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Going Carless Isn’t as Painful as I Suspected

Filed in Auto Sales , Cutting Expenses , Frugal Living , Green Living 4 comments

For approximately one year now, my old friend Dave and I have had a running bet.

I bet Dave that he would go completely nuts when he gave up his car for public transportation for an entire year.

Now that the weather has been below freezing in the DC area for the last few days, I’ve decided to concede my loss a little early and handed over the $20.

To my surprise, Dave isn’t giving up his carless lifestyle.  He’s not going carless anymore… he’s officially Gone Carless!

Dave works in the medical field in Bethesda, Maryland, so he’s got ample chances for multiple modes of public transportation at his disposal.

He’s an avid bike rider, buses zoom by his street on a regular basis, and if he wants something a little further away in the Washington DC area, he hops on the Metro (e.g. subway to you non-DC travelers).

After our conversation today, I detect that he’s not going back to car ownership anytime soon for multiple reasons.  Some are personal, some are financial.  As far as I can tell, all of them are beneficial.

Personal Reasons for Going Carless

  1. Health Improvement.  For a guy who lived next to a Hooter’s in his last apartment, finding a new apartment close enough to walk to work has helped him lose around 25lbs in just one year.  Walking, riding his bike, even just walking to the bus station has helped him lose weight and lower his blood pressure by ~15%.  He still chows down on the wings three times a week, but he seemed most proud of his weight loss from his mandatory workouts.
  2. Proximity to Everything.  Since he lives in a fairly popular place, everything he needs is just a few blocks away.  While he was apartment shopping, it paid dividends in finding a place that was strategically located.
  3. Time Savers.  If you don’t have a car, you’re apparently saving a ton of time trying to find a parking spot.  Useful for someone who is always 10 minutes late.
  4. Meeting New and Interesting People.  Dave’s a bit of a ladies man, so you can bet he’s bringing a 2 person umbrella on a rainy day to rescue a damsel in distress.  He’s got a girlfriend now because of this simple little tactic.
  5. Save the Planet and all that Carbon Footprint Stuff.  If you’re a treehugger (which I’m slowly becoming), giving up a carbon belching SUV (like he used to drive) is a no brainer.  He’s not a treehugger by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m sure there are a few Green Living groups that would give him a lame Tshirt for his efforts.
  6. Effective Use of Commuting Time.  There is zero downtime during his 2 mile commute to work.  He’s either getting his daily workout by walking or biking to work, or he’s reading work related journal articles while taking the bus.

Financial Reasons for Going Carless

  1. Parking.  Paying for parking is one of my biggest pet peeves when venturing into a city.  Dropping $10 for an Orioles or Durham Bulls game has never been a problem, but I can’t imagine dealing with monthly parking tabs each month.  If you aren’t aware, some city parking spots can cost $50,000 or more if you want to call them your own.  Savings estimate is minimum $1200/year.
  2. Gas.  Really a no brainer here.  If you weren’t paying $4.50 per gallon this summer, you made out like a bandit.  Savings estimate is minimum $600/year.
  3. Auto Insurance.  Auto insurance rates are generally higher if you live within an urban area, so cutting out this expense altogether is a big saver.  Savings estimate is minimum $2000/year with an auto loan (mandatory collision insurance).
  4. Avoiding the New Car Devaluation Trap.  Dave is a new car junkie and he’s had 4 new cars in his life.  He’s one of those people who like the new car smell and doesn’t care about overspending.  Our little bet is one contributing factor for not buying a new SUV.  Had he bought that shiny new GM Acadia last year, he would likely lost 50% of his initial investment thanks to credit market troubles.  Maybe folks like Dave can be attributed to the reason why GM came begging for bailout loans, but I think it was a sound financial move.  Savings estimate (unrealized) is minimum $20,000 in one year.
  5. Time is Money.  Whether its waiting for an oil change, or driving around the parking garage for an empty spot, it takes time to care for and maintain an automobile.
  6. No Car Payment.  Unlike most of us, he paid no car payment in 2008 plus the 6% interest on the amount he borrowed.  Savings estimate is minimum $6000/year.

The costs of car ownership certainly adds up quickly doesn’t it.  By my count, he has saved close $10,000 in real savings, and close to $30,000 in unrealized savings (depreciation of the SUV) in just one year.

Where are the Savings Going?

The most likely place his savings has gone is into a savings account or Ibonds.  Dave has been saving for a small condo somewhere in the Bethesda area for a while, and this is one of his savings tactics to meet this goal.

Now that he’s found his niche in a town he likes, a job he enjoys and this carless lifestyle is working for him, he’s going to stick with it for a while.

Saving $10,000 in one year for a down payment isn’t much considering the market he’s in, but combined with a few other frugal living tricks that most penny pinchers use when saving for a new home, he should become a new homeowner within a year or two.

Anyone have additional reasons why you might ditch your car for a year?  Let us know.

Photo by laffy4k

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Posted by CJ   @   21 January 2009 4 comments
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Jan 23, 2009
9:13 am
#1 Lela :

I love this! I was just lamenting yesterday the lack of even adequate sidewalks!!! where I live. In order to walk my dog I’ve got to take my life in my hands. I miss living in an urban area where walking and public transportation are easier. Still, it’s not that easy even with all the ammenities. I’m impressed by your friend’s dedication!

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