Simple Living/Downshifting

The Option of Owning A Car

Imagine yourself without your car.

Impossible? Impractical? Certainly not if you live in the right conditions. And there are plenty of driving-associated headaches. Perhaps all the upkeep and constant maintenance on your vehicle has gotten you a bit peeved. Maybe the daily commute through tons of smog-filled streets five days a week has you begging for fresh air.

Less can definitely be more. I had my own car for years, and just recently have begun sharing one with my girlfrend after moving across the country. It was an adjustment, to be sure. No longer could I just hop in my Jetta to see friends or go to my favorite park for jogging. We had to negotiate her car’s use, which she would have for about half the week. I grudgingly started taking mass transit to get to work on these days. But after a short time I began to notice something strange and unexpected.

I started enjoying it.

Sure it took longer, and sometimes the bus would come ridiculously late, or it would be raining (Which is not uncommon in the Pacific Northwest.) But the stress of finding parking was gone. The stress of having to fill the tank was also out the window. My insurance bills were cut in half. I no longer had to keep track of oil changes, maintenance and strange, blinking warning lights on the dashboard. I could just hope on, ride to work, and get off. No traffic, no frills, no accidents, no construction to avoid. Nothing but a clean, air-conditioned bus.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am NOT anti-technology. Having a car is a nice convenience, and were it free, I’m sure I’d be more than happy to own one again. But I was shocked by how well I was able to do without one, AND find that my stress levels actually went DOWN once I got used to the route. If I decide at some point in the future to go entirely without a car, I’ll have some more adjustments to make. But consider the pluses of going car-free:

  1. You’ll save a ton. Perhaps $700 a month or more.
  2. You will not contribute to the toxic fumes we are putting into the air.
  3. You’ll help cut down on traffic by not contributing.
  4. You may get some excercise (especially if you bike or walk.)
  5. You will be more refreshed and awake when you arrive at work, or your destination.

Going without a vehicle is not for everyone. If you live in a rural area it could be tough. It will also be difficult if you have large amounts of children, because it’s hard to keep track of them on a bus. Think about it. But if you are a young person who lives and works in or near a big city, why do you need a car?

Update (12/13/2008): I am now entirely car-free, and get around exclusively by public transportation. I am doing just fine.



  • Scott Jackson July 30, 2007 at 3:46 pm

    One comment about cost, you can obviously measure the cost of using public transport in the cost of a bus pass, or whatever, but there is also a cost in lost convenience, which is harder to measure. Being able to go where I want, whenever I want has value to me, as well as having privacy, which I do in my own vehicle.


  • Mike July 30, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    This is the difference between monetary loss and intangible loss. If you place a high enough value on the freedom of being able to get from place to place whenever you wish then the financial gain of not having a car may not be worth it to you. It’s just a matter of individual taste. You never really know until you try though. This book was pretty enlightening for me on this issue.


  • Scott Jackson July 31, 2007 at 3:36 pm

    I agree, it’s completely personal, but I along with most people realize that in their environment not having a car would be very difficult.


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