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Getting Rid Of My Car Would Save Us About $700 Per Month.

No, my car payment is not $700 per month.

I am not that crazy to spend so much cash on something that moves me from point A to point B. However, if I add up all the costs of owning a car, it does add up to a lot. And that is not including my wife’s car! Combining the payment, the insurance, the parking, the gas and any wear and tear comes out to about $700 per month; and I barely drive the thing. Since November 1, I have put 601 miles on the car. I work at home and live 1 block from the beach and all the shopping, dining, movies, etc that I could ever want to go to. My wife commutes in her car, but it only costs us about $250 per month for hers, and it is an older model that is JUST ABOUT paid off. Mine is no where near being paid off, and it sits unused for 90% of the time. I did not know I would be working from home when I bought the car, and when I did drive to work, it was a great car for commuting and gas mileage. But now it is collecting dust for the most part and we are tired of paying for something that we barely use. If I really need to go somewhere where my feet cannot get me, I can either rent a car or join a car sharing service like Flexcar.

This is a tough decision; it is hard to give up one’s car. I have never been without a car since I started driving at 15 years old, and even though I live in a giant city, the public transportation system here leaves something to be desired. If you want to go across town, often you have to take several different buses. Growing up near Boston, this system here in L.A. is awful. But still…..$700 a month for a car I barely even use. Even if I got rid of my car and bought a scooter or something to get around town on, we would still be able to put away a ton of money a month towards retirement, house payment, whatever. But oh, my car….

I think maybe I should keep my car for at least another month and never use it. Walk further, take the bus, ride my bike; but see how it is getting around without a car. My wife’s car is here at night so that is not a problem, I can use it if need be. But during the day, for doctor’s appointments or client meetings, I will have to figure out a way to get around while leaving my car in the garage I pay for. That way I can tell if this idea is a feasible one or not.

Has anyone else given up their car only to find that they were lost without it? I am not talking about people living in cities like Boston, SF, NY or others with wonderful public transit programs. I would never own a car if I lived in one of those cities. But here, everyone has a car and people look at you like you are crazy when you don’t. So….thoughts?

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Comments (27)

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  1. VG says:

    How old is your car. You can think of selling it and getting a old beater. You don’t drive much so you won’t pay too much in maintenance.

  2. david says:

    That’s the rub…its only 1 year old in about 9 days. Its practically brand new! The beater is one way to go I have been thinking about as well.

  3. gen3ric says:

    Hi, have you considered selling your wife’s car and letting her use your newer car? You could invest or save the sale of your old car and the result is you would still save 250/month for only having one car. If your wife’s car is worth more than 5k I would consider it. Especially since the newer car is less prone to a breakdown and is probably safer. Also, since your live/work situation seems to be very ideal, you could probably get a bike (cycle, not motor) to get to places you can’t easily walk to. Cheers. hope it works out for you.

  4. David says:

    Hey gen3ric

    That is something we are discussing as well. My wife’s car is worth about 5K and will be paid off this year. My car is worth a lot more obviously and is brand new. It all comes down to if she wants to drive it over her car. We shall see!

  5. Ellen says:

    I’m actually considering the same thing. I made a post about it a couple days ago, but essentially, my fiancé and I work at the same place and my car barely gets driven. We’re going to get rid of mine as soon as I learn how to drive stick (it’s shameful that I can’t), and ditch that extra payment, insurance, maintenance, &c.

    My recommendation would be to look into cheap rentals, estimate how many times you’d be stuck without a car in a month, and see if that total is less than $700. Also, how long is your wife’s commute? Would it be reasonable for you to drive her to work on those days when you know you’ll have appointments outside the home?

    I, too, am in a town without much public transportation. It’s quite a bit smaller than your home, though, so in a pinch I could walk places when the weather’s nice. I guess that’s not an option for you.

