About one year from today I will turn in my 2010 Toyota Camry and complete the terms on my lease. And then I will have a decision to make: should I buy a new car or try to live life in America without a vehicle?
Buying a vehicle is expensive. I don’t have the money to buy a car outright so I’d have to finance something. That means I’ll be paying monthly payments that include interest (unless I find 0% financing). I’ll also have to pay for gap insurance as well as taxes, title and license fees. Once I have the car I’ll continue to pay for insurance, gas and maintenance.
When you add everything together, I’m probably looking at a minimum of $500 a month just for the ability to get from A to B.
But is it realistic to live in a huge city with limited public transportation options (Dallas) without a car? Here are the main considerations I’ll have to take into account if I want to go car-less.
Can I Get to Work?
For most people, the most important factor in determining if they need is car is their ability to get to work. I am lucky because I work in IT and have the ability to work from home pretty often. However, I will need to go in the office and need to find a way to get to work on those days.
I could buy a bike and ride it to work, but my new apartment is 11 miles from the office goes through some rough neighborhoods. It would take some training for me to make that trip twice a day.
I could take public transportation, but right now it would take about an hour each way. They are opening a new section of light rail soon, but I’m still probably looking at a 30-45 minute commute. The nice thing about that is the ability to do work while on the train/bus. It sure as heck would make writing daily posts a lot easier.
Finally, I can borrow a car or take a taxi if I really need to get to work. Remember, I’m probably saving about $500 a month from not having a car, so I can afford a taxi ride very now and then.
Can I Get to Fun?
It’s less important, but a car is also useful to get places for shopping, entertainment, and other activities. These things are usually done in groups, so I’ll usually have the opportunity to get a ride from someone else, although I will feel compelled to give people money for their trouble.
However, between rides from friends and public transportation, there is a good chance I can do most of the activities I want without the use of a personal car.
While it’s definitely possible to go without a car as I’ve just explained, I have a feeling I will still buy a car. I’ll probably purchase an old used vehicle when my lease is up and minimize my costs as much as possible. Saving money is great, but convenience is also pretty awesome and being able to go where I want when I want is probably worth $500 a month to me.
It’s just too bad I’m not willing to get a motorcycle. If you can accept the safety issues, they are cheaper than cars or SUVs and much more convenient than public transportation. It’s just that whole dying a horribly slow and painful death on the side of the road thing I just can’t take a chance with.
Readers: If you have a car, could you give it up? If you don’t have a car, what’s the hardest thing about not having one?
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