Author Topic: Should I go car-free? - Update: SOLD IT!!  (Read 8688 times)

TwoWheels

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Should I go car-free? - Update: SOLD IT!!
« on: October 27, 2012, 06:02:37 PM »
Hello everyone! I'm in the midst of a difficult decision and would appreciate your advice.

When I graduated from college last year, my parents gave me their old 2004 Chrysler 300M - it was formerly my dad's company car and they were able to purchase it from the company for cheap. While I was extremely grateful, that car has been a money pit since my dad got it so I figured I would have to sell it within a year or two and get something more reliable (not to mention fuel efficient - it gets 16 mpg city, 25 highway). In April of this year when I discovered Mustachianism, my desire to sell it became much stronger!

Problem is, I am busy as hell, and after months of procrastinating, it finally had some major problems. I had to put about $700 into it this month. It was an expensive lesson about making time for important things no matter how busy you get. If I had sold it months ago, I wouldn't be dealing with this now.

But this got me thinking. I would have dearly loved to make those vehicle repairs myself, but I'm 1) just too busy and 2) living in an apartment that won't allow me to do car repairs on the property (bullshit? yes). And I despise being at the mercy of car repair shops that charge $200 to install a $40 part. If I get another car, I would have a more reliable vehicle but the possibility of expensive repairs would still be ever-present (frankly, the reliability data on the allegedly most reliable used cars - example - makes me very nervous). Bottom line: until it's practical for me to do my own car repairs (i.e., when I own a house), I don't like the idea of owning a car.

Some logistical details:
- I already use my bicycle to get around whenever I can (work, errands, friends' houses...) I've been getting my groceries with a bike trailer for months. Winter is coming, and it gets pretty snowy here in Wisconsin, but I'm pretty sure I'll be fine.
- I have a motorcycle and a scooter. The scooter is from when I was a student and too wimpy to ride a bicycle, and the motorcycle ($6k) was a graduation present to my old pre-Mustachian self. :P I have no intention of selling it though - I love bikes! (Can you tell why I picked this username? lol)
- My parents live about 100 miles away. I like going to visit them at least once a month; I'm probably going to be moving far away next fall and don't want to skimp on family time while they're still within a reasonable distance. When the weather is favorable, I can ride my motorcycle there. When it's not (November through early April) there is a bus that will take me most of the way there for $20 each way.
- My job sometimes requires me to go to another office 8 miles away. There's a bus, but the schedule sucks (only runs early in the morning and late in the afternoon). It's a reasonable biking distance, though it would be kind of awkward to bike there and back in the middle of the work day.

Why I'm nervous about going car-free:
- The round trip to see my parents is $40 by bus, vs. about $20 in a fuel-efficient car. But that's only considering the fuel cost - I realize I should probably be considering depreciation too, but it's tough to estimate that.
- As I mentioned, I'm moving away next year. At that point I'll need to reevaluate whether to buy a car. If I decide to buy one, I'll have ended up buying a car and still spent hundreds of dollars on bus tickets, which seems like a net loss to me. But that's assuming I buy a car, which brings up another question: is it more economical to fly halfway across the country twice a year or to drive? (My girlfriend and I will probably both be students, so we'll want to go home for winter and summer break.) Also, we'll likely be moving to a major city (Boston and Chicago are high on the list). Would owning a car be more of a liability, something I'll have to throw money at just for the privilege of parking it somewhere?
- I get cold feet when I think about giving up total autonomy of travel - being chained to a bus schedule - when the weather doesn't permit motorcycling. But on the other hand, owning a car makes me feel financially chained. When it breaks down, my wallet is at its mercy.
- I wonder if this is less a logical reaction and more an emotional one to spending $700 on fucking car repairs.

So what do you guys think? Sorry about the novel-length post, but I wanted to get all the details on the table. I'm torn about this. Thanks for your help!
« Last Edit: April 18, 2013, 08:31:53 AM by TwoWheels »

Tradies wife

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Re: Should I go car-free?
« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2012, 01:40:31 AM »
Your not using it anyway, it sounds like it is just sucking money from your income.

You CAN get to your parents place by bus, $40 a trip maybe once a month is far less than what it would cost to run a car. And you CAN use your bike in good weather.

Job another office 8miles away. Ummm, my 5 year old just rode 4miles today. It hasn't impacted on her energy levels yet either..... I'm sure 8 miles is doable, and on a motor bike fairly easy I'd imagine.

