The Pros & Cons of Living Without A Car

March 19, 2023

When trying to make our money stretch further, we often tend to focus on eliminating small, day-to-day purchases. We limit our spending in categories like entertainment, clothing, and focus on whittling down our grocery budget – maybe opting for those regular strawberries instead of the organic ones. All of those choices will help, but it’s also important not to neglect the larger decisions in your life, like living without a car.

Getting a few of the big things right can make it easier overall to save more money and build wealth for the future! 

One of the biggest line items in most of our budgets is transportation. So it’s important to think critically about the way we spend in this category. Most of us assume that we need a car, but sometimes that’s not the case. Having your own personal two-ton hunk of metal certainly isn’t mandatory. In fact, sometimes getting that gas-guzzling behemoth out of your driveway can have a tremendously positive effect on your finances, health, and happiness. 

Choosing to ditch one (or all) of your cars is a big decision to make. And whether or not it’s right for you depends on your individual situation. To help you weigh your options, we’ve organized a few pros and cons to take into consideration when deciding how to best handle transportation in your life.

The Pros of Living Without a Car

Let’s start with all the awesome things living without a car will bring to your life…

1. It Will Save You Money (A LOT!!)

According to AAA, the average American spends $9,282 to own a car each year. Between taxes, insurance and maintenance, owning a car can certainly make a big dent in your annual income. It’s typically our second highest budget category, so eliminating that expense from your life can certainly free up your money to be saved or invested

Let’s take a look at that number again… But now let’s calculate what it would look like if you invested $9,282 per year instead of spending it on a car.

At a modest 8% interest rate, $9,282 invested each year works out to be $134,377 after 10 years. After 20 years, the total is now $424,487. And after 30 years, it would grow to a whopping $1,050,815!!

It’s crazy to think about, but living without a car can put $1M back into your pocket. 🤯 Those savings are nothing to scoff at. 

2. It Can Simplify Your Life

It seems like it’s always the busiest week of the year that suddenly your check engine light pops on. Even if you take perfect care of your car, you’ll still have to deal with unexpected problems from time to time. And that’s in addition to annual maintenance necessities like tire changes, inspections, and oil changes.

These trips back-and-forth to the mechanic can eat up time in your week, and can muddy up your mental space. Also, in many cities, finding parking can be a major hassle. Some of my friends constantly move their car around from spot to spot, multiple times each day to avoid parking tickets.

Living without a car allows you to eliminate all of that hassle from your life. If you are a multi-car family, even just getting rid of one vehicle means significantly less vehicle-related headaches. 

3. It Can Make You Healthier

You may have heard someone say that “sitting is the new smoking.” It’s no secret that a sedentary lifestyle can bring on tons of health issues. 

Spending more time sitting in the car while commuting is never a good thing. Dropping one of your cars can encourage you to walk or bike to places nearby, which could totally replace or supplement your current exercise routine. You may even be able to cut your gym membership out of your life, saving you some additional cash. 

Ditching your car can also lead to mental health benefits. Many people report that their car commutes are one of the most stressful parts of the day. 

In the book, “Happy City,” author Charles Montgomery found that replacing an hour-long commute for a single person could increase their happiness to the same degree as finding a new love. It also showed that somebody with a long commute would have to be paid 40% more to be as satisfied with life as someone with a short commute. Increased happiness is a benefit you can’t simply put a price on!

4. You Can Downsize to One Nicer Vehicle 

This is for anyone with a multiple vehicle household. If you downsize and eliminate one of your cars, you have the option to opt for one nicer car. In some cases even a brand new car might be worth it. It’s still likely to be cheaper than owning two cars, and it comes with fewer headaches.

Of course we still recommend buying a used car with cash on hand. But only opting for one car can allow you to get something incredibly reliable that will give you fewer headaches. If you need help finding some affordable and reliable used car options, be sure to check out this episode for a list of some of the best options on the market.

5. Better For The Planet

One of the best things about ditching your car is that it’s better for the environment. Transportation accounts for 27% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, so every car off the road can be a step towards a better environmental future! 

Even if you don’t decide to eliminate a car from your life completely, just taking fewer trips by opting to walk or carpool can help make a difference. Did you know that 48% of all car trips are less than three miles long? Ditching your car for even just those trips will make a dramatic difference. You can rest well at night knowing you’re impacting the environment just that little bit less.

6. Feel More Connected To Your Community 

Another awesome benefit of living without a car is that it provides you with a lot of opportunities to feel more connected to your community. When we commute on our own, we are basically isolated inside our vehicles. That makes it hard to connect with our neighbors who are walking or biking as we zip by! 

Carpooling with neighbors or coworkers can lead to deepening relationships. And walking or biking provides us with lots of opportunities to strike up conversations with new people. Plus, opting for a technologically inferior mode of transportation makes it so much easier to discover new cool places in your community you may not have noticed while driving. 

7. Spend Less Of Your Time In Traffic 

Probably the best benefit of living without a car is saying goodbye to traffic! In 2018, the average U.S. driver spent 97 hours in traffic. That number can go up quite a bit if you live in a big city. 

Traffic is stressful, and that stress can create a strain on your mental health and your relationships. That’s why utilizing alternatives to soul-sucking traffic boxes (aka cars), like taking public transportation or biking can leave you feeling quite a bit happier!

Cons of Living Without a Car

Living without a car isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There can definitely be some difficulties when you make the transition from having your own vehicle to living car free. So here are a few downsides to consider before you take the plunge. 

1. It’s More Difficult In Certain Areas

If there are tons of miles between where you live and where you frequent, it can be significantly more difficult to live without a car. Rural areas without good access to public transportation are the most challenging places to ditch your car. 

