Life Without A Vehicle: Could You Live For 12 Months Without Your Car?

By Darren Alff on - Download my FREE bike tour starter guide!

For the last ten years I’ve been driving a 1992 blue and white Ford Explorer. The car was my father’s before he passed it down to me after I received my license at the age of 16… and boy did I love that car!

But you’re probably wondering, why in the world am I talking about my car on a website devoted to bicycle travel?

Well, the reason I’m talking about my car is because I’ve recently decided to donated my vehicle to charity and am now without any sort of motorized transportation.

With my car out of the picture, my main source of transportation is by bike. And because I’ve decided to live for the next 12 months (and possibly even longer) without any sort of vehicle, I thought this would make for an interesting topic of conversation here at BicycleTouringPro.com.

With gas prices on the rise and the economy in a lurch, more and more people are getting on their bikes. Many of these people are riding to work, running errands, and cycling purely for the (cheap) entertainment. Of these people, many of them are actually giving up their cars and committing to a lifestyle that doesn’t involve driving everywhere they go.

Because bicycle touring (and bicycle travel in general) is a lifestyle choice for me, I see this move to a car free existence as both exciting and rewarding. While I’m likely going to miss having my car at times, I can already see some of the benefits I am sure to enjoy (Namely: not paying for gas, insurance, repairs, etc.).

Here are the four main reasons I’ve decided to give up my car:

1). My car is old and in need of repair

As I mentioned at the top of the article, my car is a 1992 Ford Explorer. More than 15 years old, the vehicle has a lot of issues. For example, the battery constantly dies; I need to put new oil and lubricants in all the time; it catches on fire when climbing steep hills; the brakes hardly work at all; there is no radio, CD player, heat, air-conditioning, or 4-wheel drive; and it’s simply on its last leg.

2). I barely drive anymore

Another reason I don’t see giving up my car as that big of a deal is because I barely ever drive my car anymore. I’m in a particulary lucky situation because I live in a town that has a free bus service that goes just about anywhere I want… and the rest of the time I can get to where I need to go simply by walking or riding my bike. The only other place I really go (not served by the local bus service) is to the Salt Lake City airport… and yet again, I’ve lucked out because there are a number of shuttles that will drive me back and forth between my home and the airport for a relatively low expense. To sum it all up, I just don’t drive that much anymore.

3). I’m going to save a lot of money

One of the big advantages of getting rid of my car is that I will no longer have to pay for insurance and gas. The car is all paid off by now, so I haven’t had that to worry about, but just paying for gas and insurance has pissed me off at times. And while I don’t drive that often, I’m sure I’ll save at least a thousand dollars or more this year by not having my car.

4). Finally, my main reason for giving up my car is that I will be traveling to Europe this winter and won’t need a vehicle for at least the next 8 months.

Yes, I’ve committed to traveling this winter and will not be at home to drive my car. Because I’ll be away and renting out my home in Park City (and because I don’t want to pay for a place to store my car while I’m gone), I’ve decided that this is the perfect time to get rid of my vehicle.

I don’t want to use this article as a means of convincing you that you should also give up your car and ride your bike wherever you go, because I know that this simply isn’t an option for some people. But what I do want you to do is think about what you would do if you had to go for 12 months without your car. If you had to go without a car for the next twelve months, how would you get around? How would you get to work? Go to the post office? Pick up groceries at the supermarket? Etc…

Use the comments box below to share your ideas. If you had to go for the next 12 months without your car, do you think you could do it? What do you think your biggest obstacle(s) would be? And how would you get around those obstacles to lead the life you want to live?

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0 Comments

  1. Trevor

    October 3, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    Very nice! I never want to have to own a vehicle. My bike gets me all around just fine. And, I figure I save at least $5,000/yr (car payments, insurance, maintenance, fuel). More money to spend on bikes. Good for you!

    Also, loved the video! That’s a great format and I enjoyed it.

  2. Ryan

    October 5, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    That is awesome Darren. I too am at the point where I use my truck so little it seems absurd to pay for insurance and registration. I am pretty sure that after my tour next year, I am going to sell my truck. It does take an adjustment to your mindset, like accepting that you may have to take 20 minutes instead of 5 to get to the grocery store, but after you adjust, it feels great every time you complete a task on your bike that most people would only consider in a car. And you are right, panniers are a great investment because they are so functional in everyday life, not just on tour. Keep riding.

