Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens.
Americans have a love affair with cars. Cars symbolize freedom, wealth, and a carefree lifestyle. Consumer culture has created an illusion that we “need” cars. Rather that giving people freedom, cars saddle us with incredible debt, constrain life choices and hamper good health.
Going car-lite is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. Below are a few options to get you started.
1. Start small.
Selling our cars was part of our downsizing process and it was one of the best financial and health related decisions we’ve ever made. It took over two years to shed our cars and downsize our debt. So if you’re thinking of going car-lite, start small.
Micro-action: Leave your car in the garage for a week and do all your local errands by foot, bike or via public transit. Go for a test ride and see how you do.
2. Do a cost-benefit analysis.
Even if you’ve paid off your car, do you really know the true cost? According to “How to Live Well Without Owning a Car”:
- Americans spend 1/5 of their income on cars.
- An American Automobile Association study pointed out that the average American spends $8,410 per year to own a vehicle. That’s $700 per month.
- The figure includes car payments, insurance, gas, oil, car washes, registration fees, taxes, parking, tools and repairs.
Car ownership is the second largest household expense in the U.S. According to Bikes at Work, Inc. “the average household spends almost as much on their cars as they do on food and health care combined for their entire family.” One of the best money saving strategies available to you is going car-lite.
Micro-action: Add up the true cost of your car(s). How much do you spend every year on car payments, maintenance, gas, insurance, etc.?
3. Consider your health.
The rates of active transportation have declined significantly in the U.S. People are more likely to jump into their car and drive 2 miles to the store, rather than walking or biking. As active transportation rates have declined “we’ve seen a dramatic increase in childhood obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and other health risks. In fact, our children may be the first generation to have a shorter lifespan than their parents.”
Micro-action: Think about how much time you spend sitting everyday. Can you change this behavior by biking or walking more?
4. Going car-lite with kids.
Going car-lite with kids is challenging. But don’t let that stop you. There are many people who have gone car-free or car-lite with kids and rave about the benefits.
- You don’t have to spend $5,000 on a bike to get around safely. There is an abundance of family cargo bikes, child seats, and trailer options to consider. Totcycle.com is a great place to start poking around and exploring options.
- Don’t forget to connect with parents who have gone car-lite or car-free. Ask questions about bikes, gear, challenges and successes.
5. Go multi-modal.
Biking isn’t the only way to get around without a car. Consider taking the bus, train, or walking to your destination. Taking a multi-modal approach to transportation is a great solution and will make your life a lot easier. For instance, on days when it’s pouring rain or snowing you can take the bus.
Micro-action: Research the types of public transportation options in your home town.
6. Truly experience your city by walking and biking.
You don’t have to travel the world to go on an adventure. There are adventure opportunities waiting in your backyard. Going car-lite is an amazing way to see your city in a new light.
For instance, as a result of selling my car(s) my world view has shifted. Rather than rushing from place to place, I slow down and observe my surroundings, patronize local business and say hi to my neighbors.
By biking and walking your city, you can truly experience it.
Micro-action: Tour your city by foot or by bike.
7. Get connected to your local community.
The U.S. has seen a resurgence in cycling. As gas prices continue to rise, new community groups have been founded in cities across the U.S. So get plugged into your local community. If your community doesn’t have an organization devoted to cycling, maybe you should start one?
Going car-lite or car-free is possible. Changing my transportation choices has been large part of my simple living journey and it’s improved my life for the better. I’m happier, healthier and finally have a savings account.