This is a weird post to write because I’ve actually never owned a car, so how could I compare car ownership to being car-less, right? My parents always had a car, but I hardly ever used it. Come to think of it, my parents hardly ever used their gas-guzzler themselves, so maybe the lack of love for Europe and America’s ultimate symbol of freedom has rubbed off on their favourite son – don’t worry, I’m their only male child and my sister is a much more likeable person.
Since getting my driver’s license I have maybe driven their family car four or five times. One time I almost scared my mother to death by going in reverse instead of driving forward when leaving our home after joking to her that I maybe forgot how to drive. Maybe my joke was lost on her or she didn’t think it was funny, but I made sure to not return until things had cooled off.
Anyway, living without a car is awesome and here’s why.
1. No traffic jams
When asked which city has the worst traffic worldwide you’d probably answer Paris, London, L.A. or New York, but you’d be dead-wrong. The number one congested city in the entire world is Brussels. Guess which city takes second place? Antwerp. You see, not only do Belgians love beer and chocolate, we’re also huge fans of idling our engines.
Sitting on your butt doing nothing in an enclosed space really doesn’t sound like something we should be doing day in day out, so that’s why I’m happy to say that traffic jams are a prerogative of the car owner. As an environmental stressor that impedes movement between two points, traffic jams are car commuters’ worst enemy. Nothing is more infuriating than not knowing when the cars in front of you will finally start moving again.
As someone who bikes everywhere, I can’t stress – geddit? – enough how fun it is to zip by lanes and lanes of stuck cars.
On top of that, biking, just like walking to places, keeps you healthy and your body in shape. What’s not to love about staying fit while not actively trying work out? Making a ten minute walk to the grocery store or peddling to your nearest friend’s home burns more calories than you’d think. By taking the almighty automobile you’re forgoing these little moments, which often leads to awful physical fitness or even excess weight.
Of course, even if you had a luxurious vehicle parked in your garage, you could still decide to take your trusty bike instead, but as is often the case, people are more likely to chose the easy way out. Not having a car at your disposal forces you to use your feet or your soon well-trained calves.
3. Enjoyable surroundings and environment
Walking and biking around town is not only healthy, it’s often plain good fun! You have no idea how many random things have happened to me while out and about in the city, things I’d never have seen behind the wheel. Because you’re moving much slower – unless you’re stuck in traffic, of course – there’s just more time to take in your environment. That awesome 18th century architectural building down the road? Not a single car user noticed it, just cyclists.
If you’re worried about our environment or at least the sustainability of earth’s resources, you’ll also be glad to know that not owning a car has a big impact on your environmental footprint. Mother Earth will be very grateful if you start cycling everywhere, trust me.
4. Time to catch up on reading
You know what’s awesome about public transportation? Not having to focus on the road! Bring your favourite book along for the ride and drift away in its post-apocalyptic steampunk setting if you want to. Or you could read up on your favourite personal finance blogs like I do.
Heck, I can even bring my trusty old Game Boy and enjoy some Super Mario Bros. on-the-go! What’s not to love about that? The beauty of busses and trains is that you are able to convert otherwise lost time into a productive or fun moment. Win-win.
5. Savings, tons of savings
Of course, as a personal finance blogger, I had to keep the best reason until last: savings. You have no idea how expensive car ownership is until you actually do the math. I’m saving at least €400 per month by not owning a car. That number is based on friends’ experiences and this online calculator for car ownership in Belgium. That’s 20% of my usual savings rate, whoa!
Say goodbye to taxes, insurance, rising gas prices, expensive maintenance and monthly interest payments for the less frugal ones among us. That’s lots of money and hassle saved just by dumping your car. How weird is it that you have to open up your wallet every ten minutes for a machine that is supposed to provide you with huge amounts of freedom?
When you consider that I make €12 an hour after taxes I’d have to slave away more than four days every single month for this so-called freedom. Let me tell you, I’d take the freedom of having €400 providing me with future passive income any day over a car. Would you do the same?
6. Bonus: public transport is an adventure
Honestly though, it’s not. Trains often run late. Busses get caught in traffic too. Missing your next train or being late for drinks just plain blows. As always, you win some, you lose some.
If lots of savings, better health, more time and overall increased happiness sound like things that you would like – let’s be honest, who doesn’t – then ditching your car is definitely for you. Walking, biking, taking the bus, or hopping on and off trains demand lifestyle changes, but they’re well worth it.
Don’t believe me?
Mr. Money Mustache, the father of badass frugality, is one of the biggest proponents of cycling. Just look at all the posts he’s written on proper bike use. Jason from Dividend Mantra, a proper frugalist according to what I’ve gathered from his articles, also went without a car for a long time while working at a car dealership. How crazy is that?
There you have it, five of the main reasons why I don’t own and most likely never will own a car. People are often baffled when I tell them that I don’t have a vehicle at my disposal, especially when they hear how much I make. To me it’s not just a question of money though, it’s the unnecessary hassle and a completely different lifestyle that draw me.
Having a car define my level of freedom like so many others around us do, makes no sense whatsoever to me. Contrary to what most people think it’s still quite easy to get around, either on your own or by using public transportation. The revitalizing feeling of cycling around town or in the great outdoors is something very few of us experience, yet is vastly superior to being stuck in yet another traffic jam.
How about you? Do you own a car or have you ever thought about living car-free? If owning a vehicle cost 20% of your monthly income would you still keep it around?