My Car Free Life (so far)

The last 3 months I have been living a car free life.  I first explored the cost of owning a car when my parents needed their car back.

Since giving my parent’s back their car in early January, I’ve been taking public transportation or walking for all my usual tasks, which include:

  • Getting to and from work;
  • Getting to and from volleyball games
  • Grocery shopping;
  • Visiting BF downtown; and
  • Visiting my parents out in the suburbs.

I also car pooled (read: got rides) from friends to the nearest subway stops or to my destination (if it was along their way), whenever it was convenient for them.

Thoughts on Being Car Free

Perhaps I could have picked a better season to dive into this “car free” business, but life happens :).

Initially, I dreaded the thought of walking to and from the bus, and sit through traffic as the bus stopped at every. single. stop.  Or I would dread when I missed a bus/train and trigger the domino effect or messing up the meticulous planned travel itinerary.  But it wasn’t that bad!

Sure, there was that 3.5 hour commute from Hamilton to Toronto on a Sunday after a no-show city bus, which lead to me missing the GO train (domino effect in full effect here).

30 minutes to work

On average, I took about 30 minutes to get to work, including walking to and from the bus stop (about 700m).  The bus comes pretty often during rush hour, most of the time, and the bus ride itself is only about 20 minutes.

On the other hand, if I were to drive, I would take about 15 minutes.  In the winter, it would take  me an extra 5 minutes to clean off all the snow from the car, so this is definitely a win.

Planning Ahead

If I was going to volleyball after work, I would have need to make sure I packed my gym clothes.  If I was going to stay at BF’s that night, I make sure I bring an extra lunch for the next day.  If I was expecting to stay late, I try to bring a dinner, as well.

I’ve learned to pack a small make-up bag, and usually have that in my purse, just in case.

Sometimes, I find it overwhelming, having to think 2 – 4 days in advance and plan what  what I need to bring with me.  But, things have worked out pretty well, so far.

It’s Less Flexible Getting Around

I admit, it has been tedious getting to volleyball (50 min bus commute vs 25 min drive), and even more tedious getting to see my folks in the suburbs (2 hr bus commute vs 40 min drive).  Pain. Ful.

Instead of just picking something up on my way home, I either pick up my groceries on weekends or at the corner Italian grocery store.  Since I don’t have a Metro pass (I use tokens), it would cost me two fares to make a stop.


Living a car-free life is certainly do-able, especially in the city – and even where I live – at the outskirts.  Especially in the summers, walking and busing can be supplemented with biking for more exercise.   Living car-free requires planning, exercise and being patient.

Having said all that, I do miss having a car.  But even though I miss it, I have also accepted it and learned to deal with it.

If there was an opportunity where I can have a free car…  well, that’s a post for another day. 😉

What are your thoughts on being car-free?  What did you miss most about not having a car?


Photograph source


Filed under Car, Public Transit

15 responses to “My Car Free Life (so far)

  1. I love not having to pay for a car, but I hate being without one. So many parts of the city are completely inaccessible to me and I have to say no to a lot of activities and events just because the commute is such a pain in the ass. I’m definitely approaching the point where I’m willing to part with the cash to enjoy the benefits of owning a vehicle.. I think maybe in another year.

  2. I have lived in Toronto all my life and have quite gotten used to taking public trasportation. When I went to high school I didn’t go to the “feeder” high school that I could walk to, I decided to go to an Arts school that I had to take 2 buses to get to, then there was University where I was going downtown everyday (bus plus 2 subways) and going to work after school (another subway) and home again (2 subways plus bus at 11:30pm-12:00 am). Even though the TTC (Toronto’s public transportation system) is not the best public transportation system in the world, it still gets me where I need to go in (usually) a reasonable amount of time.

    So, now I’m 30 and I don’t even have my driver’s license! I don’t see me owning a car for the foreseeable future (maybe when I have kids). It certainly allows me to pay off a lot more debt than I would be able to have a car and I walk more than I would if I had one. The only downside is that it takes me an hour to get to work (downtown, bus and 2 subways) and an hour to get home. But for right now, its the right choice for me 🙂

    For you, if you can get a free car, it may be worth it to only use it on days you absolutely need to. If it takes you 1 bus and half an hour to get to work, you probably don’t need it for those days, leave it at home. But when going to volleyball and visting your parents, it may be well worth it.

    Good luck 🙂 Morgaine

  3. I’m in the same city as hithatsmybike, and she’s 100% right about certain areas of town being inaccessible. I’ve been trying to make the transition from car dependant back to transit dependant so I could sell my car, but it’s been tough. The bus service to my house is kind of abysmal in the evening, and now I’m seeing someone on the opposite end of town. I think I’m going to be stuck with my 4 wheels for a while.

  4. i could never do that! i take 3 freeways to work and i go to 4 different gyms during the week lol. my car is also my shoe, jacket and everything closet! i applaud ur patience though, that is some dedicated and ur saving a lot of money. i am just glad i have my corolla since it saves a lot of gas compared to other cars.

