Carless: What I Learned From 10 Years Without A Car

Driving a car is overrated. Sure, it’s convenient. It can be fun. Sometimes it’s necessary. I went 10 years without a car. I learned that going carless has many benefits.

Carless: What I learned from 10 years without a car. Photo of people walking in the city.

In my 20s, I made an intentional decision to stop driving a car. It was the 1980s and I was working in restaurants and mini-marts. The expense of a car didn’t make sense at the time. So I sold my 1969 Mustang and said goodbye to driving.

Before I discuss the many benefits of being carless, let’s look at the pitfalls. Going without a car might give you a sense of insecurity. You might feel as though you have less freedom. This is especially true if you live in a smaller community as I did throughout my carless years.

The Problems With Going Carless

  1. It can be an inconvenience: There were times when not having a car was a pain in the butt. It was only a short walk or bike ride to work. Still, the weather did not always cooperate.
  2. You have to rely on others: Occasionally, you have no choice but to ask friends for rides. It’s hard to do large shopping trips without a car.
  3. It can eat up your time: A 5-minute drive can be a 20-minute walk. I spent a lot of time walking and biking. I could have used those hours to be more productive.
  4. Longer trips are difficult: Getting to nearby larger towns meant one of three things: relying on others, hitchhiking, or using public transportation.
  5. It has a social stigma: It’s hard to go on dates when you’re carless. Also, some potential employers would not hire someone who doesn’t drive.
  6. It’s near impossible with kids: I was single with no kids in the 80s and 90s. I can’t imagine not having a car today with an 11-year-old daughter.

Most Of The Problems Aren’t Really Problems

In America, we’ve become so reliant on automobiles that we’ve forgotten how easy it is to live without one. We’ve become complacent and lazy. Of all the problems I listed above, it’s only #6 that might create a real problem in case of an emergency.

I look back at my carless years with fond memories. I often consider returning to going carless in the future. Not having a car actually has many more benefits than pitfalls. 

The Advantages To Going Carless

  1. You save money: Between a car payment, insurance, and fuel, it costs anywhere from $200 to over $600 a month to own a car. What could you do with that money?
  2. You’re helping the environment: It might not seem significant, but what if 50% of driving Americans decided to go carless? That could make a big impact. 
  3. It forces you to exercise: I love walking and riding a bike. It’s too easy to get lazy when we have cars for transportation. Going carless is good for your health.
  4. It makes you more creative: You don’t really have to rely on others or forfeit longer trips. You simply have plan more creatively. That’s why we have busses, trains, taxis, and airplanes. And now there are services like Uber, too. 
  5. You see more of the world: You pay more attention to the details around you when you walk. I remember some long walks through the country that still inspire me today. 
  6. It helps you slow down: We live in a fast-paced world. Biking and walking help us slow down. We stop and have more conversations with others instead of remaining in a steel shell. 
  7. You avoid a lot of stress: I don’t know about you, but I think traffic sucks. Driving in traffic or poor weather conditions actually creates tension and stress. Life was more peaceful when I was carless.

Those Were A Good 10 Years Of My Life

They say hindsight is always 20/20. I had some hardships in my 20s, but overall, those carless years were good years. Not only did I go without a car, I was also living in small spaces with very few material things. At the time, I thought I was worse for my condition. Now I see the many advantages to going without a car.

Will I ever go without a car again? It’s hard to say. I can imagine myself moving to a more urban environment where a car is not a real necessity in the future. I suppose only time will tell.

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2 Comments

  1. HI!
    If I lived in a big city, perhaps. I have to drive 25 minutes on the interstate to get to the community college where I teach, though. Even visiting my brothers (or friends) in the area requires a car for sure, and my parents are both three hours away–in different directions. I have pets to take to the vet. I can’t even imagine getting supplies without a car. Still, I could see going carless in the right situation–if close to job, family, and necessities.

    One thing I do is never have a car payment. If people can afford a car payment, they can afford to save several hundred per month to save up and pay cash for a used or new car. That saves lots of interest! I bought an economy car for under 15,000. It gets good gas mileage and is reliable. I’ve had it (new) since 2009, and it has only 43,000 miles on it. It has been a great investment and will be around for years to come! But I digress . . . .

    Interesting post, as always. 🙂

    Vicki

    1. I agree Vicki. It’s hard to not have a car in America unless you live in a big city or a smaller town with everything you need within a short distance, including work. I still keep a car payment but mainly because I started buying newer cars when my daughter was born so that I would never break down on the side of the road with her. I own a VW Golf TDI. It gets 50mpg. Unfortunately, I have to sell it back to VW.

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