Consider Selling Your Car & Going Car-less

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Rusted CarAmericans have a love affair with their automobiles. One of the first ways people want to show off their economic status is through buying a nice vehicle. Even the poorest college student is likely to have a car, though it may be a bit worse for wear. In fact, “Americans own an average of 2.28 vehicles per household, and more than 35 percent of households own three or more cars” (New York Times).

Surviving in America without a car is counterculture and can make life difficult, especially if you live in the suburbs or the country. However, there are times selling your car might be just the right thing to do.

How Much Can You Save Without a Car?

AAA estimates that it costs $8,100 a year to own a car, according to the New York Times. How much getting rid of a car can save you depends on your personal situation. However, most people pay for gas, insurance, repairs, maintenance, car payments, and license fees.

We are already a one car family, and our car is completely paid off, but we have still thought of selling it to get out of student loan debt faster. This is how much we would save a year if we got rid of our car, and we are a conservative example:

  • Car insurance: $740
  • Gas: $2,400
  • Yearly Registration: $99
  • Repairs and Maintenance: $1,517 (this is anecdotal and based on our expenses this year for our 8 year old car with 110,000 miles on it)
  • Total – $5,039 or $419 a month

(Keep in mind, this expense would be significantly higher if we had a car payment as many Americans do.)

We would not be able to reap all of the savings because we would still need to get around with a vehicle occasionally, so we would have to take a transportation alternative. Still, even if we rented a car once or twice a month, it wouldn’t cost us more than $200 per month, so we would still save at least $219 a month.

Transportation Alternatives

The idea of giving up your car may be a bit scary, but there are plenty of alternatives.

  • Public transportation: If you live in a bigger city with good public transportation, you can take the bus or train. We live outside of Chicago, and my husband has taken the train for 11 years with very few problems. He has about a half mile walk to the station and back, which helps him get his daily exercise.
  • Taxis: Cabs and taxis are always available. However, this option can get expensive, so you will want to use it sparingly.
  • Rental cars: Did you know that you can rent a car for a day for less than $30? If you have a number of errands to run, wait and do them all on the same day, when you rent the car. You could buy your groceries for the month so you don’t have to carry them on the bus or worry about a taxi picking you up.
  • Share rides: Do you have a co-worker who lives nearby? Maybe she would give you a ride if you agree to pay half of the gas and some extra money for maintenance.
  • Join a ride share program: Several larger cities have programs like iGo where you can make a 6 month commitment and pay $15 a month for borrowing  a car at least 3 hours a month. Or if you don’t want to make a 6 month commitment, pay $6.75 per hour that you have the car and .40 per mile.

Considering getting rid of your car can be a scary thought. There is no doubt that cars make life easier and life can be inconvenient with only one, or none at all. However, there are significant savings if you can break the attachment to your car.

Would you consider selling your car? Why or why not?

(Photo: franganillo)

{ 21 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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21 Responses to “Consider Selling Your Car & Going Car-less”

  1. Matt M says:

    Another way to save a lot of money would be to get a motorcycle and sell your car.

  2. Glenn Lasher says:

    This is feasible in a world-class city, or even merely major ones.

    Unfortunately, in mid-sized to smaller cities and non-urban areas, it becomes difficult to infeasible. I know this first-hand, because I live in a small city (Schenectady, NY) and work in another small city (Rensselaer, NY) which is about 20 miles and two counties away.

    Taxi fare would break the bank.

    Ride shares work when your work schedule is predictable. When it can provide you with sudden surprises (as mine does) then you get stranded.

    Rental cars only work for commuting when it is a temporary situation (you are visiting a different city or your car is in the shop).

    That leaves public transit. It takes a special breed to weather public transit in less-urban areas. I know this first-hand, because I have done it. I could still do it. I can get on the 905 or 531 bus to downtown Albany (or the 355 to Colonie followed by the 1 to Albany, if I am feeling masochistic), then take the 214 or 224 bus from there to my office. I will arrive in about 90 minutes.

    Don’t get me wrong: If you live in a New York City, a Boston, or a Toronto, an LA or a even a Buffalo, it can work. In fact, I have used and love the MTA and TTC, because they get you where you are going and bring you back, often much faster than driving.

    I also wanted to put an option out there that you missed: Can you bike? If everywhere you go is close enough by, and you are suitably physically fit, this is the cheapest option. I used to work in Guilderland, about six miles from my home, and even though I had occasionally used the 355 and 63 buses to get there, I found biking it to be far more satisfactory and did that nearly every day from Spring to Fall.

    • Uclalien says:

      I don’t disagree with your premise. But you can go ahead and take LA off that list. There’s a reason LA has over a million cars on the road every day. Public transportation in LA is horrendous.

  3. Renee says:

    Also, depending on where you live, there may be an option like Zipcar. You pay 50 dollars in an annual fee to be a member and then there is a per hour price and a per day price to borrow a car. My brother lives in DC and uses this option whenever he travels to stores that are far away.

  4. Fabclimber says:

    You forgot bicycling! Lot’s of ways to save and use that as an alternate mode of transport.

    • Christian L. says:

      I’m with you, Fabclimber! Bicycling is great exercise, a fun hobby and quicker than going by foot.

      -Christian L. @ Smart Military Money

  5. If I was able to, I would love to go car-less – but unfortunately I don’t live in the city. I do think however, that one day this may be a reality for me as the thought of it is very appealing. Especially if I lived in a place like NYC.

