There once was a time when I really loved owning and driving a car. I got my first car before I even turned 16. I held jobs that required me to drive hundreds of miles each week. I commuted across town to work when I lived in a city that was totally sprawled out. I loved several of my cars. But then I moved to San Francisco where it’s more of a hassle to own and park a car than it is to get around without one. I gave up my car three and a half years ago and have been car-free ever since.
There are a lot of things that I miss about having a car. Cars represent freedom. Cars are fun to drive. Cars keep you out of the elements when the weather is nasty and you’ve got somewhere to go. But for the most part I’m really glad that I gave up owning my own car.
Here are the top ten reasons to give up your car:
1. You immediately begin to get in better shape
People who don’t use cars have to find other ways of getting around. Walking and biking are the most common solutions. Even people who use public transportation and cabs are people who tend to walk more than their driving counterparts. This activity makes it really easy to get in better shape just by going about your daily business. That’s one of my favorite things about not owning a car!
2. You spend a whole lot less money
Even though I pay for both buses and cabs on a fairly regular basis, I spent a lot less money on transportation without owning a car. Cars cost a fortune in terms of the car itself, insurance, gas, maintenance and various fees. I don’t ever have to spend that money which means that I’ve got extra money to spend on the other things in life that are of more value and importance to me than owning a car is.
3. You contribute to a greener environment.
Yes there are a lot of green cars out there. I write regularly about electric cars and cars that get the best gas mileage. I do think that if you’re going to drive then you should drive a green car. But it’s a whole heck of a lot greener if you just don’t drive at all. If you’re at all concerned about the environment then giving up your car is a great step to make towards a solution to that problem.
4. You get closer to your community
People who don’t drive tend to stick around their own neighborhoods a lot more. They go to local stores more frequently (because they can’t go just once and load up the trunk with a month’s worth of stuff!) They are out and about with others who are walking. These things provide opportunities to get to know your neighbors and to foster a stronger sense of community in your area than you may have when you’re a driver.
5. You see more of the world around you and live more in the present moment
There’s a lot going on in the world that you don’t see from your car. When you slow down by walking or biking, you start to notice things. This helps you to live in the moment and to really be present in your own life.
6. You reduce your stress levels
Driving a car is stressful. Problems on the road and problems with the car create causes for ongoing stress in your life. Financial concerns, emergencies on the road and other common issues related to driving all increase your daily stress. Not having a car prevents that problem. Sure you sometimes get stressed because the bus is late but it’s not nearly as persistent of a problem.
7. Not having a car makes driving really fun
One of my favorite things about not owning a car is that I really enjoy every chance that I do get to drive. I do still drive when I go on vacations or day trips. Since this is a rare occurrence, I actually think it’s fun and exciting instead of stressful or exhausting.
8. The cars you do drive are always really great cars
If you don’t own a car then you usually only drive rental cars, borrowed cars or cars from a car share program like Zipcar. These cars are typically in good shape. They’re clean. They’re fairly new. They’re comfortable. That’s a lot more than I can say about a lot of the cars I had when I was a car owner!
9. You get to be conscious about your choice to drive
One of the things I aim for in my own life is to make conscious decisions rather than just doing things out of habit. When you don’t have a car, you get more focused on the reasons that you might want a car. If you do decide to get one again, it will be a conscious choice that’s rooted in your inner beliefs and needs rather than just something you do because you’ve always done it.
10. You get to set a good example for the future
Cars create a lot of problems for our environment and society. Unfortunately, it’s hard to give yours up because society is structured in such a way that most of us feel that we need our cars to get around. Making a change in your own life will set an example for others to make changes as well.
There are a lot of great cars out there and I continue to be interested in the new cars that are being created today. I’m not anti-car at all. However, I do think that life is generally improved if you are able to live in a city and a situation that makes it possible for you to live without a car. It’s not right for everyone but it’s definitely offered a lot of benefits to me!