I recently set a goal to learn how to live without owning a car. My primary motivation for this was to live a more international lifestyle. As time goes on, the more international I become:

  • I am traveling outside of the country more often and staying away longer.
  • I’m getting deep into my five flags plan. Residencies, passports, international banking, international business, and so forth.
  • Most importantly, it will be a short year and a half before I move out of the US in January of 2021. At that point, I’ll be cycling between 2-3 different countries year-round.

None of this is conducive to owning a car. My car is currently a 2016 Lexus ES 300h. It’s a nice car. I like it. And I paid cash for it so I don’t have a car payment (I don’t do debt). But I don’t want to own a car anymore. At this point, my car just sits idle for literally several months a year, and this time will expand.

So, I’ve taken the cue from other international Alpha 2.0s and decided to just chuck the car and figure out how to live without one. This will be the first article I write about exactly how I’m going to make this transition.

I realize that a decent percentage of you already don’t own a car because you live in a downtown city core. That’s great, and this article won’t really apply to you (though you may have some helpful suggestions on getting around when you’re not in a big city). This article is for all of you other guys who live in a suburban or suburban-like area like I do where you “need” a car.

Having a car that just sits idle a lot would be fine if owning a car was inexpensive. But it isn’t. The second reason I want to dump the car is because of the sheer amount of money a car costs you to own. Just eyeballing some numbers, here’s about how much owning a car costs for me:

  • Car payment or equivalent: $400-800 per month. I say “or equivalent” because I never have a car payment. Instead, I have a savings account called “Car” that I throw money into every month, and then I just buy a new car every 7-10 years or so and just pay for the entire thing in cash. So I have a car “payment” regardless of if it’s to me or to a bank.
  • Car insurance: $250-300 per month. That’s for liability and comprehensive.
  • Gas: about $100-150 per month. I don’t drive very much as compared to most suburban people since I work out of my home, and my car is a hybrid, so I don’t spend as much on gas as the typical car-owning American.
  • Upkeep and maintenance: about $200 per month at least, yes, even for a reasonably new car like mine. I just dropped $1400 on getting new tires, fluids, an engine flush, a few other things last month. Jesus. Add this to oil changes, new brakes, brake pads, regular repairs as the car gets older, tags renewals, and all the other bullshit involved in owning a car.

Add all that crap up, and I estimate I’m spending at least $1200 per month just to own a car. A lot of this is tax deductible for me, but I spend money for other business transportation that’s tax deducible also, so I consider that a wash.

This means that I have a budget of around $1200 per month that I can use to get around, using whatever methods I want. If I keep the total cost of these methods to $1200, then they’re essentially free. If I keep them under $1200, then I’m actually saving money.

That was one of my big concerns when I first started thinking about this. “Won’t relying on Uber, Lyft, taxis, car rentals, and so on full-time be expensive???” Yes, they will be, but so is owning a damn car. I’ve got at least $1200 to spend on these things for free as soon as I sell my Lexus.

Oh, and that’s the other thing. I get to sell a nice Lexus that’s only two years old. I could get $20,000 for that or more. That’s yet another bonus. (I would just put that into my investments.) I could also cash out of my “Car” savings account too, but I did that last year already in anticipation for this.

So now for the big question: Once I sell my car, how am I going to get around? Here are all the methods I plan on using, in order of importance:

1. Pink Firefly. PF will keep her car. She has no interest in being carless, which is fine with me. She has her own finances so I don’t care. I have outsourced as much driving as I can to her. Things like going to the post office, grocery shopping (when we don’t go together), running to the bank, and other miscellaneous errands. She agreed to do this because she knows I’ll use that extra time to work and increase my income, which obviously she wants.

I can also use her car in a pinch if I need to.

2. Uber/Lyft/etc. When I need to go somewhere farther away from the house, I’ll use a ridesharing service like Uber or Lyft. (I prefer Lyft; just had better luck with it.) I do this sometimes already. When I need to drive across town to an appointment, and it’s 50 minutes one way (not unusual with today’s traffic), I have a Lyft driver drive me to and from there, and I just work in the back with my laptop. This way, I don’t murder 100 minutes of work time. I make enough money per hour to make the expense of the Lyft driver feasible.

