I have a confession to make.
I’m 27 years old and I have yet to own a car.
Okay, so for a personal finance blogger that’s not a confession so much as it’s a point of pride, but people still raise their eyebrows when I tell them I’ve never owned a car, financed a car or leased a car. Mommy and Daddy never bought me one either. The way they saw it teenagers weren’t entitled to having their parents buy them a car (smart move on their part). So, I’ve never had a car period.
This has made it much easier for me to reach financial goals, build a business and spend money on stuff I actually really want. It’s actually quite freeing to not have car payments, insurance payments and gas expenses. When everyone is freaking out about gas prices I just go on about my business because it doesn’t really affect me.
Besides, I hate driving in Miami. We’re some of the worst drivers in the country. Every four way stop is like a game of chicken and apparently turning signals don’t exist. In fact, most traffic laws seem to be obsolete in this town. The more I can avoid being on these roads the better.
Now, for some reason, unless you live in the middle of New York City where pretty much no one uses a car, people cannot seem to believe how I can possibly go through life without my own set of wheels. Every time I tell them I don’t have a car they look at me as if I have snakes coming out of my head.
Well, getting around without a car is actually easier than most people think. And my wallet is certainly happy about it.
Why You May Want to Ditch The Wheels
According to AAA, owning and operating car can cost you an average of $8,698 a year. If you can figure out how to get around without such an expense, that’s over $8k you can put toward something you really want.
Granted, I understand not everyone can actually do this. I live in the middle of a big city and am two blocks from one of the main bus lines. Individuals in rural areas may not have this, however, there are still ways to get around without a car even if you don’t live in the middle of a bustling metropolis.
Additionally, I get that if you have small children then you may need a car to taxi them around. Although, believe me, I’ve seen people on a bus with their children. I was partially raised by my grandparents while my parents were at work and they never drove. Anytime we needed to go somewhere it was by bus. If your kids are older just put them on a bus or a train. Tons of my fellow students in high school took public transit to get to class. In other words, even if you have kids it can be done. Or, at the very least, maybe the family can downsize to just one car.
Lastly, I do work from home so I don’t need it to drive to work. However, I didn’t have a car even when I had regular jobs and had to be somewhere by 9:00am every day. More on that later.
If you can’t entirely get rid of your car, then at least you’ll be able to use your car less with the strategies in this post. Even that can save you a significant amount of money.
Misconceptions About Owning a Car
Let’s be real, cars are a big deal in the states. They are, for lack of a better term, a status symbol. Contrary to popular belief, you may not actually need a car. The truth is you may just want a car, and that’s entirely different than actually needing one.
Cars are also seen as a sign of independence. You get your license at 16 and you can’t wait to get a car so you can come and go as you please. This is also a misconception. I’ve never owned a car and I can still come and go as I please without a problem.
Another idea that gets thrown a lot is that cars are an asset. This is true, however, they are a depreciating asset. They lose value as soon as you drive them off the lot. So really, you just spent money on something that isn’t going to give you a return. And people go into debt over something that loses value! That’s just insane!
This is probably why millionnaires in the U.S. are more likely to drive a Toyota than a Benz. If you don’t believe me you should definitely pick up the groundbreaking book, The Millionnaire Next Door. The people with the most wealth in this country know how stupid it is to spend a ton of money on a vehicle.
The Ultimate Guide to Getting Around Without a Car
Step 1: Use Public Transit
Public transit is not for poor people, it’s not dirty and you’re not going to get mugged. There, I said it. Now, get over yourself.
If used effectively, public transit can get you from Point A to Point B with no issue. However, you do need to plan a little if you’re going to be using public transit. Unfortunately, not everyone has a tranisit system like New York City and even New Yorkers have to deal with the occassional frustration.
- Download your area’s transit app. Miami just did this so you can track buses and trains in real time. It is a life saver.
- Allot some extra time for your trip. Sometimes shit happens, so to be safe just allot some extra time. (By the way, shit happens even if you have a car so it’s not just a transit thing.)
- Learn your route and times like the back of your hand. This can also be a time saver. For example, when I had to be at an office at 9:00am I knew there would always be a bus around 8:20am. Any time after that and traffic would cause delays.
- Learn alternative routes. I know at least five different ways to get to my orthodontist’s office on public transit. Google Maps is a huge help with this.
- Buy a pass. This ends up being cheaper than paying cash bcause it saves you money on transfers. If you use public transit a lot then you may be better off buying a monthly pass. Since I can walk to most of the places I need to get to I just use a reloadable pass.
Step 2: Try to create a walkabale life.
The key to getting around without a car is to create a life where you don’t need one. I can walk to a grocery store, my primary doctor’s office, a CVS, my dentist, a gym and a T-Mobile store from my house. Bonus points because my Primary Care Physician is at an in-network clinics and I can also see a specialist (for example, a gynocologist) in the same building.
My old job was a five minute bus ride down the road and my orthodontist is a 15 minute ride on public transit. Same goes for the Post Office and UPS. Basically, most of my life is easily accessible without a car.
This takes some planning, and it may be easier to pull off if you live in a city, but it is well worth the effort.
Step 3: Use Uber or Lyft
For those times when I can’t get away with not using a car (too much urban sprawling in the South) there’s Uber or Lyft. It’s actually cheaper for me to take an Uber to Miami Beach than it is to pay for gas and parking. Not to mention driving to Miami Beach will take years off my life with the amount of stress involved.
(Though you better believe I also know 10 different ways to get there on public transit. I actually used public transit when I had a summer job on the beach and I was always on time.)
Step 4: Carpool
If you have to be at an office and can’t get there on public transit, see if you can take turns carpooling with coworkers who live nearby. Same thing applies for going out with your friends. Split the cost of gas and you’ve just saved yourself some dough.
Final Step: Stop stressing.
It really isn’t that difficult to get around without a car. We’ve just been fed some bullshit in the U.S. about how we a) need a car and b) how red-blooded Americans have a God-given right to own a car. Both completely false.