Going Car Free

I recently decided to go car free and for me, it was an easy choice.  It stemmed from wanting to promote a healthier and cleaner lifestyle, but it also has some serious monetary implications that can’t be ignored.   I fully understand that going car free is not an option in many parts of the country where individuals are more spread out, but given my urban situation, it makes a great deal of sense for my situation.


Car Free

I have owned a car since I was 16 year old, and since then, have had 4 different cars – starting with my parents’ old car and eventually moving on to my very own.

Today, given that I live in such close proximity to work and friend’s houses, I wasn’t actually using my car very often.  And to top it off, driving in the city often took much longer than walking or biking the few miles down the street. 

I currently live just outside Washington D.C in Arlington, VA, and have a 5.6 mile daily commute to HelloWallet HQ.  For those of you unfamiliar with DC traffic, it would take about 45 minutes to drive into the city, coupled with a $12 daily parking rate, so I typically elect to bike to work or take the metro.  The grocery store I go to is about 1.4 miles away, and takes 2 minutes to drive to and 15 minutes to find a parking spot, which is typically further away from the supermarket than where I actually live.  Given all of the inconveniences, I find myself walking or biking much more than I actually use my car.

Even though I rarely use my car, I still find myself frequently spending money on car-related expenses.  I sat down and calculated the approximate amount I spend each year on my car, and it became very clear that car-free was the way to go for me.  (Note, my estimates are on the low-end of the spectrum.)

Current Transportation Expenses

Expense Annual Cost
Gas ($50/month) $600
Car Payment ($178/month) $2,136
Car Insurance ($80/month) $960
Oil Changes $90
State Taxes $300
Tolls ($5/month) $60
Parking Meters ($10/month) $120
Average Maintenance $600
DMV Registration Renewal $48
Arlington County Registration $135
Apartment Parking ($100/month) $1,200
State Inspection $16
State Emission $10
Public Transportation $60
TOTAL $6,335


New Transportation Expenses

Expense Annual Cost
Public Transportation $1,200
ZipCar (2x/month) $768
Total $1,968


$6,275 per year or $522.92 per month!  Even though I knew my car was draining my pocket, I never took the time to add up all the expenses associated with it.  I paid my car payment and insurance, filled up with gas a few times per month, and never really thought too much more about it.   Spending $30 on my car did not have the same negative feeling as spending $30 on a new shirt; it seemed justified in my head to spend on the car. 

Going car-free may be inconvenient at times, but remembering the cost-benefit analysis will quickly remind me how unnecessary a car is for me.  If I need a car, I have car-sharing programs at my disposal, such as ZipCar.   Even if I use ZipCar once per week for 4 hours ($8/hour), it comes to only $128 per month, still leaving me with an additional $395 per month.  While going car free is not possible in all parts of the country, given my current urban living situation, it’s a no-brainer.