Life Without Wheels

by Mr. Cheap

Quite a while ago I was planning a post on living without owning a car, and a bunch of posts on the subject hit the blogosphere. Enough time has passed that there might be interest in kicking the topic around again.

I’m in my early 30’s, have had my driver’s license since I was 16, and have never owned a car.

People who have been drivers for a while can’t comprehend the possibility of life without continuous access to their own vehicle. Even in big cities where there are a number of options to get around, it just doesn’t seem like living if you can’t be like R. Kelly and say “I’m about to take my key ‘n’ Stick it in da ignition” (although I suspect their may be a subtext involving more then driving an automobile in this song).

I get around by:

  • Taking the subway / buses – I get a monthly pass when I’m going somewhere every day, and use tokens when I’m working from home for an extend period – $2.75 / trip here in the GTA is an excellent value
  • I fly if I travel long distances, and rent a car if I’m travelling a shorter distance
  • I take a cab when / if I want to go somewhere that isn’t easily reached by public transit (which is VERY rare)

When I consider taking a new job or moving somewhere new, I make sure I can get to the place I need to go by walking or public transit. Paying $50 or $100 more for a place near work or campus is MUCH cheaper then getting a car.

When calculating the cost of owning a car, don’t forget issues such as:

  • finance charges
  • maintenance
  • gas
  • insurance
  • parking
  • having to give rides to deadbeat friends like Mr. Cheap

These can add SUBSTANTIALLY to the sticker price of a vehicle.

Some time ago on Wooly Woman’s blog I answered a question a woman had about cutting her expenses by suggesting that her and her husband’s financial problems would disappear if they got rid of their two cars. I never got a response from her.

During my Masters most of my friends were grad students from China, and they were often able to live very frugal lives in Canada. The one thing most of them were willing to splurge on was to get a car (which they told me would be VERY expensive back home).

Ultimately, as much as getting rid of a car would probably make drivers’ financial lives easier, it’s the sort of thing you just can’t give up. Kind of like asking someone to not have sex: it may work for virgins, but good luck getting someone to stop after they’ve started.

I’m hoping to stay a car owner virgin for life.

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