Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Numbers Are In

It's now been more than a year since we got rid of our car.  Last weekend, Tracy added up our transportation costs for the past year, as well as for the year prior, so we can see how much money we saved by getting rid of our car.  (If at all.)

Keep in mind that it's not like we never drive a car--we use zipcar and other rental cars when we need them.  And that costs money.  As does bike repair and T passes.

So here are the totals:

In our last year with the car, 2008-2009, here's what we spent on transportation:

T-pass/subway:  $520.30
Gas:  $1,293.69
Insurance: $829.35
Car repair:  $1,839.35
Tolls/parking:  $484.95
Monthly parking:  $720.00

TOTAL:  $5,687.64

So last year, without a car, here's what we spent:
Bicycles (repair, class, supplies, and new (used) bikes for both kids):  $896.10
Car rental (not zipcar):  $939.17
Walking:  $42.48  (shoe inserts, but not shoes)
T/Subway:  $558.72
Zipcar:  $1,033.95

TOTAL:  $3,470.42

So, by getting rid of our car, last year we saved:  $2,217.22  (or about $184.77 per month).  Last year, when we were getting started on this, we'd estimated that we'd save about $170 in cash every month

Some things to keep in mind: 
  • the car costs from the last year with the car did not include the purchase cost of the car (it was paid off a long time ago).  If you spread out the cost of buying the car over all the years we owned it, that was about $150/ month (I figured this out last year.)
  • our bike costs might go down a bit in the next year because this year each of the kids got a new (used) bike via Craig's List, we bought a trailer, and I learned how to do basic repairs on the bikes, so even though there will still be some shop visits, they should be fewer.
  • We spent more on zipcar and rental cars than we'd planned, but I think we were pretty satisfied with how it worked out.  We got to visit family when we needed to and took field trips that we wanted.
  • Not only did we save money, we also put a lot less emissions into the air.  And we got a lot of great exercise and fresh air.
  • In our daily lives, because we live in a very walkable, urban area, not having a car didn't end up costing a lot more time.  Grocery shopping by bike doesn't take a lot longer than by car, and other errands, by the time you get in the car, find a parking space, park the car, get out of the car, aren't a lot faster by car than on foot or bike.  This wouldn't be the case if we lived in the suburbs or country.
So it's been a big success so far--we're saving money, getting fit, and doing a small (tiny) bit for the environment.  I'd say we're in no hurry to go out and buy a car.


  1. Just found your blog and love it. Not using a car has been a passion of mine for a long time and always like to see others such as you becoming car-free. In traveling, I discovered that many areas are available for travel without a car, but had to go to a great deal of trouble to find public transportation information. I have recently launched a web-site about traveling via public transportation tied in with walking, biking, zip-car etc.
    Let me know what you think.
    David Waight

  2. David,

    I love your site. What a great resource! It seems comprehensive, and it also inspiring. It makes me think more about trying to travel around the U.S. and Canada without a car.

    Since your site talks about North America, will you also add Mexico? Then you'd really have the whole continent.

    Thanks for sharing and good luck!

  3. Hey there - my mom just sent me the link to your blog. I'm so happy to see other like-minded bicyclistas out there!

    My son and I moved from Duxbury to Brookline Village this past February to live with my fiance' and his son, and one of the first things I did after our move was to sell my car to my mechanic in Duxbury.

    Being car free = a huge burden lifted out of my life! I bought a beautiful, sturdy Dutch bike (a Gazelle) and I ride to work, errands, etc., almost everyday.

    I still drive about once or twice a week, (we have the ultimate Brookline-mobile, a Prius ;)but I don't miss the everyday STRESS of driving (traffic, road rage, etc), and I don't miss being totally dependent on the car to get around or the ISOLATION of being closed up in a metal box, sealed off from the rest of the world. That is a huge drag about living in the 'burbs, for sure.

    My dream - in my lifetime - is to see Boston and other urban/exurban areas become more bike's been done in Paris, Copenhagan and why not here?! Driving a car in a city should be seen as a privilege, not a right. We need to change the current car-centric mindset and start thinking of transportation alternatives that save our environment and that help keep us and our kids healthy and outdoors.

    thanks and keep up the good work!

  4. Thanks for your comment, Jennifer. I've always liked the Gazelle cargo bikes.

    I think there is hope for Boston to become more bike friendly. The more folks we have bicycling, and advocating, the better it'll be. And I think the arrival of bike sharing will help a lot, too.