The pros and cons of going car-free in DC

10 Jan

My friend Megan moved to the DC area a couple years ago from suburban Pennsylvania. It’s her year anniversary of going car-free, and she was kind enough to share her thoughts on the decision.

I officially survived my first year living car-free. Last winter after finding out my car was going to need an expensive repair and realizing I didn’t use it that much since I commute to work on the Metro, I sold it and adopted a car-free lifestyle.

I live in Arlington one block from the Court House Metro and a short walk from CVS, Whole Foods and bars and restaurants. Also, I have a dry cleaner, gym and convenience store in my apartment building. These conveniences and access to public transportation provided assurance that I could survive without owning a car.

To eliminate panic for times a car is absolutely necessary, I signed up for Zipcar, an hourly car sharing service. My boyfriend and I mainly use Zipcar for one or two hour trips to Giant and Target. If we’re in need of a car for a weekend trip, it’s cheaper to rent one from Hertz or Enterprise (I usually take Metro to the rental places at the Reagan airport). I also have several friends who own cars, so if necessary, I ask them for a ride.

At times it’s really frustrating not having a car, but for the most part I have been happy with my decision. The largest benefit for me has been the huge amount of money I’ve saved by not having to pay for repairs, insurance, registration and $50 a month to park at my apartment building.

If you are considering living car-free I would suggest doing an analysis of your expenses with a car vs. expenses without (be sure to include costs for Zipcar and weekend car rentals) and identify how many places you go frequently that are not close to public transportation. It’s also important to evaluate if you’re willing to give up the freedom of hopping in your car at any given moment to go somewhere. It takes a lot more time and energy to live without a car and you must be willing to accept that challenge.

I know that at some point I will probably own a car again, but for now car-free is the way to be.

One Response to “The pros and cons of going car-free in DC”

  1. Victoria (District Chocoholic) January 10, 2011 at 8:50 pm #

    I have lived in DC with and without a car, and believe that your approach for making the decision – a measured evaluation of the financial implications for you as an individual – is the best approach. Many people approach this as a black and white issue, when it’s simply a very individual decision based on how much you use your car and how much it costs you to keep it.

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