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Living without a car is tempting to me

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Living without a car is tempting to me

Old 08-22-13, 11:49 AM
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konsole
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Living without a car is tempting to me

At 32 yrs old I have never been a fan of cars. I have bought 3 cars since I started driving and all of them where bought on the spot. I did all the maintenence I could on them and I tried to take really good care of them. None of my cars ever had any serious issues that required an expensive repair. My car insurance has dropped way down to where I currently only pay $600 a year for a 2011 car. MPG on my cars has ranged from high 20's to low 40's, so I have never owned high performance expensive gas guzzlers. However for a long time I have always had this idea in the back of my head of living without a car. I don't really hate cars, but I could really care less about owning a nice high performance vehicle either. To me a car is just a way of "getting from point A to point B" so to speak. Back when I first got my license I probably drove about 12-15k miles a year, most of it back and forth to work, but then driving to a friends house on occasion, and also throwing my bike on the bike rack and going bike riding at some local state forest. Now I currently only do about 7k miles a year and probably about 95% of that is from the 30 mile round trip to work. I've only put about 5k miles on my car since I bought it 10 months ago. Most of my friends who I hung out with when they were single, are now married with a family and or have moved too far away. Then add in the price of gas the last 5 years or so and I really don't have any desire to drive to "unimportant destinations". I highly doubt gas will drop significantly from here and will probably continue to creep up in the years ahead, and even though I currently have one of the highest rated mpg cars you can buy, I still don't have the desire to spend money on gas to go to unimportant places. I made the decision a few years ago that I'm not going to be driving around to places unless there is a really important reason to go there.

I have a nice bike that I bought probably 15 years ago. It's been kept in really good shape and actually sits behind me while I type, no issues with it and it looks in excellent condition. From about 16 yrs old to about 25 I was very heavy into mountain biking, often times going out 2 or 3 times a week. I havent done it hardly at all for the last 5+ years or so probably because I just got a little burnt out from it. So I'm young enough to bike or walk if I need to and I'm in decent shape right now, which obviously will get even better if I ditch the car. I don't live in the city, but I don't live out in the boonies either. The post office and my bank are only about 1-2 miles away, same with 2 large grocery stores, but I still do live with rent with my parents so I give them money and they get all the groceries. A Home Depot is only about 3 miles away for the occasional home good need, and electronics and clothing stores are just beyond that. So things arent exactly a quick walk down the block but they arent that far either and I have plenty of experience with biking longer distances then that in the past. Then add in the fact that my trips to buy clothes or one of those other places will be minimal at best. Living in Massachusetts means there will be cold and snow for about 4 months, but if the roads are clear enough I can bundle up and ride my bike. I wouldnt say its all that often that the roads are covered in snow or ice before being plowed, and I really need to get somewhere during that time. If it rains then I can either delay my trip to the post office or bank, or if I need to get to work then I can walk with a rain jacket or just suck it up and ride the bike. Also the area I live in is pretty flat so biking or walking any distance isnt bad.

My current car is a 2011 Smart Fortwo, so as you can see my vehicle needs are already minimal as it is. Its a 2-seater with limited cargo space and I never carry anything large around and never have a passenger. Being a 2011 and only having 12k miles, having low car insurance, great gas mileage, doing as much maintenence myself, and being in excellent condition, its really not a problem financially for me to keep the car. However, financially really isnt the reason I'm tempted to ditch a car altogether. I just really like the idea of not having a car, and then either walking or riding my bike to all the close destinations. I use to really like biking and not having a car could be what it takes to get myself back into biking mode. The only obstacle I see right now is where I work. Currently work is about 15 miles away so I would need to find something closer. Currently I just work part time and its not excellent money but its enough where even just part time pays the bills, with a little extra for saving and spending. One possibility I debated was working for the post office either as a mail carrier or just working in the warehouse since the post office is only 1-2 miles away. I would only need about $500 a month to cover my expenses and have a little extra spending money, but I'm sure a job there would pay considerably more then that. Since my expenses are so low I really don't need anything more then a lower paying full time job or a moderate paying part time job.

