In 2011, we ditched the '95 Honda Civic hatchback and began the great car-free experiment. One year later, Robyn and I both feel it has been an overwhelming success. The bus is slower, but it creates windows into the soul of the city. I get to exercise for 30 minutes each way on my 5 mile bike commute. And a lack of wheels inspires creativity in planning our unique urban backpacking trips.
But have we actually saved any money?
According to AAA, if we had owned a medium sized sedan and only drove 10,000 miles a year (both conservative estimates), our true cost of ownership (factoring in depreciation, mileage, maintenance, insurance, etc) for one year would run around $7,391.
7.4k per year for a car seems steeper than I would have expected. But upon closer inspection, even that figure might be light. Gas is figured at $2.880 per gallon (hahahahaha!). Also, even with the assumption we would not rent a parking space at $200+ per month, we still would have to pay public transit for one of us to get to school or work.
Compare that figure to $6,000, our total cost for one year of transportation in the post-car era.
The costs roughly fell into the following categories:
~ $1680 for monthly transit passes within SF.
~ $500 for public transit outside SF, such as Robyn's commute to Oakland.
~ $300 for taxi rides on that occasional rainy day or late night at the bars.
~ $2150 to use car-sharing services such as ZipCar or Relay Ride by the hour or day.
~ $750 for rental cars and gas on multi-day trips like Thanksgiving vacation.
~ $620 for airline flights (and you could argue that would be a cost with a car anyway).
What I love about being car-free:
1) Flexibility to choose different car models. Whether it was the Mini Cooper Convertible for a wedding in Santa Cruz, the SUV for tailgating with the parents at the Stanford game, or the Tacoma to load up the bed for a camping trip in the redwoods, we have the flexibility to choose whatever type of car we want.
2) No oil changes, no car washes, no maintenance worries, period.
3) Riding my bike or reading on my commute. No wasted time driving, and no stress.
4) The extra $1400 in my pocket.
Yes, there are some major drawbacks to not having a car, but for us, it was the right decision. I know someday we may have to go back to a car lifestyle, but until then, we will hold out as long as we can.