When you do move to a major City, air travel is probably the way to go. Particularly if you are just starting out your working life, because you will want to spend time with your family not in a car. It's also worth pointing out that it would be more time efficient to fly, and you will probably only have so much annual leave.

I think you can go CAR FREE! It's eating up your resources, and not just that $700 mechanic issue. But I'm gathering that you can ditch insurance, registration, fuel costs, cost of tyres and services and depreciation as well. Ok, that is what we have to pay to keep a car on the road. Not sure if you have the same costs where you live.

Since it is your parents car, I'd probably offer them how ever much money selling the car would bring in. After all, they may not approve of giving you something for you to just sell it. I'd kind of be worried that they would see me as an ungrateful child if I were to pocket the $, if I were in that situation. But that is me, and your situation may be completely different. 

MacGyverIt

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Re: Should I go car-free?
« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2012, 02:07:26 AM »
Do you have to carry insurance on both motor bikes in addition to the car?

ashem

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Re: Should I go car-free?
« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2012, 06:35:34 AM »
How much money do you think you'll make if you sell it? You could always sell it, put the money aside, and spend it on a more fuel efficient vehicle if you decide you can't get through the winter without a car. You definitely won't need or want a car in Chicago or Boston.

Bakari

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Re: Should I go car-free?
« Reply #4 on: October 28, 2012, 06:55:44 AM »
What sort of bad weather or we talking?  Heavy rain?  Light snow?  What kind of motorcycle?
Why couldn't you ride it, with warm clothing and a waterproof shell, plus plenty of reflective tape on bike, helmet and jacket and some auxiliary lighting to compensate for lower visibility?
I had only a motorcycle for years, rode it 50 miles each way to work, all year, rain or shine, and it felt normal pretty quickly.  You do have to be extra careful, yes, but then, you should always be extra careful on a motorcycle.  Or any time you drive.  Moderate speed and large following distance, and unless you have lots of black ice on the roads you travel, and it should be about as safe as driving a car would be.  Most of the reason motorcyclists have a higher accident rate is because most motorcyclists drive recklessly, not anything inherent to bikes.

Trying to navigate Boston streets was the worst driving experience I ever had.
Went down one street at the end of which was a DO NOT ENTER straight ahead, a ONE WAY to the left, and physically blocked off to the right.  Only legal option would have been to make a U-turn, but I was driving a 25ft motorhome.
Later same day, couldn't find an address, turned out the street ended abruptly, then picked up again later on the other side of some train tracks - but offset by about a 1/2 mile.  Later still, some highway workers flagged us down, said RVs weren't allowed in the tunnel, offered to help us turn around, kept waving me on to back up a little further until after my bike on the rack on the back hit a wall, bending the frame.  True story.  Boston.  Grrrrrr.

Anyway, since the option isn't just bus or driving the car, its bus or OWNING the car, you have to factor in ALL car costs: depreciation, insurance, registration, gas, tires, oil, repairs, parking - and then divide the cost by the likely miles traveled.
And the cheapest way to cross the country is ridesharing.

TwoWheels

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Re: Should I go car-free?
« Reply #5 on: October 28, 2012, 10:32:52 AM »
Thanks everyone for the thoughtful replies.

Quote from: Bakari
What sort of bad weather or we talking?  Heavy rain?  Light snow?  What kind of motorcycle?
Why couldn't you ride it, with warm clothing and a waterproof shell, plus plenty of reflective tape on bike, helmet and jacket and some auxiliary lighting to compensate for lower visibility?
I had only a motorcycle for years, rode it 50 miles each way to work, all year, rain or shine, and it felt normal pretty quickly.  You do have to be extra careful, yes, but then, you should always be extra careful on a motorcycle.  Or any time you drive.  Moderate speed and large following distance, and unless you have lots of black ice on the roads you travel, and it should be about as safe as driving a car would be.  Most of the reason motorcyclists have a higher accident rate is because most motorcyclists drive recklessly, not anything inherent to bikes.

It snows heavily here in the winter and temperatures regularly drop below 10 degrees F. The real problem, though, is that the city does a terrible job of plowing the streets. They plow away the bulk of the snow but often leave behind a layer that becomes bumpy and icy. Although I was a diehard scooter rider when I was a student (I used the scooter all winter and fell several times), I wouldn't dream of taking out my motorcycle when the roads aren't clear, just because it's faster, twice the weight, and has a higher center of gravity.

However, you're probably right that I can use it more often than I do. I'll look into getting some warmer gear for when it's cold and the conditions aren't too dangerous. My motorcycle is a Kawasaki Ninja 650r. Not the most comfortable bike but man is it fun!

