Last year I made the decision to sell my car — the only car I’ve ever owned (I bought it a month before I turned 17). The car wasn’t worth much and needed quite a bit of work; the exhaust needed to be replaced and the air conditioner evaporator was broken. I sold it shortly before I got my current job that allows me to work from home.
Part of my decision to sell the car was that I only really drove to the grocery store, which is about a mile away, and occasionally to the big liquor store. It wasn’t worth paying for car insurance in New Jersey if I was only going to drive that much. I did the math and realized that for trips to the grocery store, it would cost just as much for me to use Zipcar. And since a neighbor offered to rent my parking space, I came out ahead.
Of course, in the last year, I have yet to sign up for Zipcar, thus saving more money for travel. I realized if I plan to go away for a weekend, it’s easy and cheap enough to rent a car, which I have yet to do. Or I could just take a bus or train — Megabus to Boston cost less than driving.
Going without a car wasn’t that difficult. While in grad school in Colorado, I averaged 10-15 miles a week in my car (unless you count the long drive back to New Jersey at the end of my stint). And then I spent three and a half years without a car in China (not that I would ever consider driving on those streets).
When it comes to grocery shopping, I realized that unless the weather is awful (i.e., raining, snowing, or 100 degrees), I can just walk and carry my food home. I’ve also spent more time buying fruit and vegetables at the small local grocery stores that are much closer to home. Also, when I worked at the community college, I could ride my bike, which I could also take to a lot of other places if I wanted.
Every now and then I miss having a car — public transportation in the US really is awful, and there are places I’d like to drive to. Fortunately, I have some friends willing to drive to some places that I can’t get to on a bus or train. Other than that, I’ve learned to do without.
I certainly wouldn’t recommend this money-saving option for everyone–in some areas it’s just not possible. However, it really does help me save more for travel (or expensive dinners out).