In terms of future plans. Well I'm happy living with the parents, I pay them rent and I cover all my other non household needs. I have a good size savings built up so getting a higher paying job isnt that crucial for me. I'm not married, don't have kids, dont have a GF, and I don't plan on having any of those any time soon, I'm just happy living the single life. So if my plans to ditch the car and find a job closer to home don't go over so well, it won't exactly be a major problem for me. If I quit my current job then I could live quite a few months on a little bit of money saved up before even dipping into my savings, thats if I couldnt find another job immediately. If I had to I could just get a car again and get my old job back, but big change like this I'm really looking forward to since I really don't care for cars and I have had my current job for almost 12 years now.

I'm confident I could ditch the car right now and find a job closer to home and be very happy with the whole decision, but I figured I would find out what your guys' opinion is on making this decision. Where you in a similar situation as me when you decided to go car-free? Any unexpected negatives or positives you discovered after making the choice? Feel free to ask any questions about my situation so you can better lend your 2 cents.

Last edited by konsole; 08-22-13 at 12:01 PM.
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Old 08-22-13, 12:46 PM
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Well, some of us are biased. I sold my car last winter after putting 50 miles on it in 8 years, and 30 of those miles were driving it home from where I bought it.

The thing to do is work your way into it. Keep the car. Keep it ready to roll and use it when you need it. Get a couple of bikes, a good one for daily riding and a "beater" for bad weather, rough roads, parking in bad neighborhoods and as backup when the good one needs work.

Then start living a car-free life. See how it goes. See what challenges you have and what works. You'll know when it's time to sell the car or whether car-lite works better for you.

Check out the Winter riding forum for questions about riding all winter. The Commuter forum is good for topics of day-in day-out street riding. The Utility Riding forum is good for carrying loads.

My particular set up is a 1988 Hard Rock with street slicks, fenders, lights, rear rack, shopping panniers, and a trailer hitch for my Bikes at Work 64AW trailer which can carry up to 300 lbs.
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Originally Posted by Bjforrestal View Post
I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.

Last edited by Artkansas; 08-22-13 at 12:50 PM.
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Old 08-22-13, 12:50 PM
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Have you ever thought about bike commuting to your current job?
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Old 08-22-13, 01:16 PM
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Given that background you seem an ideal candidate for car free living. 15 miles one way isn't a particularly bad commute particular for part time work. The resale value and ability to store your current car would dictate whether it makes more sense to get rid of it or simply place it in storage and stop insuring, registering, and paying for gas.

Addenda:

You may want to really examine your current use of the car. If your numbers are correct; 7,000 miles per year with 95% spent on a 30 mile commute. That works out to commuting to work about 222 times in a year. Most years have about 250 business days, so 221 is a lot of working days for part time. If you are working that much, great! However, if not, you are using your car for more non-commuting than you think.

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Old 08-22-13, 04:16 PM
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Before you give up your car, you should try cycling to work everyday in different weather conditions and see how it feels... 15 miles one way commute is not difficult when the weather is nice, but it can be a serious challenge when there is few inches of heavy snow and slush on the roads. You definetly need to be very determined and well equipeed for winter riding.
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Old 08-22-13, 04:25 PM
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Don't be tempted!

I have some questions that might help you.

You write about finding a job closer to home. That will be easier to get to. Long have you work for your present employer? Does he have any benefits that you are using? Would a new employer be able to offer the same? At one point you said you could make it on 500. a month you do know thats about 6,000 a year, right? You need to ask what happens if I get sick who is going to pay for it (don't count on the government)? What happens if you meet the love of your life and it's time to go out and have nice time? What happens if the bike gets ripped off how do you pay to replace it? What if the local college happens to offer you class that you want to take? What happens it you need to get a new Apple how are you going to pay for it? Credit cards is not the way to go.