I can't believe I didn't think of car insurance too. I'm paying $214/year for insurance (Geico) and registration is $75/year. My motorcycle insurance is $237/year and registration is $22.50/year. The scooter is currently uninsured - when its insurance expired a few months ago, I didn't bother renewing it because I hadn't been using it (not much point when you can ride a bicycle). I'm probably not going to sell it though; it has a lot of sentimental value to me, I'd be lucky to get $500 for it, and fixing it up has been (and will continue to be) a great introduction to doing my own vehicle repairs.

Quote from: Bakari
Trying to navigate Boston streets was the worst driving experience I ever had.

Yeah it really is a nightmare. I spent a summer there doing an internship, and I can't tell you how many times I walked past ridiculous traffic jams. Trying to drive an RV there would be awful!

Quote from: Ashem
How much money do you think you'll make if you sell it?

Probably about $3000.

Job another office 8miles away. Ummm, my 5 year old just rode 4miles today. It hasn't impacted on her energy levels yet either..... I'm sure 8 miles is doable, and on a motor bike fairly easy I'd imagine.

Heh...yeah, I'll stop being a wimp.

When you do move to a major City, air travel is probably the way to go. Particularly if you are just starting out your working life, because you will want to spend time with your family not in a car. It's also worth pointing out that it would be more time efficient to fly, and you will probably only have so much annual leave.

Good point.

Since it is your parents car, I'd probably offer them how ever much money selling the car would bring in. After all, they may not approve of giving you something for you to just sell it. I'd kind of be worried that they would see me as an ungrateful child if I were to pocket the $, if I were in that situation. But that is me, and your situation may be completely different.

Great idea, I think I will offer them the money. My parents are pretty much the most generous people ever, though - I'm fairly sure I know what they'll say.

Sounds to me like I should ditch the car!! My doubt probably comes mostly from growing up with the idea that a car is just something you need.

sibamor

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Re: Should I go car-free?
« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2012, 11:04:06 AM »
Try it out for a month.  It's late in the year so you attempt the cold weather biking and assess.  Don't touch the car for a whole month and see if you can hack the new lifestyle.  If you can, then sell the car in December.

Catbert

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Re: Should I go car-free?
« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2012, 12:30:52 PM »
Keep in mind that you can rent a car for those monthly trips home.  When I go on vacation I frequently get a car on Priceline for $20 or less a day.  Hmmm...not sure if your motorcycle insurance would cover a rental car in the event of an accident.  You can always get another car if winter and family travel are just too hard/expensive without one.

Captain and Mrs Slow

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Re: Should I go car-free?
« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2012, 01:00:29 PM »
reminds me of a student was excited to be given a free car, problem is she told me, is free cars cost a ton of money, like yourself her "free car" needed a lot of repairs. So yes if you can do without a car you can save a ton of money

Bakari, check out airportrentalcars.com they offer 10 dollar a day car rental insurance, about half the cost of what you pay at the counter. 

TwoWheels

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Re: Should I go car-free?
« Reply #9 on: October 28, 2012, 10:32:21 PM »
I'm under 25, though, so I would probably have to pay a substantial daily surcharge to rent a car.

Bakari

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Re: Should I go car-free?
« Reply #10 on: October 29, 2012, 08:40:53 AM »
Bakari, check out airportrentalcars.com they offer 10 dollar a day car rental insurance, about half the cost of what you pay at the counter.

I think you have the wrong person?  As much as I like to point out how unnecessary cars are, there are actually 3 motor vehicles in my household - my (30mpg, biodiesel powered) work truck, my (65mpg 250cc) motorcycle, and my girlfriend's Matrix.  I used to rent occasionally, when I only had bicycles, but not in many years.

I'm under 25, though, so I would probably have to pay a substantial daily surcharge to rent a car.

True, but it still may be worth it.  Crunch the numbers before you discount that option.

TwoWheels

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Re: Should I go car-free?
« Reply #11 on: November 01, 2012, 10:20:50 PM »
I mentioned this idea to my parents the other day. Their first reaction was "ARE YOU NUTS???" But they calmed down after 15 minutes or so. I think they're on my side now.

I'm going to hang on to it for another month. If I do fine without it (a near certainty), I'll get rid of it in December.

