The Car Free Experiment

You heard that right, most of North America, Gwen and I have now joined the ranks of the car-less. Not careless, mind you. We still care. Lots.

We just ditched our 2004 Ford Escape in favour of, well, nothing. This comes as a surprise to many people I’ve talked to, especially, for some reason, to the dealership we were dealing with…here’s the phone conversation I had:

Me: “Hi, I’m interested in selling my car, are you buying?”

Dealer: “You bet…are you interested in trading it in for another car?”

Me: “No.”

Dealer: “Do you have a second car already?”

Me: “No.”

Dealer: “What will you drive, then?”

Me: “We are going car free, we don’t need a car right now?”

Dealer: “Wait…car free…like, you won’t own a car?”

Me: “Yes.”

Dealer: “But what will you drive?”

Me: “I mostly take mass transit, and we are going to do car sharing.”

Dealer: “Wait, like share a car with others…”

You get the idea…I’ve had a number of variations on this theme each time I mention it…oddly enough, only with people who don’t live in the downtown core.

There were two big reasons we decided to go this route. The first was financial: between parking costs, insurance and maintenance, we have been paying upwards of $280/month for our vehicle. The second was a lifestyle choice: we wanted to try living car free while it is still a viable option, if only for the “smug” factor. I can now look down my nose at everyone with a car and be sanctimonious. I jest, but we did want to see if is a feasible option.

So, how are we going to handle weekend trips and the odd errand? Well, most of our errands are taken care of via walking or the subway anyways. Our grocery store is a couple of blocks away, we have a number of department stores, clothing stores, specialty shops, etc. withing walking distance or a short train ride away.

For big errands when it’s just easier to have a vehicle (like a big grocery shop or Ikea) we are joining Auto Share, which should satisfy most of these needs. This also deals with short notice/emergency car needs, since you can find a book a vehicle online right away, and we have several locations within walking distance to snag a car. Oh, and gas and insurance is included in our hourly price (approx. $7/hour).

As a member of Auto Share, we also get a nice discount on some car rental companies, which solves the weekend trip or longer vacations.

I’m not saying there won’t be times when we miss the convenience of having a car at our beck and call, but I think all this takes is a little more advanced planning and rethinking how we approach our daily tasks.

I’ll keep you posted as this proceeds – I never mind being a guinea pig.

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16 responses to “The Car Free Experiment”

  1. Christie says :

    BRAVO!

    I’m curious to hear more about how the car-share thing goes… brilliant idea.

    I’m envisioning you and Gwen at the train station with your golf clubs….

    Hope you and your wife are keeping well-
    Christie

  2. Ben says :

    Christie,

    Thanks for the well wishing…golfing, that’s another thing that car share might be useful for…although I see people on the subway fairly regularly with clubs, I think there is a course on the east side.

    Take care!

    Ben

  3. Thaddeus Dombrowski says :

    pretty cool.

    I will be interested to see how it works out.

    My wife and I share one car. I ride a bike to work most days. I don’t know, however, whether we would be ready to take the plunge.

    In your situation, with car-sharing, it sounds like it may work out nicely. Certainly the money saved would go a long way towards rewarding you for the inconvenience.

  4. Ben says :

    Hey Thaddeus,

    Biking…now that’s something I’d like to be able to do. My issue is that I would arrive at work all gross, and the change facilities are not the best here. Plus, I’m scared of getting killed by crazy Toronto drivers.

    And yes, money can gloss over most inconveniences I might experience in my life!

  5. jimsey says :

    I really don’t car(e) for this subject.

    From one of the local Cleveland car share companies, here’s a handy dandy calculator that you input your expenses, and it tells you how much you save per month after you estimate how many hours you really need a car for: http://www.mycitywheels.com/savingscalculator.php

  6. Annette says :

    I didn’t think this was possible from a person born and raised in Detroit! Has Detroit disowned you yet? Will you ever be allowed back, even for a visit?

  7. Lachlan says :

    Wait….you mean you won’t have a car?

  8. Humberto says :

    I’m telling GM on you.

  9. Ben says :

    Annette and Humberto, there is a good possiblity that I can never cross the border into Detroit. However, I can now visit San Francisco no problem.

    Jimsey, another pun like that and you’re on probation!

    Lachlan, don’t make me walk over to Edmonton!

  10. Mikhail says :

    Wait, I still don’t get it…you don’t own a car anymore?

  11. jimsey says :

    Everyone picture this: Ben, with a white helmet, riding a vespa.

    Now, all giggle in unison

  12. Lachlan says :

    Great…now that you don’t drive and emit greenhouse gas, I’m going to have to drive twice as much to make up for you. You’ll be receiving my gas bill monthly.

  13. Pat says :

    I like it. I wish I could go this route as well.

    Ben’s plan:

    “Lets go to the bar this weekend” Ben says to his friend, “oh yah, I guess it’s your turn to drive” snicker snicker snicker!!

    Works for me!!!

  14. Ben says :

    Hey Pat,

    Shoot, you found me out…this way I never have to be DD again!

    Hope all is well!

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Pray At the Pump « Ben Co. - June 23, 2008
  2. Autoshare’s Autounlock Auto-tastic! « Third Rail Repository - January 15, 2010

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