Going car free is not as easy as you think. I have many more questions for you.
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Old 08-22-13, 05:19 PM
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Originally Posted by dwightisright View Post
Going car free is not as easy as you think.
But it's not that hard either. It all depends on your mindset. In general, if he can make it on 500 and he's earning more then he can bank and invest it. If he meets the love of his life, she may want to join him in a car-free life. If the bike gets ripped off, he uses some of his savings to replace it or rides his beater bike till he has more saved up. If the local college offers a class he should take it. I was in school during the peak days of the oil embargo, gas lines and all. I was attending a college out of district, actually two local college districts away. I registered via my grandmother's address because they had a program I wanted. I was the only student in my classes with a perfect attendance record despite the fact that I pedaled much farther than the others drove.

No one is advising him to just drop the car. But he should try out being car-free in his actions if only to settle for him self what he thinks. The worst that could happen is that he doesn't dare to try it now and decades from now regrets not trying it.
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Originally Posted by Bjforrestal View Post
I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.
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Old 08-22-13, 05:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Artkansas View Post
But it's not that hard either. It all depends on your mindset. In general, if he can make it on 500 and he's earning more then he can bank and invest it. If he meets the love of his life, she may want to join him in a car-free life. If the bike gets ripped off, he uses some of his savings to replace it or rides his beater bike till he has more saved up. If the local college offers a class he should take it. I was in school during the peak days of the oil embargo, gas lines and all. I was attending a college out of district, actually two local college districts away. I registered via my grandmother's address because they had a program I wanted. I was the only student in my classes with a perfect attendance record despite the fact that I pedaled much farther than the others drove.

No one is advising him to just drop the car. But he should try out being car-free in his actions if only to settle for him self what he thinks. The worst that could happen is that he doesn't dare to try it now and decades from now regrets not trying it.
Yep, we usually regret the things we didn't try, not the things we did try. This guy (OP) has his ducks in a row. If carfree doesn't work for him, he can just buy another car.
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Old 08-22-13, 06:50 PM
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Originally Posted by dwightisright View Post
Don't be tempted!

I have some questions that might help you.

You write about finding a job closer to home. That will be easier to get to. Long have you work for your present employer? Does he have any benefits that you are using? Would a new employer be able to offer the same? At one point you said you could make it on 500. a month you do know thats about 6,000 a year, right? You need to ask what happens if I get sick who is going to pay for it (don't count on the government)? What happens if you meet the love of your life and it's time to go out and have nice time? What happens if the bike gets ripped off how do you pay to replace it? What if the local college happens to offer you class that you want to take? What happens it you need to get a new Apple how are you going to pay for it? Credit cards is not the way to go.

Going car free is not as easy as you think. I have many more questions for you.
Is that all you ever talk about ?..What if..? , What if...? , What if.....?? You worry too much.
Living car-free teaches people to think ahead and plan ahead differently then when having a car.
Is a car-free lifestyle challenging ??.. It sure is challenging and hell of a lot of fun.
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Old 08-22-13, 07:42 PM
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OK to answer the questions...

1. "Have I thought about bike commuting to my current job?
You don't think 30 miles round trip every day is a bit too much? If I could figure out a route to make it doable then I'm not sure this kind of distance would be bearable in bad weather.

2. "Resale value of my car and ability to store it"
We have a 2 car garage but its been so full of other stuff that we have barely ever put a car in them, plus even though I can take the car out once in a while, I don't like the idea of a car sitting close to completely unused when there is a possibility that I could completely live without it. The car has good resale value, should be able to get $10-11k for it when I only paid around $12.5k total a little less then a year ago.

3. "Re-examining my yearly mileage"
Part time for me the last 12 years has involved Mon-Fri. 30 miles a day x 5 days = 150 miles a week x 4 weeks a month = 600 miles a month x 12 months = 7200 miles a year. Then you have to minus holidays, vacations, the occasional days off, and it ends up being somewhere between 6000 and 6500. Trust me on this when I say I do very very little driving outside of going back and forth to work. Like I said I've only put about 5000 miles on my car since I bought it 10 months ago.

