Things are about to get serious in my efforts to get rid of everything I own. Even more serious than when I got rid of my Arrested Development DVDs (see title). I have mentioned it a couple times, mostly in the context of “I must be crazy, because I’m considering . . . ,” but I think I am finally ready to get rid of my car. The crazy part of it is that I live in California. Southern California. The suburbs. People own cars here.
Several friends have told me that I am the level-headed person they run their ideas by just to be sure they’re being reasonable. I have brought this up several times over the last couple years with the most reasonable people I know, and they usually start out thinking I’m crazy and then go on to give cautious approval after I answer all of their questions.
My biggest concerns: 1) Is this financially responsible? 2) Is this safe? 3) Is this just going to be a big pain?
My car has been paid off for so long that I sometimes think of driving as free, but I am still paying $90 a month for insurance, $30-50 a month for gas, $150-200 a year for registration, and then more on top of all of that for maintenance. Driving is not free! Not having a car won’t be free either, and it’s hard to predict all of the costs involved, but I think I will either come out ahead or break even.
This might seem like a strange question: is it safe? But I live 1,000+ miles away from all of my family, and I have some great friends in California, but I don’t feel comfortable relying on them. I am so used to having a car and all the independence that comes with it that I worry a bit about giving that up. I feel a bit more vulnerable walking everywhere and being at the mercy of other people than I do in my own little Civic. But, my car is old and possibly not that safe itself, so I’m not sure it’s really saving me from anything.
I’ve had my own car since I was 17, so I would say I am pretty used to the convenience of it. If I am not saving a great deal of money and losing convenience, am I just going to find out after it’s too late that living without a car is annoying and not worth it? I am not out to torture myself on principle here! That’s why I have been slowly preparing myself for this for more than a year now, walking everywhere and going without a car whenever possible.
Now that I have listed the potential problems, I suppose I should say why I want to get rid of my car. Perhaps the biggest is that my car is old and I don’t trust it. I have had a series of problems with it over the last three years that have made me kind of paranoid driving it, even though it should be fine now. I like to drive, but I find the responsibility of owning a car burdensome, and the idea of being free of that responsibility is really appealing.
I live in a really walkable little city where it is totally possible to live without a car. There is a Trader Joe’s two blocks away, restaurants and shops and a movie theater a little bit further, work and school right here, and it is all safe to walk. When I first moved here, I would still drive almost everywhere, but over the years I have gotten into the habit of walking whenever I can. It takes a little more time, but I really prefer it.
That impulse toward minimalism is really strong, and my car is the biggest thing that I own. I keep thinking, “I moved here by myself with only what I could fit in that car, and now I’m trying to get rid of the car itself!” Whatever my future looks like, I like the idea of not being attached to this aging piece of metal from the 90s. Sometimes I question why I want so much to be free of these things, because I think there is a value to being embedded in and committed to a place, but I really like the idea of packing up my books and nail polish and going anywhere!
While I have gotten in the habit of walking everywhere, for the last year or so, I have still used my car to go grocery shopping (and Target shopping, of course) once a week, and then randomly to meet friends who live further away or attend events in LA. I still have some need for a car, but lucky me, ZipCar is on campus. It’s nice that I can drive a car much nicer than mine, and I don’t have to be responsible for it. I think it would actually be sad for this West Coaster not to drive at all.
Knowing myself quite well, I think that this is a thing I am really doing. But Nicole, who has patiently answered all of my No Car questions over the last year, suggested that I go a month without using my car before making a decision. So that’s what I’m doing this June. 13 days in and no problems so far!