license.

Bottom Line

Car-sharing and car rentals can be good choices if you live in a city where they’re available and you only need a car occasionally. They work well for trips you’ve scheduled ahead of time, such as doctor’s appointments, so you can reserve the car in advance. They’re also handy when you have a lot of stuff to carry. However, these services are too pricey to rely on for everyday use.

Final Word

If it turns out that it isn’t practical for you to give up your car, don’t despair. Even if you can’t go car-free, you can get many of the same benefits by going “car-light.” Basically, this means you keep your car, but you only use it once in a while.

For many people, going car-light is the best of both worlds. For example, you can walk or ride your bike in pleasant weather, getting healthy exercise and enjoying the fresh air. 

But on days when the weather is cold and the roads are slippery, you have your car as a backup. You can also use the car when you have to transport several people or a load of luggage.

Going car-light doesn’t eliminate your driving expenses, but it can reduce them. Obviously, the less you drive, the less you have to pay for gas. Driving less also puts less wear and tear on your car, lowering maintenance costs. You still have to pay for auto insurance, but many companies will reduce your premiums if you drive very little.

To estimate how much you could save by driving less, take a look at the AAA report. In addition to showing the cost per year of owning a car, it also estimates how much it costs per mile to drive one. 

According to this report, if you cut your driving from 15,000 miles per year to 10,000, you would save about $2,110 per year. And you would enjoy the health and environmental perks of driving less as well.

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