4. "My current employer"
I've worked my current part time job for 12 years and have been able to survive with a decent amount of extra money to save. I do get pretty good health care benefits at my current job, but I hardly ever use them, thats a personal choice and I know its nice they are there when I need them but I have used my health benefits a total of about 3 times in 12 years. If I was much older with some health concerns then for sure my health benefits would probably see more use. I'm just not a fan of utilizing the health care industry when I don't really need it. I do believe the post office does offer their employees some health care benefits and for me as long as there is something there and it meets the current coverage mandate then its good enough for me. My current job isnt bad and I don't hate it, but I've been there for 12 years and could probably use a change.

dwightisright, I just don't see any of the rest of those concerns as an issue for me. I'm very good with money and I much prefer the simple life. All those what-ifs havent presented themselves in 12 years and I honestly don't see them as being something to worry about in my lifestyle. Just because I can survive on $500 a month doesnt mean a job I found closer to home wont pay anymore then that. Currently I only work about 20 hours a week with a take home pay of around $325 a week. If I can't find something closer to home that pays around that then I think I'm doing something wrong. I have no desire to start a family and have never had a serious GF, call it no ambition but this is how I have chosen to live, and when it comes to possibly taking a class at a local school, I build my computers and with a good computer and fast internet there is more I can learn online then taking a course. Worrying about debt has never been a concern for me. I have never been in debt and have always paid for things only with money I currently had. Since becoming an adult I have never even owned a credit card, just a debit card. Everything I buy I make sure its exactly what I'm looking for and I don't buy things until I think long and hard about it. The things you bring up are for sure possible issues for most people, but for my minimalistic lifestyle I don't see them as an issue. Like I said I am pretty sure I can drop the car right now and be fine, I just wanted to get the opinion of people who have already done it.

Last edited by konsole; 08-22-13 at 07:48 PM.
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Old 08-22-13, 08:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Roody View Post
Yep, we usually regret the things we didn't try, not the things we did try. This guy (OP) has his ducks in a row. If carfree doesn't work for him, he can just buy another car.
Or keep it until he's sure he doesn't need it.
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Originally Posted by Bjforrestal View Post
I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.
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Old 08-22-13, 09:21 PM
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Keep the car for another year, gradually work yourself towards being car-lite.

If you get tired or it is raining really hard outside then you will at least have something to help you until you are ready to ride your bicycle again.
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Old 08-22-13, 10:06 PM
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My advice would be to do this:

Find yourself a nice used older car for around $2000( a 98 or 99 Toyota corolla or old Honda), spend two or three hundred getting it running perfectly. Sell your new car and pocket $7000 or more. Put this in the bank and keep it for emergency money while you quit your current job and look for something closer to home. I'm sure you are not the type of person to care about how new your car is, and this way you can have yourself a backup vehicle for rainy/snow days or an emergency room visit. Heck you could even pay your yearly insurance of $600 up front by pulling out of the $7k you profited. So combined with the money you made from selling your car for an older cheaper one, your savings will be plenty enough to keep you safe while you look for a new job. One other suggestions to be possibly get a job where you get to communicate with customers face to face and just try to get yourself really good at building rapport and making friends quickly. Who knows you might just find a girl you like and possibly move in together and split all of your bills in half, meaning you would only have to work half as much or work the same and put more in the bank to go towards a house, investment, whatever you'd like. Just don't get married and don't have children and you should be a very wealthy man if you follow this plan and continue living as simply as you do.

whatever you do good luck man! I hope it all works out for you. Keep us posted!
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Old 08-22-13, 10:30 PM
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Originally Posted by AdrianFly View Post
Keep the car for another year, gradually work yourself towards being car-lite.

If you get tired or it is raining really hard outside then you will at least have something to help you until you are ready to ride your bicycle again.
If you have the car, you'll use the car. Especially when it's raining or you're tired. So I would get rid of it, bank the money, and buy another car with the money if I wanted to later.

Rain won't hurt you. We all grumble when we have to ride a long way in the heavy rain. But we do it, and after a hot shower and a cocoa we feel good that we did it. If you're tired all the time you either don't sleep enough or you're sick. Both of those things happen even when you have a car. You sleep better if you get a lot of exercise and you don't get sick as much.
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Old 08-22-13, 10:46 PM
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Originally Posted by konsole View Post
OK to answer the questions...

