Deciding to become car-free wasn’t a decision we took lightly. In fact, Billy and I discussed the idea for several years. There were good reasons to do it: no more maintenance and repair costs; no more fees for insurance, license plate renewal, or registration; no more fuel expense; and no more worry about storing the vehicle here in the States when we are traveling overseas for months or years at a time.
But there were also some obvious downsides. We wouldn’t have the freedom to come and go at a whim. And because we live in the American Southwest, where temperatures reach triple digits in the summer, we wondered how we’d manage to get around during the sun season.
Is it a silly idea or feasible plan to become car-free?
Most people we know couldn’t fathom the idea of giving up their vehicle and saw this new lifestyle choice as a hardship. Americans love their automobiles, and owning one is packaged as part of the American Dream. A look at the automobile and truck commercials today describe how we will be sexier, more popular, physically stronger, and obviously smarter if we purchase their brand of car.
As we’ve described on our Retire Early Lifestyle website, Billy and I live in an active adult community where we are within walking distance to stores, restaurants, and several different entertainment options. Most of what we need is near to us, and we appreciate the slower pace of life with all the rewards it brings. Many of our neighbors use a small scooter, golf cart, or bicycle to get around within a reasonable range. When we need to go somewhere farther, we trade services or pay cash to a neighbor or friend for their time. This is much cheaper than a taxi, more sociable, and we aren’t bogged down with worries about maintaining a vehicle. Both sides appreciate the trade, and our lives are enriched.
After almost two decades of world travel, we realized that the only place where we need to drive is in the States. Elsewhere we take public transportation or hire a private driver. For the amount of time we live in the States, and for the amount of money that owning our own transport required, we finalized our decision to sell our vehicle and become car-free.
The year was 2009.
What about you?
Retirement at any age, and financial independence, takes many expressions and even if you could never see yourself become car-free completely, maybe you have toyed with the idea of keeping only one vehicle instead of two.
The following sites may help you with this transition to become car-free:
At Pace Bus, you can calculate your own cost of driving — fuel, maintenance, tires, insurance, license fees, registration, taxes, finance costs, washings, parking charges — from a chart that AAA provides. Differences lie in the size of vehicle you own, whether or not you have full insurance coverage, and if you choose to bring a car loan into your retirement. If the total cost per day or cost per mile startles you, weighing alternatives could prove appealing and good for your wallet.
Approaching retirement (whether you’re getting closer to a standard retirement age, or deciding to retire early), some people consider relocating to a walkable city or town. Sources like Walkscore and Prevention Magazine can help you find the best walking cities in the States to live, while others such as CarFree.com give you information on places around the world. Fascinating and lively cities such as San Francisco, Boston, Honolulu, or San Diego head many lists. You could be living in one now while never having taken advantage of the green space or mass transit available to you. This would be a good time to consider that option!
Remember, each time you walk to the grocery store is good for your health, and it strengthens your muscles from carrying the groceries. Shopping nearby supports your local economy and talking with your neighbors helps build community. Slow down and enjoy!
At eRide Share, you can find rides to share for shopping, medical appointments, or even long-distance travel. Just type in your ZIP code and find out what’s happening in your own neighborhood! You can offer rides to cut costs or find one for yourself.
These days, Uber and Lyft have become very popular to use instead of taxis or in addition to mass transport. You can request a ride option, see what your wait time is, and match your driver’s contact information and vehicle description to what’s listed on your phone to be sure you are getting into the right car. When you get out to leave, your charge card on file is automatically charged so you never need cash. Easy Peasy! Why pay for parking, maintenance, and licensing when you can utilize these other options for transport?
Pursuing a simpler, more community-based life has noticeable advantages and it doesn’t have to be grim or difficult. Being flexible and imaginative about your life away from work brings payoffs both personally and financially. And who knows? Perhaps you will be pleasantly surprised at the freedom you find.