30 Days No-Car Experiment: Results

Thursday was my last day of my 30-day experiment of now owning a car. Here are the results. First, let’s start with the financial side of it.

My transportation expenses, May 23rd-June 21st:

Car2Go trip fees: $184.22
Rental Car: $52
Gas for rental: $16
Public Transportation (bus/trolley): $74 (I bought a Compass Card which allows you to ride the trolley and bus without using cash, the problem is they apparently have no good way to check the total amount used, so I’m just putting $74 because that’s how much the card cost, even though I probably spent less than this).
Train: $16 (3 trips)

Total: $342.22

Well I was quite a bit higher than my stated goal of $250. I really had no idea what to expect, and I never limited myself from going anywhere in the attempt to save money.

If I owned a car and let’s say had a payment, my monthly expenses would look something like this:

Car payment: $250
Gas: $200
Insurance: $80
Maintenance: $50
DMV Fees: $200/year or we’ll say $15/month

The total there would be about $600, give or take. So the cost savings in this case, we’re looking at about $258 a month. If I didn’t have a payment, it’s going to be about break even!

Let’s take a look at my experiences, thoughts, and feelings about non-car ownership this past month, from what I wrote in my original post on this:

1. I didn’t want a car before I started this experiment. I still don’t want a car. Will I get one anyway? It’s yet to be determined.

2. I thought I would make more efficient use of my time without a car. This didn’t really happen. I only took the train twice, and it was really nice, but not much got done between SD and North County. I never had to go to Orange County.

3. Parking. With Car2Go, you can park at meters even if they’re expired. And you don’t have to worry about where your car is all the time because you’re borrowing these cars. Overall I felt happier to not have to think about where my car is at all times.

4. Traffic. For the most part, I have avoided traffic. But, one day I was driving north on the 163 to a spot about 10 minutes away, and got stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. The trip ended up taking over 20 minutes and I felt pretty stressed as the clock was ticking away.

5. Paying for gas. I love not buying gas. The 5 days I had the rental was the only time I stopped at a gas station. It’s nice to not have to make all these little pit stops and put $50 or more into my tank every week.

6. Maintenance. No maintenance issues is one of my favorite things about not owning a car. It’s one less thing on my mind. It’s a perfect example of one of the benefits of minimalism.

7. Flexibility. In terms of not being tied down to contracts or having to quickly sell a car, I still appreciate this aspect. However, there is a little more planning ahead that has to happen without your own car. A few times I was late and running down the street to pick up a car2go! Mostly though, it wasn’t a huge issue, and definitely made me slow down some…not a bad thing.

8. The cops. I definitely felt more at ease not having to think as much about getting pulled over, or violating some law I didn’t know existed. Not that I couldn’t get pulled over in a Car2Go, but the things only go up to 65mph so the odds are lower. Plus I think the cops kind of give us a break, because it’s probably a pain in the ass to give out a ticket to people driving these temporary cars.

9. Less sitting, more walking. I definitely walked a TON more than I would have with a car. Score this in the column for not owning.

Downtown San Diego is not the most miserable place to walk.

Let’s look at what I was worried about going in, and how that panned out:

1. “Driving has always equaled a form of freedom to me”. This was probably the toughest thing to deal with. I like to just get in and go. I also like to suddenly drive somewhere that’s 30 miles away sometimes. This can’t happen with Car2Go or public transportation. Definitely miss this aspect of car ownership.

2. “I don’t know the bus system at all”. I didn’t ride the bus much because they usually take 5 times as long as driving a car2go. So I’m a little better but I would have to constantly google everything.

3. “I won’t be able to instantly get somewhere if it’s out of the car2go zone and I don’t have a rental car that day.” See #1.

4. Dating. Not a problem, partly because of my lack of dates! I had 2 though. And even had a second date with one AFTER she knew I didn’t have a car. The other one we never talked about cars. This didn’t seem like nearly as big a problem as I thought it might be. Funny though, I can now take the George Costanza approach to dating by doing the opposite, and telling the truth right up front: “I have no job and no car. Let’s go out!”

Considering how much I spent, and all of the points above, it’s still somewhat of a tough call. I may try this out for another month before getting a car….or I may break down soon. I think while I live downtown (til at least August 3rd), I may stick it out with no car. The other thing is, I may not rent a car at all this time around, so that would save me some money right there.

What did I learn from this?

-Well, I proved that living without a car in San Diego CAN be done! I know I’m not the first or only person to do this, but it’s a rarity.

-I think my freedom quotient goes down a notch without a car. For example, I can’t take a car2go to La Jolla. The bus would be a major time commitment to get there. So, I haven’t yet gone for a swim at the Cove like I usually do a few times in the summer.

-People are amazingly generous about giving rides. I’ve taken far more rides in the last month then ever, and often I didn’t have to ask!

-Not having a car can be a fun adventure. I have seen neighborhoods that I’ve never been to before. I’ve seen how so many people live in San Diego that I never would have known about. I’ve learned the trolley and train schedules, and gotten creative about how to get to and from places. I’ve shown up places when I had no idea how I was getting home, but it always worked out.

Overall, I’m leaning towards buying a car. But, I’m probably going a few more weeks without before I commit to anything.

Ok, I’m off to the pool in a car2go!

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Kevin Koskella

Kevin is a podcaster and writer on living free, despite the crazy world we live in. Kevin travels full time and explores the world and how to achieve and maximize freedom in life.

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