    If you do it, keep us updated–I’m interested to hear how it goes before I take the plunge! :)

  6. sophacles says:

    I haven’t had a car for just over 5 years. I haven’t had access to a car for most of that time either, so some of these points may be moot since your wife does have a car. Here is my experience with it:

    Good stuff:

    – Walking and biking everywhere is great excersize. At first it was tough, and I realized just how out of shape I really was. I weighed approximately 250 lbs at this time. Since then I’ve dropped to about 180 lbs. This included no other lifestyle change such as diet or whatnot. I feel so much better than I did then just from being in shape.

    – Planning, for the most part I have learned to plan my trips a little more carefully, so that I can get as much possible done when I am in any given area. Otherwise my whole day would be spent in travel. The discipline I have gained from this is a real benefit.

    – Walking and biking has allowed me to really get to know the area well. For instance, I know where all the cool little shops are, because I am travelling at a rate that lets me notice them. Many are located on major roads, and my friends who like them didn’t know they existed, despite driving past them daily.

    – Cost. I like to joke that gas costs me $7-10 a day, but I eat for free. Maintenance on my bike costs about $50 a year, and it’s covered in my renters insurance. Also, parking is always free. Seriously, I have yet to pay to lock my bike somewhere, and that parking spot at my apartment complex is rented to someone else for a nice reduction in my rent.

    Bad:

    – Winter kind of sucks.

    – getting groceries or large items involves extra cost or hassling friends to help move stuff around.

    – Rain really sucks

    – Time: despite the planning benefit above, sometimes walking/biking is a real time killer. It eats into productivity on days when I have a billion errands to run.

    Fun:

    – I alwas get a kick out of people who gasp in amazement when I tell them i walk 1/2 mile to work every day. Seriously, after a while you notice just how lazy some people are. On a similar vein listening to people’s excuses for not walking and biking (and getting rid of that expensive gym membership that they dont really use anyway) “oh.. i like my exercise to be separate so i can just veg the rest of the time” is considered being healthy by some.

    – several girls have told me there is something sexy about a guy riding and doing maintenance on a bicycle, that just isnt there with a car. It could be that I just hang out with wierd people tho.

    – Watching gas prices go up at the gas station I pass on my way to work. It really makes me glad I don’t have to worry about it.

    In all I mostly have not missed having a car, and truely enjoy it when it is not winter. I think your plan to evaluate it for a month first is a good one, I don’t know what living in SoCal is like for the carless. I think that if you keep some of this stuff in mind, you will enjoy it too.

    Oh and one added benefit I forgot in the fun section — there is a certain satisfaction in knowing that I am in some small way helping the environment.

  7. Debbie says:

    I went without a car for four years. I also have a very mediocre public transportation system. Back then my roommate didn’t have a car either, so I had to do things like grocery shopping and laundry via bus or on foot. I considered grocery shopping to be one of my aerobic activities for the week.

    My worst problem was getting home from parties. I could get there on a bus, but they quit running before I was ready to go. I had to ask people for rides, and they would never let me pay. I suspect you and your wife mostly go to the same parties, though!

    My suggestion is this. When you know ahead of time that you will be wanting a car during the day, maybe you can drive your wife to work, have the car all day, and then pick her up when she’s done.

    Also, if you want to rent a car (which I used to do for trips to cities that were 200 miles away or for buying large heavy things), I noticed that car rental places cater to two kinds of people. Some places cater to people flying into town who have cars, but who don’t have them available. Others cater to people whose cars are being repaired. I have tried both, and I find that the latter is better suited for people who just don’t have cars. You don’t have to go to a nasty airport, and they often have pick-up and drop-off service. Also, the one time I tried an airport rental place (I lived right near an airport), they kept asking me annoying questions like what flight I was on.

    Another strategy I used was using cars of people who were going out of town. They would pick me up and let me drive them to the airport while they tutored me about anything odd about their car. Then I would use their car while they were out, have it cleaned and gassed up when they returned, and pick them up from the airport when they returned. It was a fabulous deal for both of us!