Obviously, I won’t use Lyft when a Pink Firefly option is available, and I will have to stop and think about whether or not I really need to use Lyft, but again, I’ve got a $1200 per month budget for this.

3. Limo/town car service. This is expensive, but I could justify it occasionally within my $1200 budget. I wouldn’t get a limo, just a normal town car, like when I needed a car for multiple stops in one day.

4. Bike. For stuff in the neighborhood. I love riding my bike and I don’t get outside often enough when I’m not camping. This will give me an excuse to get out more and get some extra exercise.

5. Get rides from my FBs. I’ve done this before. I’ve had MLTRs and FBs drive me all over the place on certain occasions. I could even work out a deal with one or two of them to do this more often.

6. Renting a car. If I absolutely have to for some bizarre reason, I can rent a car for a day or two. I’ve done the research and I’ve set up an account with a local car rental company where they will pick me up at my house, drive me to their office, and hand me the keys to a rental car in less than 10 minutes, even if I don’t have any car insurance (which I won’t). I’ll just have to buy their insurance, which is fine.

7. Zipcar and similar. If you don’t know what Zipcar is, it’s a service where you can rent a car by the hour using an app on your phone. Zipcar is the biggest company in my local area doing this, but there are many others. You just pick up the car (no other humans are involved), drive it around, then drop it off at any one of many designated drop-off points, and they just charge your credit card.

The downside of this for me is that these pick-up and drop-off points are usually closer to the city, and I live out in the distant suburbs. So if I wanted to use this option, I’d need Pink Firefly or Lyft to drive me to the nearest pick-up point.

8. Private driver. Probably the most expensive option and one I’m not going to do yet, but I will, certainly before I move out of the country. One of my goals for a while is to be able to afford an on-call private driver to pick me up and drive me anywhere I want, whenever I want. I can technically afford this now, but it would damage my monthly savings/investment goals. I should soon be at the point where I can do this without incurring this damage.

This would either be an individual I hire from a site like Craigslist, or a limo/town car company who assigns me an on-call individual. Either is fine with me.

So those are all of my options! I haven’t sold my car quite yet. I plan on doing so in the next 2-3 months at the most. That will force me to figure all of this out and come up with a system. What a nice relief it will be to not have the life overhead of a damn car. I can’t wait.

I’ll keep you all posted on what happens.

26 Comments on “How To Live Without A Car – Part 1

  1. My car has cost me about $255/month including everything (insurance, oil, issues, maintenance, etc.) over 11 years. This is with going to a mechanic for everything, driving across the entire country 3 times and stashing it for multiple years while I lived in other countries / cities that didn’t require driving.

    I bought it new, last year’s model. Obviously not a Lexus level brand.

    I’m quite a lazy owner, I had to spend an extra $2k because I didn’t store it properly and mice chewed out some critical wires.

    Even accounting for differing choices (brand, insurance level) I think your numbers are quite inflated.

  2. My number above excluded gas, which has been <$50/month for the life of the car (although I only had a work commute for 1 year because I've lived Alpha 2.0 during most of this period).

  3. Where the train system is so extremely good (like London, Paris, New York City), a person could absolutely not need to ever own a car, but in most parts of North America and especially in Australia, where the public transport infrastructure is shit, not so much.

    Like if you wanted to get from the Gold Coast to Brisbane without owning a car, there’s 3 options: rent a car, get a Uber (too expensive, as it’d cost at least $80), get the train (doable, but the train only goes up to a certain GC suburb. Ideally, the train should go right up to the GC airport, but the government was/still is too cheap to spend the money to do that). Where I live in Bris, the nearest train station to me is a 15 minute car drive to get to, that’s a fucking joke. The only public transport option is a bus.

    When cars become pretty much all electric and also autonomous self driving, it’ll be a lot easier to earn income from owning a car, as a person’s car can Uber people around, while they’re at work, are they’re working at home and they know they’ll be home all day, or if they’re living or holidaying overseas.

  4. There’s a lot of delivery services for groceries, etc. And a lot of suburbs have buses, too, at least in the States.

    Also, smaller mopeds/scooters can cost less than $2000 (or a segway, etc). You’d just need to have a place to store it. They’re smaller, so probably cheaper to store, but more dangerous than riding a car.

    But between biking and ridesharing most people can get by without a car most of the time if they’re committed, unless they live out the country.

