Our family just completed month #3 of living without owning or leasing a car. We still use cars occasionally (via CityCarShare, standard rentals, Lyft, and Uber), but there’s no hunk of metal in our driveway that we own, maintain, or are otherwise responsible for.
It’s still going pretty well, but this was the month that the thrill of not owning wore off, some of the hassles became more evident.
At first I was enthusiastic about all the exercise I was getting, and I got significantly leaner during the first month with all the extra walking and biking. But then I started eating more — especially more desserts (I’d earned it, with all the exercise) — and I gained the weight back. Overall I’m still lean, but my hope that not owning a car would be an easy ticket to getting shredded proved overly optimistic.
Several times in April I felt irritated by not being able to simply hop in my car and do what I want. In the end I always found a way — I didn’t miss out on any activities. With Uber and Lyft, I found I didn’t really even have to think ahead that much. At one point I walked a couple miles from my house to the Grand Lake neighborhood, but didn’t really feel up for walking home. So I used Uber for the first time. For me, the emotional association between freedom and car ownership doesn’t correspond to reality. I can still get where I want to go, pretty easily and inexpensively, even without a car in my driveway. But that doesn’t mean the feelings don’t still crop up from time to time.
For introverts like myself, there is a psychological cost to using taxi-like services. Though using Uber or Lyft is more convenient than calling a taxi, you still have to interact with a person. What if I’m stuck with a chatty driver? This hasn’t happened yet, but I did have a less than ideal Uber-Pool experience. The driver had a problem with his GPS, and for twenty minutes I shared a car with a father and his daughter while we all took a meandering, awkwardly silent tour of West Oakland. It wasn’t a terrible experience, but alone in my car the trip would have taken five minutes.
What about all those hassles I left behind, like sitting in traffic, or driving around in circles looking for parking, or worry about my car getting ticketed, scratched, or burgled? Well, after not dealing with any of those issues for a few months, I’ve largely forgotten about those pains. I just take it for granted now that those hassles aren’t part of my life. I remember all the conveniences of car ownership, but I’ve glossed over the inconveniences. How quickly I forget!
There are, of course, new hassles to deal with. Kia took a 4-mile CityCarShare ride that showed up on her account as a 6000-mile ride. The error was corrected before we were charged for it, but it took both an email and a phone call to deal with it.
Here’s the April transportation tally:
- CityCarShare – $177 (including all-day trips to Yountville and Marin, and several local errands)
- Lyft – $28
- Uber – $0 (complimentary first free ride)
- car rental – $59 (Kia visiting a client in Palo Alto)
- Amortized bike upgrade – $15
- Increased public transportation use – about $10
So $289 in total — almost exactly the same as last month. That represents a savings of about $150 compared to our car-related transportation costs when we were leasing (lease, insurance, averaged gas/tolls/service).
To continue the analogy, the no-car honeymoon may be over, but I still feel like I’m in a good transportation marriage. The benefits still outweigh the costs, especially when remind myself about all the hassles of car ownership that I no longer have to deal with.
I could see us getting a new car lease later this year. On the other hand, it’s possible we’ll continue the experiment indefinitely.
Are these updates interesting to you? Let me know in the comments.