    I now have a car that costs me an average of $175 per year (I buy reliable cars that are ten years old, keep them for ten years, and don’t need collision insurance). Although I also don’t use it much (I take a bus to work), it comes in handy when my boyfriend and I want to go to different places and also when either my boyfriend or my sister is having car troubles and would like to borrow my car. It’s quite possible that only half the miles put on my car are from my own driving!

    It sounds like you have an excellent plan and are confirming it with your 30-day trial.

  8. Heather says:

    My husband and I did something similar to your plan of keeping but not using the car. I wanted to get rid of our second car since I work only a few miles from our house and would often walk home (he dropped me off in the mornings or I took the bus), but my husband was convinced we needed it. We kept the car for another year (it was already paid off) and realized that we only used it twice. We then donated it to a charity and since his car was also already paid off we went over two years with no car payment.

  9. david says:

    Thanks for the comment Ellen. My wife works about 12 miles from our house, which even though it sounds close, in Los Angeles time is about 40 minutes away. So driving her to work every day would not be an option. Driving her occasionally would be though, for when I needed the car. I can walk most places that I need to go, but my concern was getting around to place too far to walk. Sometimes, like for my doctor, I cant even ride a bike there, it is too far. My wife and I are discussing starting the 30 day trial soon, will keep you updated!

  10. david says:

    Thanks for all the comments everyone! Seems most people are very supportive and have offered a lot of tips for making “carless” living a reality for me. It is a weird feeling, almost like being trapped somewhat, without a car. Sophacles- You said people look at you funny when you walk the 1/2 mile to work, that is like here in LA..If you walk, you must be a weirdo or poor. We are such a car culture out here its silly. Since I do not buy gas but once every 6 weeks or so, its not bad on the wallet that way (I drive a Mini, so its not bad on gas either), but I feel like a car collector who doesnt get to drive his car. Hopefully we will try the 30 day trial soon and I can see if I can really get rid of it!

  11. nancy says:

    I gave up my car nearly 10 years ago, and it took a full 4 years to adjust … but at this point, no regrets. There were unexpected difficulties: at a party, someone discovers, and shouts to everyone “hey, can someone give nancy a lift home?” as I cringe (if with strangers, I don’t want to accept; if with people I know, I don’t want to impose). Having constantly to factor in difficulty-in-getting there for any commutes out of the norm. Getting exposed to way more germs (wear gloves!) And, frankly, sometimes the stigma, which really, really annoys me.
    The pluses: Waaaaaay more relaxed. Imagine reading, or just enjoying ‘down time’ for 40 minutes or so or getting absorbed in your ipod. Also, interesting events that occur on public transit. (nothing threatening, but you meet all kinds…). The best plus by far, is an increasing sense that I’m helping out planet earth of ours. I’m becoming politicized on this. Imagine if all cities had k.a. transit systems, and car use went down by 80%. Streets got closed, pavement torn up, trees planted. OK, I’m in Vancouver. We think like that …

  12. David says:

    Thanks for the comment Nancy, appreciate it. The helping planet earth is a good thing too; although I own a car, I dont drive it much so I feel good about all the walking and biking I do in my own neighborhood. And wouldnt it be great to rip up all the cement? Oh Los Angeles, why did you take down all the street cars years ago??

  13. [...] Getting Rid Of My Car Would Save Us About $700 Per Month. [...]

  14. [...] David at My Two Dollars contemplates whether he should give up on his personal car and go for options like Flexcar. Read about it in his post Getting Rid Of My Car Would Save Us About $700 Per Month. [...]

  15. [...] Festival Of Frugality #59: Frugality Is For Everyone Edition at Money, Matter, and More Musings on Getting Rid Of My Car Would Save Us About $700 Per Month. [...]

