Thursday, June 17, 2010

Managing Without a Car

We're a family of four with no car and no plans to get one either. I'll admit, there are those rare moments where I find out lack of a car bothersome, but these fleeting thoughts are so vastly overshadowed by the ease and simplicity of our life and the way we manage splendidly without a car that the monetary commitment and worries entailed in car ownership are not something to which we aspire.

Life Without a Car

Living car free requires a certain easing of expectations and relaxing of standards. Without a car, you need to be more easy going and less uptight. Things don't always work out as planned, and learning to accept that makes life more enjoyable for everyone, whether or not they have a car.
Living car free helps you realize that life isn't always in your control, that you can't always guarantee the outcomes of situations and dictate how things should turn out. Success is always out of our control, but having our plans subject to bus timetables, weather, schedules of others and a bit of luck, we learn to let the unimportant things slide and take life as it comes.
Without a car, you must give yourself a little leeway with timing. You stay home a bit more and travel only when necessary. You make the maximum out of your trips, trying to accomplish the most possible in one day.

Traveling Without a Car

Walking. The simplest, easiest way to get around while keeping in shape. At first, this might tire you out, but in no time, you'll be able to walk far distances without tiring. I now routinely walk 3.5 miles up and down hills, pushing 2 kids in a stroller without breaking a sweat.
Buses. The most reliable form of transportation for longer distances. To do this, you need to live relatively near a bus route. So long as any bus line stops within a 20 minute walk (or more) from your home, you can use buses to get around. Yes, you'll need to transfer to different buses to get to various errands, and you'll be limited to running errands along bus lines, but it's definitely doable. I've lived in three different cities in 2 different countries and relied solely on buses for transport. I travel with my kids on "non kid friendly public transportation" and will do a future post on "2 kids, 2 adults, and no car".
Bikes. A decent bike, bought second  hand or for free via freecycle or hand me downs, can be pretty cheap. This method of transportation allows for traveling greater distances in less time and using less energy than walking, keeps you in shape, and doesn't contribute to pollution. Transporting things on your bike is easy using a basket or a bicycle trailer.
"Hitching". Headed out on errands? Try calling a friend and seeing if they're traveling where you're going. I routinely shop at the grocery outlet closest to my house and frequently will notice a neighbor while there, neighbors who'll gladly give me a lift back home.
Carpooling. Some communities have carpool lists. If you regularly need to commute, perhaps you can find others making a similar commute. Chipping in for the price of the ride is the right thing to do in such a case.
Taxis. In great emergencies or if you have no other option, call a car service. In my 5 years without car, I've taken a taxi fewer than 10 times. Even if taxis are expensive, taking them infrequently will invariably cost less than the cost of car ownership.
Car Rentals. Going on a long distance trip and public transportation isn't an option? Rent a car (if you're old enough to do so- I'm not at age 22). The price of the car rental will likely be cheaper than car ownership and will be less of a headache.
Ask a Friend. As a last resort, consider asking for help. Being on the receiving end of favors is not my favorite thing to do it; I'd only ask someone to go out of her way for compensation. You can repay this favor monetarily, via services, goods, or doing other favors in return.
Car Sharing. Jointly owning a car and paying for services can save you much money yet still allow you to have a car for those times you feel are necessary.
Just Don't Go. Traveling can be tiring without a car (and even with a car, I've heard). It pays to learn to appreciate being at home and in your neighborhood. Going out for entertainment on a regular basis becomes costly, even without the price of transportation. Investing in cheap at-home forms of entertainment, such as board games, library memberships, or certain types of crafting help you enjoy being home more, making you feel less of a need to go out. Currently I travel out of my community every other week to go grocery shopping, and approximately once a month to run errands. I assume that when my kids are older, I will be traveling a bit more for home schooling trips.

