Living without a car

#life 4 min.

I sold my car 6 months ago with no plans to replace it. In this blog post I will document our transportation expenses since then, compare it to car ownership, and address a few common misconceptions.

Why?

Both me and my wife work fully remotely since Covid-19. We moved to a walkable part of the city in 2020. Almost everything we need is within 30 minutes on foot or bicycle. We get our groceries delivered. As a result, for the last couple of years the car would sit untouched for weeks, only to be taken out when visiting parents or running some random errand.

At the same time, used car prices were going through the roof. I realized I could get back most of the money I paid for it.

The plan was to try getting around using only bicycles, public transport, and ride-sharing apps. We would rent a car if we needed one for a day or more.

I figured we should last at least through the summer, and then if it becomes too expensive or inconvenient, we just get another car.

The first call came an hour after uploading a classified ad. The caller left a deposit on the same day. Just like that, I was suddenly car-less for the first time in my adult life.

Was it weird?

Having a car is a big deal in Lithuania. It’s a rite of passage and a status symbol. It signifies your freedom to go anywhere and do what you want. Never mind if it was bought with parents' money. As you age, you’re supposed to acquire more impressive cars to represent your status in society. I’m not above that; having a car was part of my identity. Getting rid of it felt a bit like a step backwards.

Car ownership cost

Just having a car sitting in the parking lot cost me €105 per month over the 5 years in fixed costs. Driving it added €75 to the monthly bill in fuel costs.

Keep in mind, this was likely the best-case scenario. My car was fuel efficient (avg. 6.1l/100 km) and never broke down. Very affordable to purchase and insure. Depreciation should’ve been 30-40%, but instead, it was an unprecedented 14%. I calculated the total fuel costs using €1.25/l as an average fuel price. It’s around €1.7 at the time of writing this.

The alternative

Getting around cost us only €54 per month over the last 6 months—3.3x cheaper than driving a car. That number might get higher in late autumn and winter, when we stop riding our bicycles. Still, as it stands, there’s plenty of buffer to live it up.

Honestly, I didn’t expect the difference to be so big. I expected to spend more on rental cars. Luckily, we have nice friends and relatives who don’t mind giving us a ride.

But you live in the central part of the city!

We do, and it’s not a happy accident. Buying an apartment in the walkable part of the city was a conscious choice. We considered getting a house in the suburbs, but figured having a lawn wouldn’t make us that much happier.

I couldn’t do this!

I’m not trying to convince you. The best I can hope for is to make you look critically at the hidden costs of car dependence. I didn’t even mention the opportunity cost of the time spent in the car, or ecological/moral case against car ownership. If you’re comfortable with your choices, then it’s all good. That’s the main takeaway—you have a choice.

This only works if all your friends have cars

Not really. We hitched a ride with friends about 5 times, so roughly once a month. While getting free rides is definitely more convenient, we could’ve rented a car and split the costs.

You’ll need a car once you have a baby

I’m not sure about that. If anything, parents stay at home more, not less with a baby. That said, I can see how all the baby-related things make getting around more inconvenient, regardless of the mode of transportation. The jury’s still out on this one.

What’s next?

I’m a pragmatic person. Living without a car works great for us right now. I enjoy not having to deal with maintenance, insurance, parking, etc. However, if our needs change in the future, I wouldn’t hesitate getting a car again. I just hope I don’t have to.

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