1. "Have I thought about bike commuting to my current job?
You don't think 30 miles round trip every day is a bit too much? If I could figure out a route to make it doable then I'm not sure this kind of distance would be bearable in bad weather.
You can do it, but do you want to? The distance would not be the issue for me. For me it would be the time. Personally, I wouldn't like anything over a 30 minute commute by whatever form of travel. But I've known people who had 90 minute commutes (car) and claimed to like it. I thought they were crazy! (But they thought I was crazy for riding a bike 4 miles to work so TEHO.)

A 15 mile commute at an easy pace would take at least an hour. With a lot of stop lights it might take close to 90 minutes. I don't think it would make you particularly tired unless you hammer or you are in bad shape. It sounds like you're not much of an outdoor person, so that might be a problem for you.

Are there any alternatives? Could you take a bus part of the way? Could you work 2 or 3 8-hour shifts instead of 5 4-hour shifts? (Then you would have fewer commuting trips, saving a lot of time.)
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Old 08-23-13, 02:46 AM
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Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
Before you give up your car, you should try cycling to work everyday in different weather conditions and see how it feels... 15 miles one way commute is not difficult when the weather is nice, but it can be a serious challenge when there is few inches of heavy snow and slush on the roads. You definetly need to be very determined and well equipeed for winter riding.
+1
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Old 08-23-13, 02:54 AM
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Originally Posted by konsole View Post
OK to answer the questions...

1. "Have I thought about bike commuting to my current job?
You don't think 30 miles round trip every day is a bit too much? If I could figure out a route to make it doable then I'm not sure this kind of distance would be bearable in bad weather.
I commuted 70 km round trip during one job. I only did it anywhere from 1 to 3 times a week during good weather, but it was still doable. However, many times I wished the commute was 20 km shorter (50 km = 30 miles). I think if it had been I would have commuted 3 days a week much more regularly.

So ... start commuting a few days a week and see how you feel.


And regarding the job situation ... apply for work while you are still working. It is a lot easier to get work when you already have a job. When you find something closer to where you live, then quit your current job.

[HR][/HR]

And yes, I've done it.

I had been using the bus now and then for a few years, so I was familiar with the public transportation system.
During one particular summer, I started commuting by bicycle and realised how easy it was. But then my commute was 13.6 km round trip.
That winter, the van my ex-husband and I owned was written off ... and was never replaced.
It was that easy.

Last edited by Machka; 08-23-13 at 02:58 AM.
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Old 08-23-13, 06:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Roody View Post
If you have the car, you'll use the car. Especially when it's raining or you're tired. So I would get rid of it, bank the money, and buy another car with the money if I wanted to later.

Rain won't hurt you. We all grumble when we have to ride a long way in the heavy rain. But we do it, and after a hot shower and a cocoa we feel good that we did it. If you're tired all the time you either don't sleep enough or you're sick. Both of those things happen even when you have a car. You sleep better if you get a lot of exercise and you don't get sick as much.
I hear ya Rood and agree with ya. However, due to the OP's background I felt that a gradual transition to carfree may be a better decision. Carfree living (as awesome as it is) requires commitment, self reliance and in winter..determination. The worst that could happen is that this winter his mom gets on here and screams at us for trying to kill her baby.
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Old 08-23-13, 06:36 AM
  #19  
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Your social situation?
Much much harder to get a GF BF if you don't have a car
unless you live in a big city public transit cab culture- like NYNY?

Not sure how big a deal this is for you
but no car will limit your "dating" potential.
Some folks-middle aged and up-not an important consideration.

And you have driven 4000 miles per year-averaging more than 10 miles/d-fair amount of driving.
Luck
Charlie
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Old 08-23-13, 07:23 AM
  #20  
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Originally Posted by wolfchild View Post
Is that all you ever talk about ?..What if..? , What if...? , What if.....?? You worry too much.
Living car-free teaches people to think ahead and plan ahead differently then when having a car.
Is a car-free lifestyle challenging ??.. It sure is challenging and hell of a lot of fun.
It is the "what ifs" that I deal with. (Military planning has taught me that) Every day I deal with them. Life is a big what if's. Today my health is good but that is not be said for next week or next month. A bike accident that I had last August taught me that (the driver of the car didn't stop, he kept on his marry way) Today I have enough money but can you say for next time?

