Car-free or not?

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Topic: Car-free or not?

General Discussion August 13, 2012 at 9:03 am

Car-free or not?

Y’all have helped me with some great advice so I thought I’d ask about my recent dilemma:
Should I go car free?  Here is some background info:
1.  I am currently registered in Md. so I will need to do the whole change over to DC to get parking permits.
2.  I live right near a metro stop and multiple bus lines.
3.  I walk everywhere (not a biker though) but dread the cold so I’m not sure what will happen come winter.
4.  I hate my car but I just put in a lot of money for brake work but it still needs a bit more.
5.  Not sure where to sell my car, how much to ask.  Just want some money but not a ton since I just want to sell it “as is”.
6.  I’ve always had a car and I have family about 3 hrs. away including a mom with some health issues so I like to have ready access to visit if needed.  Do car free people rent/borrow/hitch for longer distances?  It’s not in an area with public transit ):
I am so torn but at the same time the thought of not having to deal with my car seems like such a lovely idea (:
Thanks again for any and all advice!

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I’d go for it. When I moved to DC, I decided to give up my car. Now, between Bikeshare, Zipcar, car2go, and Uber, I can’t imagine why I’d need a car in DC anymore. For longer distance trips or weekend trips, we just rent cars from National Airport every now and then. Depending on the season and other factors, it’s sometime as cheap as $15/day. There is also Zipcar overnight ($40 flat rate from 6:30pm to 8:00am the next day). Even when it feels like I’m overusing Uber and car2go, it’s still cheaper than owning. Plus, in many ways, using Bikeshare and car2go feels more convenient than having my own car. They are everywhere.


To me, it depends on whether you have parking readily available.  For me, that was the tipping point between whether it was easier/less stressful to own a car than to use zipcar, etc.  Using zipcar, etc, is stressful, because you always need to take availability, return times, etc into account.  Owning a car where parking is difficult is stressful — when I lived in Dupont, I could easily spend 40+ minutes searching for a street spot.

Selling a car – try carmax. They’re relatively hassle free.

As for deciding to go car free, calculate how much you’re spending on the car per year, and divide by the number of days you actually need it (e.g., trips). That can tell you roughly whether you’re better off renting for this few trips.

I’m happy to be car-free.  Between zipcar and cars2go (and otherwise cabs and Uber), I can typically get where I need to go.  If you are not driving every day, you may spend less on those services than you do weekly on insurance, let alone gas. 
I do agree with the comment that zipcar can be annoying – but thats why cars2go makes a perfect complement.  One thing though – the prices JD quotes for the rental ($15/day), will typically be without insurance.  Also, while Zipcar’s flat overnight rate is reasonable, especially considering it includes gas, there is a maximum mileage per reservation before you have to start paying per mile.  Therefore, for far weekend trips, Zipcar may not be an ideal method.
Overall, I’ve been very happy to be car-free.  I think the two things tough without a car is visiting my friends in Virginia and taking random day-trips.

I moved to DC in 2004 with a car and ended up selling it about nine months after my arrival.  I don’t miss it.  I ride a bike when I’m traveling in the city alone.  My wife and I walk and use Uber, regular cabs, bus and Metro getting around the DC area together (she doesn’t bike).  And I rent a car from a national chain and Union Station when I want to head out of town to visit family/friends.  I have a Zipcar account, but rarely use it.  Regarding regular rental cars, most credit cards include rental car insurrance if you rent the car on that card (check your card service agreement), which will cover damage to the rental card, but I usually buy supplemental liablity from the car rental company to cover my personal assets ($10-$14/day).  I looked into a non-owner policy, but it was way more than $200/year (more like $400).  JD, what company do you have your non-owner policy from?


Go car free. I moved here 7 years ago, and lasted 3 weeks with my car in Adams Morgan. I definitely do not miss it and can’t imagine having the hassle of the car now! (similar to you – i had to put $700 into it a few weeks before the move).
I get cold very easily, but I do not have trouble with winters here, as long as you are not waiting for the bus for too long. If you are walking, you are keeping yourself warm. 
My bf and I have bikes, capital bike share for emergencies, and zipcar. But honesly I walk or use the bus most of the time, I use the metro only a few times per month. We do rent cars from Bethesda, Union Station or National airport for weekend trips sometimes. And we just use car insurance on our credit cards. 
One more plug for zipcar – it’s amazing to have options to rent different cars vs being stuck with the one you have. I have rented pick up trucks for my craigslist furniture purchases, bigger cars for Ikea trips to fit everything inside, and your regular 2 doors for trips to the burbs.

I sold my car in 1991 and haven’t driven one since (I keep up the drivers license for ID). Re the cold, silk long johns and glove liners make waiting the bus and walking no problem.

I am a car owner, so I will put in another perspective for owning a car.  You should definitely take into account the costs of owning a car, but should also consider the lifestyle you intend to have in the near future.
If your mom’s health is such that you anticipate multiple trips to see her every couple of months, and you are not sure when these are going to occur, a car may be a good thing to have, as you will also have the flexibility to leave right away, as opposed to having to pick up a zip car (not sure where you live).  Also, if you intend to get pets, you may have emergency trips to the vet.  These can be done with a taxi or a zip car, as well, just saying there is a delay in having to wait (and if your animals aren’t spastic like mine are, this may not be a big concern).  Again, all of htis can be done, it just takes more planning without a car, so if the freedom to be spontaneous matters to you, a car is a nice thing.  


I’d say ditch the car. We’ve lived here I think it’s seven years now without one and we do zipcar when we need them, cabs from the grocery store, and a rental for the weekend from National Airport now and again (eg for a hike or a wedding in West Virginia or a weekend full of grocery/costco/Ikea etc). We had a car for a few months here years ago and between parking, insurance, car payments, maintenance costs etc, we added it all up. Bottom line: we could have rented a car every weekend, taken cabs from all the grocery trips and dinner out with friends, and done zipcar twice a week for a couple hours, we were nowhere near spending the money on our own car.

Do you have a friend or somewhere that you could temporarily leave your car?  When I was trying to decide whether to go car free or not, I parked my car at the garage at my office and pretended like I didn’t have it for a a few months.  I ultimately decided to keep it but I still rarely use it (I bought it new in 1999 and have put 45,000 miles on it in 13 years).  I don’t have any parking costs or a car payment and insurance is less than I was paying during my experiment to use zip car or cabs on the few occasions that I needed to.  There are months that I don’t drive at all and months when I drive more.  But it sure is nice to be able to take a spontaneous ride or to visit friends who aren’t metro accessible.

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