44 Autos: The Carless Lifestyle

According to the AAA, driving 15,000 miles per year in a mid-sized car costs $8,946. If you spend at the national average ($44,600) and ditch the sedan, you save 20 percent on your annual expenses, and do it in one fell swoop. Few other single decisions can cut your expenses by so much and do it so fast. Consider these strategies.

44.1  Live Where Cars Are Optional

The way most cities are laid out, few can enjoy the advantages of forswearing their cars. Here’s how to make it work for you.

   44.1.1  Telecommute or Live Near Work
If you work at home or live within walking distance of your workplace, you remove the biggest reason for car ownership: the daily commute.

   44.1.2  Live Near Public Transit
Another way to skin the cat of commuting is to locate your home close to public transportation—bus, train, light rail, subway—that whisks you away to work and other destinations. An added bonus: many employers subsidize travel expenses.

  44.1.3  Live Near Bicycle Paths
Housing near public transit usually costs more, but you might not pay extra for easy access to a bike trail system.

   44.1.4  Live Near Taxis or Car Services
Which costs less: $9,000 spent per year to own a car, or $1,500 spent per year on occasional cab fares? If taxis are scarce, visit Uber.com, an on-demand car service app that lets you request rides from nearby drivers who have spare seats available (now in seventeen US cities).

   44.1.5  Live in Compact Communities
Live in a neighborhood within easy walking distance of groceries, shopping, and entertainment. How do you find such pedestrian nirvanas? Enter prospective addresses at WalkScore.com, which rates locations for their walkability. Scores of 90 or more qualify as “walker’s paradises” where most daily errands don’t require cars.

   44.1.6  Live Near Car Shares and Rentals
Trips out of your walkable neighborhood might require temporary access to a vehicle. If you live near a parked car share (ZipCar.com), reaching an auto is easy. Even if you live far away from car shares, many rental agencies deliver vehicles to your front door.

   44.1.7  Live Near Peer-to-Peer Car Shares
Similar to ZipCar, except a central agency doesn’t supply the cars; instead, individuals make their own vehicles available to others. A clearinghouse provides insurance, screens driving records, and provides secure keyless entry boxes. This business model is relatively new. Visit RelayRides.com, GetAround.com, and JustShareIt.com.

   44.1.8  Live Near Peers
Contact family and friends with this proposition: if they lend you their cars occasionally, you’ll pay them the same rate as a peer-to-peer lending site. It’s a win-win for both sides. You avoid the cost of ownership; they receive extra cash to defray vehicle expenses. Everyone deals with people they know and trust instead of strangers. Before you take the wheel, check with each owner’s insurer to find out what happens if you’re involved in an accident. You might need to buy non-owners liability insurance or an umbrella policy to protect yourself and those from whom you borrow, but that protection costs much less than a car does.

44.2  Limit Your Need for a Car

Stay closer to home and use alternatives to car travel (see 39.4).

44.3  Go Car Free Lite

Test drive the carless life without going cold turkey on ownership.

   44.3.1  Take the Car Free Life for a Test Drive
Dock your car in the garage for a few weeks. Debrief yourself.

   44.3.2  Cut Back on Vehicles
Apply the above tactics to pare down to a single car.

   44.3.3  Cut Back Temporarily
You don’t have to go carless forever. Rent a place in the city for starters and earmark the savings to fund a move to suburbia. You might even decide that you prefer living downtown.

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