Depending on the length of your commute, it could make sense to move closer to where you work to make it easier to access without a car. For example, if you commute over an hour to work each way and spend between $300-400 each month on gas, it may make sense to move closer, even if it’s a bit more expensive in that area. Those gas and maintenance savings could offset the decreased cost of fuel, and still save you time and money. It’s important to crunch those numbers to see if it could make sense for you. 

2. You Have To Deal With Some Annoyances

One thing we may take for granted about our cars is their ability to keep our temperature controlled! When walking or biking to work, you’re fully exposed to the elements. Be prepared to deal with rain or scalding temperatures from time to time. But here’s the thing, what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger!

A good way to prepare for inclement weather is to keep a spare set of clothes in your bag for those times when you get sweaty or damp on your commute. Also be sure to check the weather each morning so that you can plan accordingly and are never caught off guard.

You may also be subject to less than ideal timing. Living with fewer or no cars at all can mean dealing with train and bus delays, or getting dropped off early and having to kill time. However, we like to think of these as similar to the inconveniences of car emergencies. Having your check engine light come on can mean scrambling to find arrangements to get to work for a few days. It’s all about figuring out which inconveniences you would rather deal with. It’s always helpful to keep a book (or favorite podcast!) on hand. 

3. Requires extra planning 

If you want to go the countercultural route of being carless, it requires some extra planning. You may have to spend some time mapping out public transportation routes or planning carpools with friends an co-workers. 

One of the most frustrating things can be the loss of some of your spontaneity. It can be annoying to feel like you’ve lost some freedom of choice when it comes to making last minute plans. However, there are plenty of ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft that can come in handy when you want to go out on a whim! 

4. May Have To Use Ride Sharing Apps

If you want to go to Taco Bell at midnight to gorge yourself on chalupas (not advisable), you might have to make use of a ride sharing app if trains and buses aren’t running. While these apps are certainly not inexpensive, they can be useful in a pinch. Plus, even the liberal use of these apps could save you money vs. owning and maintaining your own ride.

Alternate Transportation Methods 

Let’s face it- if you ditch your car, you’ll need to pick one or more new methods of transportation to get from here to there in your everyday life. Here are a few ways to get around your city without a car. 


If you live pretty close to your usual haunts, walking is a great option for you. Walking for just 30 minutes a day can help to reduce your risk of tons of health issues. Like heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis! Best of all, it’s one hundred percent free. 

Pro tip: Check out Walk Score. It rates how walkable your city is, and you can learn about whether or not it’s possible to accomplish some of your errands on foot. 


Biking is another great way to knock out your workout and commute in one go. It’s great for your health, and gets you to your location a lot faster than walking. 

While a good bike can easily cost a few hundred dollars, it’s still likely cheaper than most cars. You can also check out the bikeability of your city using Walk Score as well. 

If your city has a lot of hills, or you’re just worried about getting too sweaty on your commute to work, you can also consider getting an electric bike, or “e-bike.” They’re all the rage these days, and for good reason. Check out these e-bike basics if you think they might be the answer for you!


If you live in a bigger city, chances are you have a strong public transportation system that you could utilize if you decide to start living without a car. Even smaller cities sometimes have a solid bus system that runs throughout the day. Plus, if you’re already using public transportation to avoid big city traffic, it’s even more of a reason to eliminate that car just sitting on the street or in your driveway. 

One of the best parts about taking the train or bus to work is that you don’t need to keep your eyes on the road. You can kick back and relax with a book or a movie. Or, bring your laptop and get some extra work done. The only downside is that these vehicles run on a schedule that you will have to adapt to. Be ready to put in a little extra time when planning your trips. 

Ridesharing Apps

We’ve already mentioned these, but if you need a last minute ride and can’t catch the bus, ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft can be a great backup plan. While they can be a little pricey, at least you can hail a ride when you need it. Thank you modern technology!

Rental Cars

If you love road trips and are worried about how you’ll get to your family vacations, rental cars could be the answer! You can get rental cars starting at around $25 per day. Whether you rent through the big rental car agencies (check Priceline first) or through individuals through a site like Turo, being able to snag a car for a few hours or a couple of days can help alleviate some of the difficulties that can come when you downsize your personal car fleet.

For the few weeks a year where you go on vacation, even paying for a rental car should still have you coming out on top. 

The Bottom Line: 

Living without a car does present some challenges, but the good news is that in many cases, all of these issues can be addressed with a little bit of planning. 

Whether or not to go carless is a decision that only you can make! You won’t go to HTM jail for deciding to keep your car. At the end of the day, we only want to challenge you to reconsider those seemingly “essential” costs in your life and decide for yourself whether or not the default path makes sense. Leave no stone unturned in your personal finance journey! 

If you’re looking to optimize your cars to fit your financial goals, be sure to check out these additional resources! 

Beer tasting notes:

During this episode we enjoyed a Ourison by Tired Hands Brewing! And as we’ve ramped up the podcast with an additional Friday episode every week, we could really use your help to spread the word. Hit the share button, subscribe if you’re not already a regular, and give us a quick review in Apple Podcasts. Help us to spread the word to get more people doing smart things with their money in these difficult times!

Best friends out!

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One comment on “The Pros & Cons of Living Without A Car

  1. EMERALD D Aug 25, 2020

    Hi Guys! Thank you for No car no problem podcast. My family of 4 live in the suburbs of Denver and we are totally fine with one car! I appreciate the honesty about there being no horror stories because I could not come up with one 🙂 You are right, planning is key. And we do use ride sharing for last minute changes to schedules. Thanks again!