Let’s get down to the brass facts — owning a vehicle is expensive. Repairs, general maintenance, and constant refueling can cost a young family thousands of dollars a year. Throw in auto insurance, and a large percentage of your household budget can be taken up by one or both of your cars. There are probably moments where you sit in front of your paper or virtual spreadsheet of numbers and absently wonder if you actually need a car. This is followed by a chuckle and a resumption of the budget process.
Thing is, the question may not be a silly as you think. There are many people these days who are leaving cars in their driveways and turning to bikes, public transportation, and their two feet to get to jobs, shopping, and other recreational activities. In the end, the money once put into car insurance and auto maintenance is now going into paying down debt and creating an emergency fund. Here are a few things for you to help you consider if you can live your life without a car.
Can I get to work/Can my kids get to school without a car? — Those who live in urban areas or towns with a strong public transportation system are going to have an advantage to answering this question. Save for a company being located off of major interstate, there’s a very good chance a car may not be needed to get to their job. And if it is located in an area only accessible by car, an option may be to telecommute several days a week. As for education, relocating to an area that provides neighborhood schools may be a good financial choice. Not only is the population of the school smaller, but there’s a very good chance it could be less than a mile away from your home, allowing children to walk or bike to their destination.
How is the public transportation system? — A car-less life relies heavily on a town’s public transportation system. The good news these days is more and more towns and cities are beefing up their systems to carry more passengers from other areas. And while some locations are investing in things like light rail, others are going a less expensive route and putting together rapid bus transit, which sets up a dedicated road for quick bus-only transport. Yes, a monthly transit pass can cost money; however, it won’t be nearly as much as filling up two or more cars several times a month.
Can I bike/walk safely to work or shopping? — The days of urban sprawl are slowly ending. Today, towns and cities are using smart planning like infill to build new structures on existing land. Many of these projects are incorporating items such as rapid bus transit stops as well as paths utilized for walking and biking. In addition, many towns are beginning to add bike paths along their roads and bike boxes that provide safety for both cars and bikes at intersections. Cities like Denver are even instituting bike sharing programs where riders can rent a two-pedaled vehicle for a few hours or days for next to nothing in cost. Review the layout of your town to determine if there is a dedicated and safe way for you to get from your residence to a job or shopping via walking or biking.