  16. Serena says:

    The one question I have is about your long term work at home strategy – do you think that you will continue to work from home for the next five years or so? Because if you have to buy a new car in a year for getting yourself to work, this won’t help much. Also, are you planning to have kids in the near future? Depending on what you do for daycare (if you do daycare) it can be important to have flexibility there (one parent drops off and one parent picks up) which could require a second car. We have two cars, and we now commute together (didn’t until about a year ago when I changed jobs) but because of our son and because the cars are paid off and not worth much to sell we are keeping two cars (but put very little mileage on one).

  17. david says:

    Thanks for the comment Serena. I know I will be working from home for a while because that is where I do my work for my employer from, and it is where I do my freelance work. So even if my employer disappeared, I would just pick up extra freelance work. We are planning on having kids, but my wife is going to stay home with them (and me) so we will still only need 1 car. And when they go to school, she is a preschool teacher and she will go back to work with the kid, and even then it hopefully will be in the neighborhood. So we really think we can make it work, but its such a weird feeling to think about not having a car!

  18. Leo says:

    Good post, David … my wife and I only have one car. She’s a stay-at-home mom right now, taking care of our babies, but she usually drops me to work or I carpool with my mom, who lives near me and works near me. Lately I’ve been trying to commute by bike, and I think it could be a good option once I’m used to riding a bike every day.

    Having one car hasn’t hurt us at all. We also have six kids, so we have to plan things out a bit, but it’s not that difficult.

    Good luck and let us know what you decide.

  19. david says:

    Thanks Leo…I am trying to be without it before getting rid of it for real. I have had to use it a few times lately, but I need to find a way to get around not having one. Still in the process of figuring it all out. Glad to know that you make it work with 6 kids, I guess I should be able to make it work with 1 wife and no kids!

  20. Tim says:

    when my wife started working from home, we got rid of our second car. i would either bike or commute and sometimes used the our sole car to get to work quickly. But it is something that you have to analyze. for us, we didn’t find not having two cars an issue.

    you might, for the time being, insure it as a leisure vehicle, to reduce your insurance premiums. our sole car is insured as a leisure veh, because my wife doesn’t use it for work, and I bike or public transit to work.

  21. david says:

    Thanks Tim. I already switched it to being a leisure vehicle, which cut $70+ dollars off our insurance bill every month, which was nice. Now its just trying to get around without depending on it!

  22. [...] Granted, buying a new car is a very big and expensive purchase. As I have mentioned before, we are in the process of trying to get rid of one car because of the expense. Of course, the best thing to do when buying a car is to buy a slightly used late model car that is fuel efficient. But if you are set on buying a new car, and you have given some thought to looking at a hybrid, be sure to take more into account then the extra few grand you pay to have the hybrid version. Not only will you save money on gas, but you will also be helping to clean the air at the same time. [...]

  23. [...] One Car This Weekend, Keeping The Mini. By david So we have made a decision. In reference to previous posts about getting rid of one of our cars, we have decided to sell my wife’s car and keep my Mini [...]

  24. Lisa says:

    Is the $700 your car payment of your true cost to own? If you go to Edmunds.com and scroll down to true cost to own, you will find the true cost to own for each year and make of vehicle. It includes depreciation, repairs, maintenance, insurance, interest, etc in your zip code. Its amazing what it costs to own a car each year. In the book by Chris Balish, How to Live Well Without Owning a Car, he recommends you have a plan with 3 back-up ways to get around, ex. taking wife to work and using her car, car rental, motorcycle, scooter, flexcar, taxi. etc for those dr or business meetings. He includes stories from all over the country including LA of people successfully going without a car.

  25. david says:

    It was just the monthly cost, but we solved part of it by selling my wifes car…and now we only have 1 car to pay for. Yippee!

  26. [...] Getting Rid Of My Car Would Save Us About $700 Per Month Most people would never even consider such a move, but it makes a lot of sense here. (@ my two dollars) [...]

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