    And, even living in the ‘burbs, there’s locations that are much closer some amenities (groceries, bank, FedEx, etc) than other locations, so if someone chooses strategically they can save a lot of commute time for chores.

  5. I think your numbers are quite inflated.

    The maintenance number could be; that’s just a guess on my part. But the rest are accurate.

    Where the train system is so extremely good (like London, Paris, New York City), a person could absolutely not need to ever own a car, but in most parts of North America and especially in Australia, where the public transport infrastructure is shit, not so much.

    Yes, that’s the problem; living in the suburbs means you require a car. I doesn’t have to be your car, but you still need a car.

    When cars become pretty much all electric and also autonomous self driving, it’ll be a lot easier to earn income from owning a car, as a person’s car can Uber people around, while they’re at work, are they’re working at home and they know they’ll be home all day, or if they’re living or holidaying overseas.

    Man, I can’t fucking wait until cars drive themselves. Can’t happen soon enough in my opinion. (And yes, I’m well aware of the economic ramifications; don’t care; humans always adjust eventually; I still want self-driving cars.)

  6. No matter where I live, I intend to live without a car in 2022, when my car turns 15. I’ll just ride a bike/skateboard or take uber/lyft everywhere then rent a car when I need to go on road trips. There’s not much of a point in having a car for me anymore. Sure I don’t pay $1200 a month to maintain it like Caleb does (It’s more like $200 a month for me) but still.

  7. yes this sounds great. very new to the magic of outsourcing, but when my car is in the shop, or something like that, I am amazed by how less stressful it is getting chauffeured and the kind of work I can get done in the meantime.

    Also sparked the idea of living in a sweet downtown area while having achieved location independence.

  8. It is often estimated that in near future almost no one will own a car anymore since it will not make sense and will be only for hardcore old school guys or collectors.

    The situation is that most cars are for most of the time being unused and take up space and very often require all kinds of taxation, insurance and real estate space / parking costs for all that unused time.

    There has however not been a solution to this but now with the advent of self driving cars we can expect that in a few years if you wanna go somewhere by car you will click on your phone and in five minutes a self driving car will come and pick you up. Self driving cars will be substantially cheaper than taxis but work like taxis so it will not make sense economically to rent or own a car anymore.

  9. At the moment already economically it does not make sense to have a car unless you do daily or near daily commute by car. If you don’t renting is usually cheaper, often even when using it most weekends. And if its less then that then taxis / renting are def cheaper (and more convenient).

  10. If where/how you live requires you to use a car and you can’t get rides from other people for free, you can really cut down on your automotive expenses by driving a fully paid-off 15-20 year beater car. I drive drive a fully paid off 2005 BMW 325i with 190k miles, which I brought with 150k miles for $6000 in 2016 when I was a very stupid 20 year old who listened to his gearhead friends. My costs are as follows:

    Car payment: $0
    Gas: $160/month (drive about 44-56 miles a day, half city/half highway)
    Insurance: $70/month for liability (surprisingly low for a 23 year old with a BMW)
    Maintenance: $83/month (I know a mechanic who does my oil changes for $10 vs $100 charged by a indie shop)

    Granted, my car with (190k miles) is in shit shape compared to newer, better maintained cars as:
    – The sound system stopped working
    – the suspension needs a refresh
    – the rims have curb rashes and the tires have small tears (I have a set of Pirellis that are supposed to last 100k miles)
    – there is a rust spot on the trunk
    – the steering wheel shimmies at 40 MPH

    Despite all this it’s driveable. However, I do plan on cutting down on, and eventually eliminating, driving as I slowly adopt the Alpha 2.0 lifestyle.

  11. I know these are ball park numbers but if your paying 250-300 for insurance, it might be a good idea to get some competing quotes. Comparatively, I pay just over $800 every 6 months for liability, Comprehensive, and 2k deductible through geico currently. My car isn’t a lexus, but it’s a sporty 2017 model in mid 20k value range. Not trying to nitpick, but that number really jumped out at me and hope you aren’t overpaying.

  12. If you dont use your car much, maybe these alternatives can be implemented prior to not having one:
    -sell your car and get a much cheaper one.
    -do not pay insurance while its idle in the garage for longer than a month (some insurance companies provide week-long services)
    -pay minimum maintenance.. and if your car is cheaper, spare parts Will be too.