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Re: Should I go car-free?
« Reply #12 on: November 02, 2012, 12:05:05 AM »
Hi What a great idea - not touching the car for a month to see how you go.  We've reduced our car use substantially with this attitude (and reduced the insurance and petrol costs).  I bike to work and back (7.8m) and my son walks to school (700m).  On the weekends I get the groceries with my bike and only use the car for groceries if my son doesn't feel like riding (he's young).  We live close to smaller shops.  The only requirement is to factor in the longer time it takes to get around under your own steam (I really enjoy it as a nice break to the fast pace of life!) But riding past the cars "parked" in the middle of the road in peak rush times, blows any disadvantages re time out of the water.   I can see you were wondering about depreciation.  If you use straight line depreciation you need to know the original cost of the car when purchased new, its residual value (ie how much you will get on disposal) and its useful life.  The formula is:

straight line depreciation = cost less residual value/useful life

This will give you the annual depreciation expense.

Enjoy your month without the car :)

liquidbanana

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Re: Should I go car-free?
« Reply #13 on: November 02, 2012, 05:12:38 AM »
I say...do it.

You are young. If there is ever a time to just let go of a vehicle and go carfree, it is now.

You can always rent a car and the price will still be better than the repair bills you are paying.


frompa

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Re: Should I go car-free?
« Reply #14 on: November 03, 2012, 03:43:37 PM »
I've lived in Boston, and other cities, and I don't recommend car ownership.  Parking is a pain, driving is insufferably inefficient, and the T and buses and you bike are far easier, on your psyche, your body, and your wallet. I found public transit plus bicycle to be ideal.
As for where you are right now, I don't know whether you live in an urban area, but in some of the cities near where I live, there exist short term (i.e., by the hour) car rental outfits, like Zipcar.  This gives you another option, should you take the plunge and go car free.  Another possibility is to make an arrangement with a car-owning friend, so that you can borrow his or her car for a reasonable fee plus you cover the gas used, should you need it once or twice a month.  The friend might appreciate the chance to earn some cash when his or her car is otherwise idle. With this back up, I think you'll find going car-free a workable experience. 

sol

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Re: Should I go car-free?
« Reply #15 on: November 03, 2012, 04:40:49 PM »
I went through this process last year, and decided to park it for a month as a dry run before actually selling it.  Three months later it was covered in leaves and the battery was dead and I had to pay money to fix it before I could sell it.  I should have just offloaded it up front.

If you're a reasonably fit person with no kids who is already used to bicycling, and live in an urban area, owning a car just seems ridiculous given how many car sharing programs there are these days.  Your first month's savings in gas and insurance money will buy some waterproof panniers, blinky lights, and a rain suit, if you live in wet climes.  Your second month will pay for an annual membership and fees for zipar or similar.   Any subsequent months without your car are pure profit.  Added physical fitness is purely a bonus.


momo27

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Re: Should I go car-free?
« Reply #16 on: November 04, 2012, 01:06:16 AM »
We went car-free 4+ years ago, amidst screams of terror from our families. We have two kids, the youngest was not quite a year old when we did this. Hands down, it was the best decision we've ever made. It took some adjusting, but we're happier, healthier and more financially sound that ever before.

So yeah, my vote is generally for going car-free.

Lina

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Re: Should I go car-free?
« Reply #17 on: November 04, 2012, 12:47:04 PM »
I sold my car this summer as I realized that I mostly used it to go to the store and to go swimming. I also used it to visit my parents and a couple other  trips. After doing the math I realized I could rent a car every weekend for less than the car cost me. I bought a bike instead. I don't like biking to the pool but if I have to choose between paying for the car or biking, I prefer biking. Most of the time it is much cheaper for me to rent a car instead of owning one. For the trip to my parents I think I will fly most of the times as it is more convenient and cheaper than renting if you stay more than one week.

capital

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Re: Should I go car-free?
« Reply #18 on: November 06, 2012, 12:09:39 PM »
If the roads are in bad shape in winter, studded bicycle tires are a good investment in safety. I found a good deal here:
http://www.wiggle.co.uk/schwalbe-marathon-winter-performance-rigid-road-tyre/
 (If you're in Madison, you can take trails most places, but there are fewer alternatives to the road in Milwaukee).

You'll probably want snow goggles & a bit of other gear if you're biking all winter in Wisconsin:
http://www.civiacycles.com/whattowear/
I remember biking in January when it was windy with temperatures in the teens. Any exposed skin burned, so cover up!

Chicago & Boston are both better cities to live car-free than anywhere in Wisconsin, with good-quality rail mass transit. Chicago has cheaper housing. Both are making good progress on bike infrastructure, too.

