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.
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
|Car Payment ($178/month)||$2,136|
|Car Insurance ($80/month)||$960|
|Parking Meters ($10/month)||$120|
|DMV Registration Renewal||$48|
|Arlington County Registration||$135|
|Apartment Parking ($100/month)||$1,200|
New Transportation Expenses
$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.