    Thus, youll have a car just for emergencies

  13. It is often estimated that in near future almost no one will own a car anymore since it will not make sense and will be only for hardcore old school guys or collectors.

    I agree with this.

    If where/how you live requires you to use a car and you can’t get rides from other people for free, you can really cut down on your automotive expenses by driving a fully paid-off 15-20 year beater car.

    – You’re not factoring in repair costs into your monthly estimates, just regular maintenance. I put a new transmission into my (older) car a few years ago. Cost? $4200.

    – I agree that’s probably one of the least expensive ways to own a car. My issue isn’t just cost, but time management. I want to be able to use travel time to work, which means I want someone else to do the driving.

    I know these are ball park numbers but if your paying 250-300 for insurance, it might be a good idea to get some competing quotes.

    Even if I cut my car insurance in half, or even a third, it wouldn’t solve my core issues with owning a car.

    If you dont use your car much, maybe these alternatives can be implemented prior to not having one:
    -sell your car and get a much cheaper one.
    -do not pay insurance while its idle in the garage for longer than a month (some insurance companies provide week-long services)
    -pay minimum maintenance.. and if your car is cheaper, spare parts Will be too.

    Thus, youll have a car just for emergencies

    That’s a good idea for anyone who lives alone. PF’s car is my “car just for emergencies.”

    Do you plainly refuse to use public transportation at all, such as minivans, buses, tramway, city train ,etc…?

    No, but they won’t help me. Read the article and the comments above about me living in the suburbs rather than the city.

  14. BD, so doesn’t having someone drive you around pay for itself if you can whip out your laptop and earn some money, presumably more than what the driver demands?

    P. S. God bless cheap cities like the one where I live, where one can easily afford downtown rent and Uber to anywhere. God bless expensive cities that come with great public transit. Why would someone live in an expensive city with bad infrastructure is an open question though.

  15. BD, so doesn’t having someone drive you around pay for itself if you can whip out your laptop and earn some money, presumably more than what the driver demands?

    Yes, I believe so.

  16. I’m in the midst of figuring out the economics of this AND having a permanent residence here in the USA (I’m renting so it’s pretty easy for me to ditch my place when the time is right). Once I get out of permanent residence what does it look like? AirBnB, Airstream, couchsurfing.com? There are interesting possiblities.
    If you ever decide to do a post on the economics of that decision, what are the break-even and tipping points in terms of time away : time in country I’d be interested to see how you’re thinking about it.

  17. Yeah, I’m officially done with owning a car going into the 2020s.

    They’re passing a law in my state where you can get fined for texting and driving. Unbelievable.

    Our love affair with statism and the police state continues. lol.

  18. BD, I am 43 and I cant picture myself dating girls and having no car. Much less asking my fiancee to borrow her car to pick up another one. I believe it’s a topic for a new article, maybe at BD.com
    But if the answer is that PF agrees on that, then dude, you rock even more than I thought.

  19. Sorry, I assumed suburbs still have a few public transportation, albeit maybe somewhat impractical if you’re only walking, but since PF could drop you off… I was thinking this is a possible option in some occasions.

    So to be clear:
    City core
    Outer core
    Suburbs
    Outer Suburbs
    Rural
    The Boonies

    Does this means that in the USA, there is usually no public transportation whatsover in the “Suburbs”? Or there is still a few but inconvenient public transportation in the “Suburbs”?
    Or do you mean that you are in the “Outer Suburbs”?

    Sorry if this is seguing topic, I am still trying to make sense in my living environments, of this very interesting article in your other blog:
    https://blackdragonblog.com/2017/06/15/best-part-city-live-best-dating-effectiveness/

    Also since you are not plainly refusing public transportation, I guess there are still a
    few circumstances when you use it to go from 2 points whithin the city when you are already in there.

    When you move to Australia where do you plan to stay?
    City core
    Outer core
    Suburbs
    Outer Suburbs
    Rural
    The Boonies

  20. They’re passing a law in my state where you can get fined for texting and driving. Unbelievable.

    We have this law for over a decade. Also eating a sandwitch. I sold my car in 2013, felt a huge relief and freedom. Like a big burden and source of worries was lifted.