With gas prices the way they are should be teaching us to plan ahead, to make our trips count. Not going to market for a bag of fritos.

The way job market is a big what if. Can we really believe that the unemployment numbers that government claims it is or do we need to look deeper. This is a big what if.

What start out as fun can quickly become something that isn't much fun.


wolfchild I just ask the questions to see if there is any doubt on his part. I'm neither for or against living car free. But living car free does have it's limits. Hopping into car, driving 4 hours to go snowboarding is out. Going to a party that is 40 some miles away in the winter is out too.
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Old 08-23-13, 07:34 AM
  #21  
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I parked my car 5 years ago and just stopped using it. Toronto has a pretty good public transit system, so getting around the city without a car is quite easy and convenient. That being said, I recently decided to get a new car just for the sake of having something nice to drive around in on weekends, etc. Other than the pleasure factor, I remain essentially car-free. The point being that if you live/work in a large city with a good public transit system, being car-free is actually quite doable and practical.
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Old 08-23-13, 07:50 AM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by dwightisright View Post
Hopping into car, driving 4 hours to go snowboarding is out. Going to a party that is 40 some miles away in the winter is out too.
No it's not!!

When I was car ownership free, I hopped into a car to drive across the country, and to drive to various local areas whenever I wanted. Not a problem. The secret ... car rental. I discovered that it was much less expensive to rent a car every now and then rather than owning a car.
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Old 08-23-13, 08:56 AM
  #23  
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In a very few USA cities-NYNY- only one i can think of
no car isn't a social handicap-girlfriend etc
OP is single- the social aspect might be a consideration
Not just the ease of use-renting is doable but not really as easy
but I'm guessing many "potential" significant others will down rate you if you don't have easy access to a car.
Now you might say "if they do that then I don't want them anyway"-sour grapes-but...

I wonder what the social setup is for car free folks-excluding those from NYNY -where it is common?
OP drives a fair number of miles-in a pretty efficient car-I don't see much upside for him in dumping the car-
starting with "how do I get to work"
He will save maybe-$2000/yr-and get maybe $8000 for the Smart-- but he isn't starving-so just what extra pleasure does he plan to get from that $2000?
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Old 08-23-13, 09:28 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by konsole View Post
OK to answer the questions...
2. "Resale value of my car and ability to store it"
We have a 2 car garage but its been so full of other stuff that we have barely ever put a car in them, plus even though I can take the car out once in a while, I don't like the idea of a car sitting close to completely unused when there is a possibility that I could completely live without it. The car has good resale value, should be able to get $10-11k for it when I only paid around $12.5k total a little less then a year ago.
I think you may be over estimating the resale value of your car. Looking at Kelly Blue Book it provides a resale range of between $7500 and $9000 (in excellent condition in San Francisco). If stored in your parents garage it would have 0 costs to you--no gas, insurance, or registration fees. So if you ever change your mind it would be there and you wouldn't need to use the savings you would have accumulated to replace it.

If you are working 5 days a week and still part time your not working 8 hours, so the commute time (say 2-3 hours per day) wouldn't be an issue since it could be accomplished in a standard 40 hour week. Further if you like cycling it could actually be an enjoyable and healthy way to pass the time. If part time but still with health benefits you should be careful when considering changing jobs, you seem to have a good situation now. Get a job with the post office is not as simple or easy as you may think.
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Old 08-23-13, 09:51 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by Peiper1 View Post
That being said, I recently decided to get a new car just for the sake of having something nice to drive around in on weekends, etc. Other than the pleasure factor, I remain essentially car-free. The point being that if you live/work in a large city with a good public transit system, being car-free is actually quite doable and practical.
"Being car free" is easy if you own a car, use it when you feel like using it, and consider yourself "being car-free" whenever you are not using it.
Heck everybody with that mind set is car free!
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