  6. DMoney says:

    Warning: Semi-rant ahead

    Y’know, I get the frugal aspect of living: we all want to live as efficiently and responsibly as possible. I get it, I really do. But we’re not robots – we don’t live simply to function as efficiently as possible. We have preferences, and hobbies, and aspirations etc etc.

    I like driving. Actually, I LOVE driving, and I love cars. Why would I ever stop? To save a couple grand a year? Yea, I’d love to save a few grand, but I’d be giving up an experience I greatly enjoy – I’d be giving up a part of my life.

    And this is universal, it could be cars, or eating out, or going to Disney world annually, playing video games — whatever. These things cost money to support, but we enjoy them. Hell, I LOVE 2 ply toilet paper — I’m not going to split it in half to save money on toilet paper.

    So I think people, especially in the frugal community, need to remember to BALANCE their lives along with their checkbooks. If you like eating out every now and then, keep it, and find other ways to save to offset your dining.

    I love my car and cars in general, so instead of going carless (even though that’s not practical where I live anyway) I’ll find other ways to save.

    My point (finally!) is that we shouldn’t have to sacrifice things we enjoy to live. If you’re a responsible person, you can make it work and find other ways to budget and save money.


    • Shirley says:

      I agree with you about choices of where to cut the budget. Reasonable frugalness is the key and nobody should needlessly make themselves miserable. Note that I did say needlessly because there are times when there is simply no other choice.

  7. Stan Jedrusiak says:

    I would gladly get rid of my my car if there was adequate public transportation available where I live. Unfortunately that is not the case. I keep costs down by nursing an old car (16 yrs. old) rather than buying new ones.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I took the child free option so I can afford a car. Should be a tax credit for that instead of the other way around!

  9. Kim K says:

    I use to own a car. The problem was paying for car insurance especially if you own just one car and paying for high gas prices. Also, your parked car getting hit by another [careless] driver, the chances of your car getting scratched, or someone trying to break into it. I can catch a bus if I need to.

  10. Jim M says:

    I am looking forward to moving into the city after the last of my children graduate High School and using the car a whole lot less than I do now. I currently put over 14,000 miles a year on the car leading a suburban lifestyle.

  11. Vangile says:

    What about the time it takes to get around without.a car? As an entrepreneur being without a car can be a hassle – you end up losing money because of all the time you waste waiting for public transport instead of meeting with clients. Also I believe living in the city is easier – when I was living in Boston being without a car was okay but when I lived in Orlando, FL being without a car was literally impossible and I spent tons of money on taxis just getting to places. I once spent $250 on taxis in Orlando n 1 day just running errands. A car would have been way cheaper.

  12. Christine says:

    I was car-free here in Chicago for over 10 years. Just bought a Prius this year. Even though the car is perfect, I just hate the expenses of owning a car! If Hubs didn’t have to have it for work, I would sell in a heartbeat.

  13. Allen says:

    Catch 22. I ride a People 150 Scooter over 80% of personal travel alone. Includes work commute, groceries, gym workouts, small item shopping, etc. Only time I need car in my moderate climate is rainy days. I am near a rain forest (Smokey Mountains) still cycle 80%+. Busses run to 1/2 mile from work but not early or late enough. Costs – air filter and oil changes (<1quart). Premium fuel cost is insignificent -130mpg. Insurance $200/yr. Learned safety in small town so take back roads. No freeways. Plan all routes before leaving home. Normal speed <40mph. Only travel in rains when caught going home. Carry rain suit.

  14. Tony says:

    I live in the valley of the sun – Phoenix Az which has 24 neighboring cities that span the valley about 75 miles wide and 60 miles deep. Alternative transporation is pretty weak except for the downtown district where the areanas are at. The light rail system is very limited, bus passes are cheap enough but takes hours, and in some places there is limited or no service at all, and taxis are very expensive. Here, it’s very difficult without a car. People do without a car, like some people deal without air conditioning or without a washer and dryer, but but it makes life much more difficult. The trick is to buy and older inexpensive vehicle, obtain only the minimum liability insurance required by the state, and minimize the amount of miles driven. I work 12 miles away, from 11:00 aqm to 7:00 pm, so I drive 24 miles a day, I get groceries or shop only between work and home,and that’s alot of stores when they are on every corner, and don’t go anywhere on the weekends, unless I’m with friends and then I make them drive, so I drive about 6,000 miles a year, If I leave the state I usually fly, and then usually don’t rent a car because of family or friends at the destination

  15. Tony says:

    I would need to shower at work after riding a bicycle 12 miles in Phx AZ when it’s over 100 degrees. Motorcycle and bicycle riders have a higher risk of accidents because of other drivers and is very dangerous in busy cities like PHX, many of the drivers are illegal and do not have licences or insurance and flee back across the border when at fault. When gasoline reaches $10 a gallon, or there is a shortage to which gas is rationed or unvailable to civilians completely, we will all be using some other alternative transportation

  16. Matthew says:

    To me, the availability of reliable public transportation should be at the forefront of any new job search. When gas prices do hit $10/gallon, the suburban lifestyle will not be affordable anymore. By 2020, the days of living 20, 30, or 40+ miles from work with the expectation of being able to drive each way will be a thing of the past.

    I recently moved from Kansas City (metro) to Austin because 9 out of 10 engineering jobs in KC are in the suburbs, where the county has few bus routes and soon even fewer due to reductions.

    And it’s not just individuals who must rely on public transit to survive in the coming decades. We’re going to see cities as a whole grow or fade based on the population’s access to public transit.

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