TwoWheels

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Re: Should I go car-free?
« Reply #19 on: November 06, 2012, 11:01:20 PM »
Thanks for the encouragement everyone! I'm getting really excited about the prospect of going without a car. I've been biking around in ~30 degree weather and it's great. Not uncomfortable at all.

Zipcar looks like a decent option for occasional hourly renting.

ehgee - I've thought about studded tires. My only concern is that they'll need to fit with my fenders, and they're already a really close fit. (I guess studded tires with a smaller diameter than my regular ones would be the answer then? I'd need to see if I could make that work with my brakes.) The tires on my bike are knobby, so I think I'll (carefully) give them a try and see how it goes. I'm in Madison, so I'll be able to experiment on the bike trails and not in traffic. I'm definitely going to be getting some snow goggles too. I already have a balaclava.
« Last Edit: November 06, 2012, 11:03:06 PM by TwoWheels »

jpwilliams

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Re: Should I go car-free?
« Reply #20 on: November 07, 2012, 09:48:06 AM »
Thanks for all the encouragement and helpful info everyone. I'm also considering going car-free. I ....

  • Live with a fiancÚ who has her own car
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  • Have an older car I've been wanting to sell that costs me about $1200 in insurance alone.

I like the idea of not touching the car for a month and seeing how it goes.

Side question: I rear-ended someone a week ago, and now I'm wondering whether to repair the car before trying to sell it. It would cost me a substantial amount. Has anyone here every purchased a damaged car?

Captain and Mrs Slow

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Re: Should I go car-free?
« Reply #21 on: November 29, 2012, 06:16:41 AM »
Bakari, check out airportrentalcars.com they offer 10 dollar a day car rental insurance, about half the cost of what you pay at the counter.

I think you have the wrong person? 

I'm under 25, though, so I would probably have to pay a substantial daily surcharge to rent a car.

True, but it still may be worth it.  Crunch the numbers before you discount that option.

yeah, must have had two windows open or something:):):) It was in response to someone asking if they should take the insurance when they rent a car.

BTW tried to remove the extra quotes but didn't work for some reason

capital

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Re: Should I go car-free?
« Reply #22 on: November 29, 2012, 08:32:42 AM »
Thanks for the encouragement everyone! I'm getting really excited about the prospect of going without a car. I've been biking around in ~30 degree weather and it's great. Not uncomfortable at all.

Zipcar looks like a decent option for occasional hourly renting.

ehgee - I've thought about studded tires. My only concern is that they'll need to fit with my fenders, and they're already a really close fit. (I guess studded tires with a smaller diameter than my regular ones would be the answer then? I'd need to see if I could make that work with my brakes.) The tires on my bike are knobby, so I think I'll (carefully) give them a try and see how it goes. I'm in Madison, so I'll be able to experiment on the bike trails and not in traffic. I'm definitely going to be getting some snow goggles too. I already have a balaclava.
If you're in Madison, riding all winter on the trails is lower risk-- if you hit some black ice, you'll go down, but nothing will hit you, at least. Studded tires let you avoid even that, which is worth it to me. Another thing to remember while winter biking is to prefer your rear brake, brake gradually, and just leave extra distance to stop, because locking your rear wheel is controllable (and lets you do sweet skidzzzz), while locking your front wheel makes you crash.

A lot of people who ride all winter in the northlands set up a winter beater out of a cheap old MTB to keep all the salty slush off their good bikes. The old rigid MTB's are practically free and have very good fender clearance. It looks like there are a bunch of nice ones available at the $100-$200 mark on Madison's Craigslist.

TwoWheels

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Re: Should I go car-free?
« Reply #23 on: April 18, 2013, 08:31:28 AM »
I DID IT!!

I sold my car on Craigslist! I ended up keeping it for a few more months because (long story short) I knew I would need to make some trips to other cities without much flexibility in my schedule. So I took a gamble, hoping nothing else would go wrong with it, and it paid off. Unfortunately, it turns out that there was another expensive problem waiting for me all this time: the catalytic converters needed to be replaced. >.< That was another $800...

It feels awesome giving up an expensive and unnecessary luxury. It'll be a few years at least before I even consider getting a car since I'm moving to Chicago this summer.

Russ

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Re: Should I go car-free? - Update: SOLD IT!!
« Reply #24 on: April 18, 2013, 08:53:12 AM »
Sweet! congratulations

James

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Re: Should I go car-free? - Update: SOLD IT!!
« Reply #25 on: April 18, 2013, 09:03:55 AM »
Very cool!  Congrats!!!