living in L.A. without a car

October 04, 2015

I’ve never been into cars or driving. I’ve owned exactly one car in my lifetime, a stock 1999 Honda Civic. It served me well for 16 years. It was relatively cheap, fuel efficient, and got me where I needed to go. And it never broke down on me, despite my subpar driving skills that put it through 4 accidents.

Since 2011, I’ve lived within 2 or 3 miles of my workplace, so I started cycling to work. My car got less and less use, usually one or two short trips per week at the most. It seemed like a waste to pay for insurance and all the other costs of maintaining a car when I was using it so infrequently. Conventional wisdom says you need a car in LA, but with the rise of car sharing (Uber, Lyft, Zipcar) and delivery services (Amazon Prime/Fresh), it is starting to become more feasible to get by without one. As fate would have it, I got into an accident that while not too serious, caused enough damage to be a total loss. I was fed up with driving and didn’t want to deal with it anymore. The insurance paid out $3500, and it was the perfect opportunity to try out life without a car. Instead of using the money to buy another car, I wanted to see how far it would take me using the alternatives. After 4 and a half months of this experiment, I’ve gotten by just fine and can confidently say that I prefer not owning a car.

Let’s make a list of the things I hate most about owning a car

And here’s a list of alternatives to owning a car that have worked well for me

So let’s do the math now. In the past 4.5 months, I’ve spent a total of about $191.25 on transportation costs:

Car costs can vary widely, but it would be a challenge to spend that little in one month on a car. Obviously this won’t work for everyone. I am a single guy that spends most of his time at home. If you are going out all the time or have young children, you will probably want to have your own car, but if you are somewhere in between, you might want to rethink if it’s worth owning one.