J.D. Moyer

beat maker, sci-fi writer, self-experimenter

No Car Update (Month 2)

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Recently I wrote about our family experiment of not owning or leasing a car. Both Kia and I had owned cars since our early twenties (sometimes our own, sometimes sharing a single vehicle), so it was a real lifestyle shift. Not having a car is also fairly unusual among our demographic (parents, middle-class, SF Bay Area).

We originally intended to do a one-month experiment. At the end of February neither of us had any desire to buy or lease a car, so we continued the experiment by default. We got around by bicycle, walking, public transportation, Lyft, and CityCarShare.

Cost

Our estimated monthly expenses for leasing, maintaining, and driving our Fiat 500 were $440 a month (including lease, service, taxes, fees, gas, tolls, and insurance). Our February no-car transportation costs came to $225. March expenses were slightly higher, as follows:

  • CityCarShare fees – $235
  • Lyft – about $30
  • Amortized bike upgrade – $15
  • Increased public transportation use – about $10

So $290 in total. That’s $150 less than our estimated monthly car expenses with our previous lease (and probably about $200 less than total projected car expenses including the best lease deal we could get today). March is obviously a longer month than February, and we took two long trips to Marin (long in both miles driven and time) which drove up our CityCarShare expense.

It’s a significant savings. If we continue the experiment for the rest of the year, at this point I’d estimate we’d save about $2000.

Convenience

It’s less convenient not having a car in our driveway, but not as inconvenient as I anticipated. Basically it forces everyone in the family to walk or bike more. Short trips, like going to the video store (yes, I still go the video store) or other trips that are within a mile … in the past I sometimes got lazy and drove. Now I walk. Since walking is basically “free time” (for every hour you walk instead of driving or sitting you add an hour to your life, more or less), that’s a good thing. I prefer walking to biking for several reasons, the main one being that walking and thinking go together. Biking and thinking, not so much. Biking demands the full use of your attention to not crash and die (at least for me it does). Also, bike seats (even my new ergonomic one) aren’t that comfortable, and all the locking/unlocking/helmet/bike light business is kind of a drag. Apologies to bike enthusiasts, but I’m on team pedestrian.

Groceries. I have lucked out in this area. Kia, with her XtraCycle cargo bike, does the grocery shopping. We’ll see if she gets tired of it. I’ve been picking up slack by doing more housecleaning.

CityCarShare has been great. Reservations are easy to make (with the exception of the glitches they had on their mobile app in March, but the website booking worked fine), and we’ve been able to reserve a car within half a mile of our house every time we’ve needed one, often at the last minute. The cars are nice too: leather, heated seats, nice sound system, GPS, all the modern car bells and whistles.

Best thing: Kia was driving when one of the car service lights went on. She made a note in the app, parked the car in it’s regular spot, and walked away. No losing half a day (and some amount of money) dealing with a visit to the mechanic!

Not being responsible for a giant expensive hunk of metal gives us both a feeling of freedom.

Our eight-year-old daughter wants us to get a car.

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4 Comments

  1. mcslee

    I’m curious – have you asked your daughter why she wants you to have a car?

  2. Esther Witte

    Does anyone have a Clipper card? You can go anywhere almost in the Bay Area. Granted it takes more time. It can be used on AC transit too. Have you thought of getting an electric car and having a solar array on your garage, perhaps? It would cut down on car maintenance too. Something like the Leaf. I wish they were less money but other than that for an inexpensive car, a VW bug of the air cooled variety making sure to change the oil and have valves adjusted every 3,000 miles no matter what. It would be way less money and very little car registration. Just a thought to put out there. No AC with the old bugs. There are still parts for these. They do float unlike most cars, as a humorous aside not that you are planning to have a dump in the river.

    • Clipper cards are great — everyone in my family has one and we use them frequently.

      If we get a car, strong chance it will be an EV. Maybe the eGolf.

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