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.