  5. I don’t have a car of my own (share with T, but I practically never drive). But in this city you definitely need access to one! I have lived entirely without access to a vehicle before, and I blogged about here:

  6. Oh – I think the hardest is just not being able to go anywhere except the CBD. Road trip? Forgetaboutit (at the time basically none of my friends had cars and were too young to rent one). Beach trip? Head out bushside for a tramp? Nice try.

  7. Frugal Forties

    I have lived w/out a car (in a city with crappy public transportation) for 16 months now. I pick up my new (used, new to me) car on Monday.

    I will say that not having a car payment, not having to pay for gas, not having to worry about insurance or licensing or maintenance … all of that has been nice. And that’s about it.

    As with @hithatsmybike and @cassie above – there are parts of town that are 100% inaccessible to me. Certain hiking, riding, and running trails I simply cannot get to at all because there is no bus service. Commuting to work takes me 2 hours each way (for a total of 4+ hours a day, depending on the weather). I walk a mile from the train station to my office and another mile from the bus stop to my house. Great when the weather is lovely, but when it rains I get wet (soaked from the knees down even with an umbrella) and hot and sweaty in the summer. I can’t grocery shop except when I can borrow a car because the nearest grocery store is too far away to walk and the road is 2 lanes, narrow, with no shoulder/verge or sidewalk, and unsafe for a bike. I am at the mercy of the train/bus schedule which means I can’t leave for work before 6:30 a.m. (which means the earlist I can get to work is 8:30 a.m.) and if I stay late at work, my commute is even longer because the train to my part of town only runs every 30 mins after 7:30 p.m.

    I could go on and on and on and on. One of my biggest frustrations in reading a lot of PF blogs is that so many of the writers throw out “go without a car” as an option to save money – and many of them have never actually gone without a car, much less done it in an area where public transportation is not good. And when you point this out, many of them respond “well move closer into town / closer to work”. Just so frustrating!

  8. Ann

    I’ve been car free quite literally my whole life – my parents never owned one and I never got a license. So, buses and biking and walking and taxis are second-nature to me.

    We lived fairly centrally in a smallish city growing up, and my uber-frugal parents always said that if we had to go very far, paying for one taxi was cheaper than getting a car.

    There are some things that are harder to get to, but I think because I’ve always lived here car-free, my live has adapted around what’s easy to get to. It’s probably a much bigger adjustment going from having a car (and living that lifestyle) to not having one.

    Plus, biking and walking is super exercise (and free!) (apart from the cost of the bike)

  9. I’ve been wishing I could go car free. It’s not a reality – I live in a suburb of vancouver that has very little public transit. The transit that it does have takes about 3x the time it would take to drive. I’d also have to transfer 5+ busses/skytrains on my way to work/home. It’s just not realistic. If we have to move ever, I want to move closer to the city – or at least something on the transit. Ideally, I would get a job closer to my suburb – this is the most amazing place to live.

  10. Good for you for going car-less post having one. As you know, the Eye Candy and I bought our Mazda CX7 a few months ago and it has changed my life. When we moved in together, I was suddenly out of the downtown core which was ok for the most part as he would drive everywhere when we went together.

    But because I don’t drive standard, I was “stuck” 3-4 days a week when he was on the road for his sale job. It took more of an emotional toll on me as I always felt like I was rushing, dependent on the bus, and then frustrated with the squishy 45 minute commute to work when I used to be a 10 minute walk from my office during my single-girl days. I was like you planning 3-4 days in advance for my gym bags/lunches/etc and storing them at work.

    While my lease payment ($350/month) and gas (at least $100/month) is a signifcant bill, I don’t miss the stress of transat at all. I highly recommend having a great booklist going as zoning out into a good novel was the best way for me to make my commute time disappear.


  11. That is amazing! I’ve always wanted to try and see if I could survive without a car, but it’s not very possible where I live. A 30-minute commute to work using public transportation is still pretty good.

  12. I have never had a car, in fact I don’t even have my license and I’m 24! Although it’s inconvenient some times I’m happy not having a car because I walk everywhere and it’s my daily exercise!

  13. Like Ann, I’ve never driven – my dad drove when I was growing up (but it was far from being “Dad’s Taxi Service”) and my boyfriend drives (occasionally – maybe once a week) now but I’ve never relied on having access to a car and have always been happy using public transport.

    I’ve picked where I live – and where I’ve applied to work – very carefully to ensure it’s accessible by public transport. I currently mostly work from home but I teach one evening a week – it’s a 30 mins bus ride away but would take me at least 20 mins to drive it, and while I’m on the bus, I can read/play DS/crochet etc which I couldn’t do in a car. A train station is set to open about half a mile away from me next year – that’ll cut my once-a-week commute down to about 10mins each way — half the time it would take to drive! Public transport rules! 🙂

  14. Thank you everyone for your insightful comments!

    It has definitely been taking some getting used to, not having a car – it’s definitely much harder to go from having a car to not having one. I am in a fairly transit accessible area – and even I find myself inconvenienced and frustrated. Basically, I learned plan my day around how I am able to get somewhere.

    As many commenters pointed out, many PF blogs usually toot the “go without a car” horn, and sometimes, it’s just not feasible for many people.

  15. Pingback: A Free Car Costs me $2,900+ | fabulously fru-girl

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