    I do love cars, and car racing is the only “sport” I somehow enjoy watching occasionaly. Also love racing video games. But it just doesn’t make much sense to rely on private car for main mode of transportation. And nowadays you have to drive like a robot anyways, driving became a purely frustrating experience from debilitating policing in my country.

    They even decreased the speed limits to even slower limits last year.

  21. BD, I am 43 and I cant picture myself dating girls and having no car.

    Millions of men, including men our age, date women with no car.

    Much less asking my fiancee to borrow her car to pick up another one. I believe it’s a topic for a new article, maybe at BD.com
    But if the answer is that PF agrees on that, then dude, you rock even more than I thought.

    I don’t plan on asking her that, but if I did and made my case, she would allow it. It’s just not something I would plan on doing in advance (or often).

    Sorry, I assumed suburbs still have a few public transportation, albeit maybe somewhat impractical if you’re only walking, but since PF could drop you off… I was thinking this is a possible option in some occasions.

    It’s not. There is no train/tram in the suburbs, and even if she was available to drop me off at the bus stop (and do I want to always rely on that? no) the bus ride would take two hours just to go downtown, one way, with multiple transfers. I know because some of my younger FBs have done it and have told me.

    Mass transit in the suburbs is not practical at all.

    Does this means that in the USA, there is usually no public transportation whatsover in the “Suburbs”?

    Correct, in any city. Unless you’re willing to sit on a bus for literally 3-5 hours a day and get rides to and from bus stops, and some low-income people do.

    Or there is still a few but inconvenient public transportation in the “Suburbs”? Or do you mean that you are in the “Outer Suburbs”?

    Suburbs and beyond.

    Also since you are not plainly refusing public transportation, I guess there are still a
    few circumstances when you use it to go from 2 points whithin the city when you are already in there.

    Correct, and I do that now, but the times I need that are very rare.

  22. BD,
    Because you said that you will outsource some driving to PF, does that mean that you will give her some money for the gas? I do this with my girlfriend too and I pay half of her gas fees.

  23. Because you said that you will outsource some driving to PF, does that mean that you will give her some money for the gas?

    We already have an arrangement that covers things like that, but the short answer is yes.

  24. I did this for about 7 years. In the suburbs of Long Island. So I know quite a lot about it. It wasn’t always easy, but the pros over ruled the cons for me at the time. The money saving aspect being supreme. I lived in a small populated town about 5 blocks from the main street where all your basic amenities were available; small grocery market, drug store, post office, deli, dry cleaner, pizza place, Chinese food etc-etc. Whenever I needed something I’d walk into town. It also wasn’t far from the bay marina either, so it was nice to just walk down and chill by the dock and water. This have-to daily exercise of walking everywhere does wonders for not only the body but mental clarity as well. The downside was when winter was rough. It was easy to isolate. And it can be frustrating not being able to just take off to wherever whenever you want to. The plus side was not seeing big money deductions in my monthly budget for car related expenses.

    That aside, whenever I really wanted or needed to venture beyond town I would arrange to borrow a car from a friend or sibling. Getting it from them the night before and returning it late the next night. I’d pre-plan everything I wanted to do down to the last detail and had a set schedule, which would usually involve getting up early and doing my various errands in the morning hours and then going to the mall to daygame woman in the afternoon and into the evening. About 25 miles from my home. Whatever “inventory” of potential dates I gathered then I’d work thereafter from my home base and those would have to last me until the next time I borrowed a car (which I would do once, maybe twice a month). All my dates were required to come to my neighborhood. The biggest con of not owning a car was just explaining to woman that I intentionally didn’t own a car and them being cool with it. As if there was something unmasculine about it to them. Obviously if you live in the city it’s the norm, but out in the burbs it’s a very strange thing.

    Since then I’m back to being a driver. I moved and my work required me to be more mobile. And while there are plenty of perks to that mobility, I still think back to that time often and would definitely consider going “car free” again somewhere down the road.

  25. Millions of men, including men our age, date women with no car.

    Can confirm. Plenty of women drive, so there’s that, and if you need to get a ride to a motel or back home, taxi/uber/lyft/etc. If a girl really wants to fuck you, your lack of a car won’t stop her. We have a saying here in Brazil that goes “mulher quando quer dar, não tem como segurar”, which roughly translates to “when women want to fuck, there’s no holding them back”. Also, there are plenty of parks and other public areas where you can get it on.

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