The Pros and Cons of Living Without a Car
The virtues of owning a car are undeniable, from the accessibility of day trips and the ease of grocery shopping to the pure joy of life along the open road.
That said, living in a brand-new city as a car owner has its fair share of drawbacks you’ll want to consider before you make your next move. Below, we’ve weighed the biggest benefits of living without a car against some of their most appealing attributes. Our goal is to help you decide whether it’s right for you to bring yours along to your new home.
Pro: You could save money on car costs
If you’ve purchased a vehicle before, you know that car ownership comes with a steep price tag. If you elect to go without a personal vehicle, you’ll save money on a whole laundry list of expenses, such as:
- Parking fees
- Car insurance
- Maintenance and repairs
- Registration, inspections, and other miscellaneous costs
- The odd parking or speeding ticket (hey, it happens!).
The cost of owning and maintaining a car varies widely depending on your home city. For example, premium insurance for a full year might cost you around $1,494 in Charlotte, North Carolina, while it can hit a hulking $4,959 a year in New York City.
If you’re on the fence about taking your vehicle on your next big move, be sure to do some research on the best cities to live without a car ahead of time to get a sense of whether or not it fits into your budget.
Con: Rideshare services are steep
No matter where you live, there will always be occasions when you need a car to get from point A to point B. Although rideshare services like Uber and Lyft have become a staple mode of transport in recent years, prices have been untenably high since the COVID-19 pandemic due to increased demand and fewer drivers. In some cities, the average price of a rideshare trip has ballooned by 79%.
Whether you need to pick up your relatives at the airport or snag a ride home at the end of a long night out, you’ll inevitably run into occasions when you need to eat the cost of an Uber or taxi ride.
Pro: You won’t waste time finding parking
While parking isn’t an issue everywhere, finding it in some cities can require a startling amount of circling the block like a vulture or awkwardly loitering behind strangers taking 15 minutes to pull out of their spot.
As a general rule, the most populated cities in the country have the worst parking experiences awaiting car-owning residents. According to Cars.com, drivers in these major cities spend the following amount of time in hot pursuit of a parking space every year:
- New York City: 107 hours
- Los Angeles: 85 hours
- San Francisco: 83 hours
- Washington, D.C.: 65 hours
- Seattle: 58 hours
If you hedge your bets on time and elect to keep your vehicle in a garage, know that you could have to pay quite a pretty penny in exchange for the convenience.
Con: Errands won’t be as breezy
If you’re used to adulting in a car, you’re likely to run into your fair share of daily nuisances, headaches, and limitations without one.
For one thing, getting rid of your vehicle means you’ll be sacrificing some very handy storage real estate. No matter how toned your biceps are, the reality is that arms can only carry so many grocery bags in a single trip. This means you’ll need to take more trips to the grocery store or pay to have your groceries delivered to you. You’ll also have to plan for and space out other household errands throughout the week. Plus, if you’re moving to a city with all four seasons, you’ll have to accept that inclement weather can add an extra layer of grind to daily tasks.
Aside from the small daily errands adding up, moving around larger or fragile items can require extra strategizing and financing since you may not want to bring them on public transit (or attempt to strap them to your bike).
Pro: You’ll spend less of your life in traffic
While no major city is wholly impervious to the odd traffic jam, you could spare yourself a lot of time—and frustration—if you choose to use another way to get around.
One study found that drivers living in the country’s busiest cities spend nearly 100 hours per year in traffic congestion on their workday commute. The worst offenders are:
- Washington, D.C.
- New York
- Los Angeles
Those working from home or living close to work can count themselves among the lucky ones. If you’ve got some ground to cover to get to work, you may find it faster, more convenient, and less grinding on the nerves to avoid the crunch altogether and plot your way there by other means, such as public transportation, walking, or biking.
Con: It’s harder to coordinate a day trip
If you’re prone to spells of wanderlust, you may miss those spontaneous weekend drives that help you break free from the urban weekday grind.
In a similar vein, sprawling cities like Dallas or Las Vegas have a ton of culture, art, and eclectic pockets to explore beyond the routes accessible by public transport. To access them, you’ll need to either recruit a friend who owns a vehicle or rent your own—which can get costly if you’re inclined to take regular trips out of city or state lines.
Before you go car-free, consider:
- How much driving you’ve done to explore (rather than run errands) in the past year.
- Whether you’ll be living in your new home city for a year or longer.
- Whether you can find reprieve from the city at home (i.e., in neighborhood green spaces) or if you need a periodic change of scenery to stay sane.
Pro: Killer people-watching
Part of the draw of living in a city is rubbing shoulders with people from a diverse array of backgrounds, sensibilities, and walks of life. For those who take genuine pleasure in observing their surroundings, getting out of the car bubble and entering the fray of their fellow city-dwellers can be a genuine source of entertainment and social satisfaction.
Think of it this way: The less time you spend confined to your vehicle, the more opportunities for urban adventures you’ll have. Sure, public transportation or daily bike rides can wear on the nerves from time to time, but don’t underestimate how commiserating with a stranger about the weather or witnessing a small act of kindness on your morning ride can make your day, especially if you’re new to the neighborhood.
Con: Public transit needs a makeover
It’s no secret that many major public transportation systems in the U.S. are feeling the squeeze—and it shows. Regardless of whether they’re riding in a bus or train, commuters occasionally experience congestion, delays, and breakdowns that can critically compromise public transit’s purported efficiency. This is partly due to:
- Aging transit infrastructure
- Growing urban populations, which amount to an imbalance between demand and capacity
- The time and cost-intensive nature of repairing, renovating, and modernizing transit infrastructure
Even so, daily inconveniences (and their frequency) can vary immensely from city to city. Although many municipalities have backup plans and even complimentary alternatives for commuters contending with shut-downs and delays, be sure to check out your city’s current public transportation options and plans for transit renovations before you get rid of your car for good.
Pro: You’ll get to know your city better
The convenience of cars can make the world feel like your oyster, but there can also be something isolating about using it as your only mode of transportation.
Whether you’re exploring by bus, rail, or bike, finding another way to get around will enable you to stumble upon hidden gems. By taking the plunge trying a new way of commuting, your city will open up to you in ways that simply aren’t possible if you’re married to your vehicle.
Con: Less personal freedom
Convenience aside, there’s a reason why many people have sentimental attachments to their cars. Where a trip via mass transit exposes you to the rawest elements of your city, your car is your own little pod, providing all your favorite creature comforts.
Sure, you can plug in your headphones on the bus, but it’s not the same as belting along to Adele or jumping in when your favorite podcaster shares their newest hot take. Well, you can, but you may attract some weird looks from fellow commuters. If you consider your car one of your best friends, you may grow to miss it and the bubble of luxury it affords.
Pro: You’ll be able to get your exercise in
Living car-free means needing to rely on your own two feet to get around to where you need to go—which adds up to quite a bit of exercise! Whether you’re walking around running errands or exploring your new city by bike, this is a lot of built-in cardio that you’d otherwise be spending time in the gym for.
If you’re trying to decide whether investing in a bike is worth it to you, do some research into your city’s bike-share options. This can be a great way to get around without committing to the cost—and storage difficulties—of having your own bike on hand.
Keep comfort close to home with Landing
Whether you decide to take your trusty car along with you or dive headfirst into a car-free lifestyle, you should never have to sacrifice comfort and convenience when it comes to your new way of life—including apartment living.
If you’re moving somewhere new, check out Landing’s nationwide network of flexible-lease, fully furnished apartments, including all the amenities that make a house a home. With Landing, you’ll look forward to coming back home no matter where your city explorations take you—or how you get there.