Did you all have a great weekend? I hope so! I didn’t accomplish as much as I’d hoped, but isn’t that the way it always goes. . .
One big task did get checked off the to-do list, though: I emptied out my car and took it for a hardcore cleaning. Why? Because I’m hoping to sell it by the end of the month.
While I love many things about my VW Passat Wagon (the “Waggin’ Wagon” as I liked to call it), it’s got over 115,000 miles on it and I have learned in the last few years that VWs are quite expensive to maintain, especially as you hit 100,000 miles.
Because I’m trying to save up as much money as possible in order to make a positive life change, I have been carefully running numbers and trying to figure out the most economical way for me to own a car. My dogs are old now, and don’t like to travel, so the wagon was no longer a necessity. When I recently learned that my car will need more than $2,000 in maintenance & repairs in the next few months, I spoke with a friend’s dad, I got a few opinions from older and wiser car pros whom I know. I came to the conclusion that the most economical move would be to buy a new Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla – or a barely used one. (Though get this: right now used cars are in lower supply, and facing higher demand, so it appears that with good negotiating I could score a brand new version for about the same price as a barely used one.)
First, I decided that I’d go ahead and sell my car, and put the money into savings. I’d take a few months to save up more, and figure out if I wanted to finance a new car with a hefty down payment, or buy an older with straight up cash. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I could make do living Car-Free in the Suburbs for a few months.
But the more I thought things through, the more I kept coming back to this one thought:
Cars are freakin’ expensive. The average American family spends something like 25% of their take-home pay on their vehicle. Why do we view being a two-car household as a necessity? Why have we stopped using public transportation?
If you rely on walking, biking, and public transportation, it’s true that you can’t be as impulsive. You can’t just run to Target on a whim. But you may save money, becuase how often do you see on Facebook a status like this: “I’m heading to Target. I only need toilet paper, but I never can leave there without spending $50.” What if you didn’t have that car? What if you had to bike or walk to the store for TP? I bet you’d find yourself saving a bunch of money, since you’d have to carry your loot home.
During all this thinking, I determined that I don’t WANT a new car. I don’t WANT to have car payments, I don’t WANT to plunk down thousands of dollars for a vehicle. And I don’t NEED to go to the store on a whim. I rather put that money in savings. And if I didn’t pay cash up front for a car, I’d be faced with a few years of car payments. And if I were to no longer be employed by a corporate job in the future, I wouldn’t want the responsibility of car payments.
So the new plan is to sell my car, put the money in the bank, and see how this car-free lifestyle works. I’m hoping to not have to buy a car at all. It’s considered a bit wacko these days to live car-free in the suburbs, but I’m thinking I can make it work.
What are the savings?
I ran the numbers. It appears that owning a car costs me about $600 a month. If I have a car payment, that’s about $300 a month. (If I have a used, older car, I should save $200 / month for the repair fund.) Gas? $200 / month. Insurance? $100 / month.
Add in the yearly taxes and fees, and that’s a couple hundred more.
So by not having a car, I’ll save $7,200. Of course, take about $1000 out for expected alternate transportation costs. Still, that’s a huge savings.
How will I get to work?
Ryan and I work for the same company. On the days that he and I work in the same building, we can carpool.
The W&OD Trail is an awesome paved bike trail that runs East/West across this part of the state. It passes right by my house, and if I can hop on it and bike 6 miles to the office. It literally passes right by the building. In the office gym there’s a shower, so I can get cleaned up and changed into work clothes. Sure, I’ll have to budget more time for commuting, but it’s free, and it’s good exercise.
This weekend I’m going to test the bike route to be sure I can do it. I’ve been biking around town and getting back in shape.
I’m also familiarizing myself with the bus routes. That’s good to know for the rainy days.
How will I get everywhere else?
I can bike around town. I can take the metro and the bus system, as well. I can borrow Ryan’s car, if need be, to run random errands on the weekends. I can take the train or bus to visit my BFFs in Richmond, and same for visiting my family in Delaware.
What does Ryan think?
I’m sure you can guess that Ryan was not loving this idea at first. My not having a car will definitely inconvenience him at least a little bit, some of the time. However, I asked him to view it this way. By agreeing to go along with this, and carpooling with me, it’s a way that he can help me build my emergency fund – with zero cost to himself.
I know that being car-free in the suburbs is not the American way, nor is it the easy way – but I am really excited to give it a shot. I’ll share the occasional update on how things are going.
And in the mean time, I’d love to know what you guys think. Have you ever considered being a one-car household? Or have you actually done it? Or do you think I’m nuts If so, that’s ok, I’m used to that reaction