The End of Another Car Era and Living Without a Car (Plus a Giveaway)

living-without-a-carCar free yet again!

Okay, so everything with my car didn’t go as I hoped it would. It came down with a litany of problems: the back brake was seized, causing the wheel to smoke and smell really, really, bad. Then, the starter completely gave out. Combine these two things, and you have a useless, immovable car that needs thousands in repairs. The problems were unexpected, although, with 191,000 miles on a car, I guess nothing is that unexpected.

Even though it wouldn’t start and the bake brake was seized up, I was able to sell it for $500, half the price I bought it for just less than a year ago. But, given the expense and headaches, this car was definitely a bust. For the thousands I spent to run it over the last year I probably could’ve been riding around in something much nicer that didn’t get looks every time I drove it around the block.

Despite this disaster, I’m still a fan of buying used cars. Buying used saves a ton of money. The purchase price, sales tax, property tax, and insurance are all less when a car is used and valued less than a new one. New cars depreciate a ton in their first few years, and, for me, those losses are definitely not outweighed by any enjoyment of owning a new car.

Although my car was crappy, I didn’t mind it most of the time. It’s nice not to have to worry about owning something shiny and new. If my car got dinged up, I honestly wouldn’t have cared. Coffee spill? That didn’t matter to me either.

How I’ll Get Around

For now, I plan to live without a car of my own. I’ve done it before, and I’ve gotten even more inspiration from reading Simply Car-Free. Tammy has a lot of great tips for using a bike, which is what I’ll use the majority of my trips.

Here’s how I’ll get around:

Short trips (less than 3 miles) – I’ll do almost all of these trips by bike. This includes my commute to work every day. I ride my bike year-round (yes, even through the winter in snow). I would estimate that 75% of my trips are 3 miles or less, so biking is a great option.

Medium trips (3-20 miles) – I’ll use the cars I have access to for most of these trips. I have my sister’s car on loan for the summer. When that’s gone, I’ll still be able to use my girlfriend’s car. I also plan to go back to Zipcar, which I loved and have really missed using since finishing grad school.

Long trips (20 miles and up) – Depending on what I’m doing, I’ll use a combination of modes. If I’m going somewhere that there’s not much public transportation, I’ll take a car. This could be a combination of the girlfriend’s car, Zipcar, or a regular car rental. I just rented a car this past weekend, and it only cost about $30 a day, which I think is a steal. I’d definitely prefer to take trains, buses, and planes more often (I’m writing on a train as I write this). I just read an announcement that Megabus is coming to New Haven, which I’m super psyched about, too!

To me, utilizing all these forms of transportation are much less frustrating than owning a car of my own.

My Next Car?

If I do buy a car again (which I don’t plan to do for as long as I’m living in a city), I’ll pick something a little nicer than my last car, but it will still definitely be used. I think there’s something to be said for finding a balance between cost and quality of a car. Buying a crappy old car might have low up-front costs, but the repairs can get expensive down the line. As everyone, including me, discovers sooner or later, it gets frustrating when you need to keep making expensive repairs on a nearly valueless car.

** Giveaway Info **

Update: Congrats to Hunter, who won the copy of Simply Car-Free!

I’m going to give away a copy of Simply Car-Free as a celebration for being car free again! To enter to win, all you have to do is 2 steps:

1) Answer this question as a comment: Are you a used or new or car-free person? What are your reasons? (Make sure to use a valid email so I can contact you) and

2) Tweet and/or share this post on Facebook

I’ll accept entries until Sunday, 7/22/11 and I’ll use to select a winner (one entry per person)


  1. No starter and a seized brake are difficult to get past. Car free living has some ups and downs, it will be interesting to read about your experience.

    I’m a NEW car buyer, but I want to change that. The low financing no longer justifies the five years of payments and rapid depreciation. I’ll be going USED next time, and that won’t be for a long time. 

    • Thanks, Hunter. I spent about 2 years without a car before, and didn’t mind it at all, really. This time, I have fewer public transport options where I live, so that could be a bit more of a challenge.

      Glad to hear you’re going used next time!

  2. My car has 110k miles, and I’m expecting to get maybe 2-3 more years of good driving out of it.  Next time I buy a car, I’ll be buying a NEW Ford Focus, or the like.  At $15-18k, depending on options, I can probably get at least 10-15 years out of it.   

    My mom has a Focus and its a great car.  My GF has the Fusion, and it’s great too. 

    Used cars, to me, seem like such a gamble any more.  With a new car, I’m at least guaranteed to have a few years of no problems, and pending that I drive it to its death, the additional cost over a used car isn’t really all that killer to me.  

    • I think the big key with buying a new car is how long you keep it. If you plant to drive it for 10-15 years, I think it’s probably better than going used.

      I just rented a Ford Focus this weekend and I enjoyed it! I heard the Fusion is great, too.

  3. Used car person.  140k miles, eight years old and still going strong.  I just filled up a couple days ago for less than $40 and I hadn’t filled up in over 2.5 months 🙂

  4. I personally have only owned one car myself, the crappy Aveo I own that is 6 years old and I bought new in 2005.  I think from here on out, I’ll be getting used cars, but now that I won’t be driving much, it isn’t on my mind.  I’ll probably stick with my Aveo until it simply won’t run anymore…

  5. I bought my car new, mainly because that was my first car in the US and I didn’t know a good mechanic that I could trust to check an used car. But it was a cheaper car ~$14000 for a new Honda Fit. Now it is close to 80000 miles, I am sure I will have it for 4-5 yrs at least.

  6. I’ve both new and used.  The car I’m driving now was bought new.  I’ve had it for 4 years and plan to drive it til the wheels fall off.  New or Used I drive my cars til they die. 

  7. I don’t think that I could live without a car unless i actually lived in the city

  8. The only car I ever purchased was new. We still have it. It is 12 years old with 200,000+ miles on it. I love it we have definitely gotten our money out of it. We now have  new car too.

  9. Jeffrey my dad used to buy only used cars & did well with it.  He lived in a small town & knew the people who had owned the cars he bought.  And he knew how well they had taken care of them!  (Not possible in the city of course). 

     My husband is a new car believer & does a lot of the maintenance and repairs himself.  We often get about 150,000 miles from a vehicle.  Right now we have a van with 230,000 miles on it & it’s going strong.  Our VW Golf (103,000 miles on it) gets about 40 mpg & is great when we don’t need the cargo room.  He babies both of them & they serve us well.  

  10. As your girlfriend with a car, I am currently a used car owner. My 1997 Jetta has gotten me a long way and is still running, though I’ve poured A LOT of money into it over the past 6 years or so that I’ve owned it. Here in DC this summer I am car free because I simply don’t need one and it’s fantastic! I love getting around on the metro and walking. Back in CT I’ll still use my car, but if, my lil Jetta doesn’t survive (gasp) I would not replace it too quickly. Too many things up in the air to know if I would need a car in the near future. Being car-free is very freeing and there are always rentals as you mention. 

  11. Buying a used car makes sense financially.  I bought a used car that was still under warranty for a pretty good price and I don’t think I regret it.  The previous owner essentially had to bear the out-the-door depreciation factor.  

    Going car-free, if it is feasible I’d do it!  No insurance issues, car loans, maintenance … that’s a ton of savings!  For any long distance trips you can always rent.  But then not every city is commuter-friendly.

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