Shopping without a Car

Fewer trips. I do one grocery shop every 2 weeks, usually. This helps me save money because the more times you enter a store, the more money you will spend. Doing fewer trips also makes life easier because it means less frequent trips to the store without a car.
Strollers. Strollers offer a convenient set of wheels for people without cars. Load up the basket, recline the seat and put groceries there, or tie bags on to the handlebars. This will shorten the life of your stroller, but even needing to buy a new stroller (second hand, of course) every few years is cheaper than having and running a car.
Collapsible Shopping Carts. These can hold a lot of groceries and can be bought relatively cheaply. The wheels help you move even really heavy groceries without too much trouble.
Backpacks. My usual method of transporting groceries, combined with the stroller method. These can hold much, especially if you use extra large camping backpacks. 
Deliveries. When stocking up on heavy things, like cans, oils, potatoes, or flour it may be worthwhile to pay for a delivery. Where I live, delivery from the store costs 8 dollars, so I try to do as many non perishable heavy things at one time as possible.
Rides. As I mentioned above, especially because I shop on our local sales day, many times I'll see a friend at the store who's heading my direction. When receiving a lift, I simply put my groceries in the back of her car. 
Taxis. When all else fails, paying for a taxi, especially if you split it with friends doing the same, is a convenient way to get yourself and your groceries home. I've never done this, but I have friends that swear by this method.

Managing Without a Car

Pick services wisely. Schools, doctors, banks and grocery stores- try to chose ones along a convenient bus line, preferably all near each other. This way you can make one trip and get all your errands done.
Chose a convenient location to live. Cheap? Good public transportation? Things within walking distance? Good location? It's tough, but you have to find the best mix possible, and you may have to compromise on certain things. More on this on my next "Life Without a Car" post.
Know bus schedules. Keep a list of bus times for different routes so you don't remain stranded late at night or in bad weather..
Leave extra time. Don't rush to get places last minute, because sticking to a precise timetable is hard without a car. Leave yourself some leeway and you won't stress out if the bus comes a little late or there is traffic on the way.
Bus passes. If you travel enough, it may be worthwhile to buy daily or monthly passes.
Bring entertainment. Bring toys for kids, books, music, or notebooks to write blog posts to take advantage of the waiting periods both while waiting for rides and while traveling.
Make lists. Because you'll be traveling as infrequently as possible, maximize your outings by packing them with many errands. Write a list before you go and check it before you leave and a few times while out so you don't forget to bring along what you need and don't forget to accomplish some necessary tasks.
Minimize costs of your outings. Its not so easy to turn around and get things you need, so you may be more tempted to waste money while out. Follow these tips to ensure that your outings stay cheap.
Travel together. If you and your husband are both traveling, if you can time your trips so you take the same buses, it makes traveling even more enjoyable, as it allows extra family bonding time. A spare set of hands doesn't hurt either.

Life without a car. Doable, at least for me. I don't regret not having a car, and think my life is all the better for being car-free. Being car free is teaching me valuable lessons about the important things in life and helps me appreciate all the abundance I have in my daily life.

Have you ever gone without a car, or even if you do you have a vehicle, do you sometimes use other modes of transportation? What are your tips and tricks for traveling without a car? Do you think any of these ideas would work for you to at least reduce your car usage?

Life Without a Car- the Series.
Why No Car?
Managing Without a Car
The Drawbacks of Having No Car- Coming Soon!
2 Kids, 2 Adults, No Car- Coming Soon!


  1. This is a great list of ways to do this. It's amazing how you can get by without a car. Before we got married, my husband tried to walk home with his groceries in a fish tank to make them easier to carry.

  2. It's not as easy if you live in an area far away from everything and no reliable busing system (no taxis no one to rely on) and half of the area has no sidewalks. Cars get angry when you walk in the road, especially in the middle of winter (because you have no choice due to the snow). It has been a real struggle for us just to get the kids to a doctor appointment. No after school activities for the kids, no real social life, and my college ended the day my car did. I wouldn't say it's amazing how to get around without a car. I'd say it's amazing anyone can survive like this if they live up north and don't live near a city. I can't use a bicycle because of my knees. It's been awful.


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