  3. Darren Alff

    October 5, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    I think getting to and from the supermarket is going to be the biggest obstacle for me. When I had my car I would just drive to the supermarket whenever I wanted. When I was hungry and didn’t like the food I had in stock, I’d just get in the car and go get some new food. But now I plan out my trips. Planning not only saves me time, but it also saves me money.

  4. RJ

    October 6, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    Congratulations, Darren! Welcome to the good life. 🙂

    You’ll be surprised at what a bike can do.

    I even moved out of my apartment by bike!:

    http://anadventurecalledbicycling.blogspot.com/2008/06/my-two-legs.html

    he he. (Just because I could).

  5. Curt

    October 7, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    A car is a huge expense and if not maintained can be a financial burden. Sounds like you never kept up the maintenance and let it build up to point where it became overwhelming – both financially and psychologically. I hope you keep up the mainenance on your bike as, like all machinery, it does require some TLC from time to time. Spending a few dollars today will keep your machine – either bike or car – running a whole lot longer, cost less in the long run, and be there when you need it- without a whole lot of angst. I predict that, at some point, you will wish you had the old bucket of bolts back. If you do decide to donate the car, I hope you will consider your local Salvation Army. They have a program where you get a tax writeoff and someone who really needs a car can get one.

  6. dustinsandwich

    October 10, 2008 at 1:49 am

    yeah, i’m 22 and i’ve never had a driver’s license. it’s actually far easier to live without a car than you’d believe. in fact, my brother, father and i are all moving 3,000 miles away by bicycle.

  7. Darren Alff

    October 10, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Curt,

    I don’t think I let my car go. It’s just that it is an old car with 200,000 miles on it… and it’s pretty much time for it to go. I’m know it could last for a few more years, but because of this Europe trip I’m going on, it’s just a good time to get rid of it. I think you are right though in that I’m sure there will be times when I wish I had the car. But because I won’t need the car for at least the next 8 months, that time won’t be coming around for a while.

    And Dustin… wow! A 3,000 move by bike is pretty impressive. You win the prize there! I hope you don’t have much stuff. You gotta send me some pictures from that trip!

  8. Gary

    November 6, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    I gave my car away Jan. 08, and now commute about 4 miles each way to work by bicycle.( My wife stills has her car though). I have discovered alot of things about bicycling during this last year. The most common question I’m asked is ” how far do you ride to work? “I explain that the terrain and weather are just as much a factor as distance ie: hilly, windy, heat, etc.. , but I do enjoy it. I think the key is to forget the racer mentality and all of a sudden bicycling is a viable alternative to the one-car-per- person philosophy we think we are all entiled to.Darren, I think you will begin to see things differently as you go car-less. PS. thanks for the web site

  9. Darren Alff

    November 6, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    Gary, it’s been almost two months now since I got rid of my car and while I really missed seeing it in my driveway each day, I haven’t really missed driving it. There have been a few times where I wanted to drive it to the store or something like that just because I was being lazy, but other than that I’ve gotten along just fine. It seems as though I am certainly not the only one going without a vehicle these days. Thanks for the comment.

  10. DAVE THE WAVE

    November 22, 2008 at 8:58 am

    well i had a license,but because of my drinking problem i lost it,and then by the time i got sober the cost of getting it back was way thru the roof,between a couple states it would cost my at least 1500 bucks to get it back,AND thats just for my license ,never mind the cost of running and ,maintaining a vehicle of some sort.i would rather take that money and invest it in my bicycles and just keep pedaling along,i have done 2 rides ,a 400 miler ,then the next spring a 1340 miler ,had a blast both times.so i have learned that i truly can go anywhere i want,and for a guy that has mucular dystrophy and needs braces just to walk that to bad ,i cant walk worth a damm,please dont get me wrong,i can walk around,but a mile or so is really pushing it ,BUT i can RIDE that mile or so with no problem .EYE LOVE MY BIKES ,burn calories not carbon

  11. Bruce

    March 2, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    I gave up using a care a little over 12 months ago as well. Although I still drive occassionally I have found that for me giving up the car was not difficult at all. I do everything on the bike now I find the shopping now is an enjoyable activity even though I live 2.7ml (4.5km) from town the ride in, in any wether is pleasant. The best investment I have made I had made about 10 years before I gave up the car and it was to buy a single wheeled trailer similar to the bob called the wilerbeast made by Kool-Stop with a carrying capacity of 70lbs (35kg) and a set of rear panniers which are on the bike more than they are off the bike. There is very little I can’t get that I used to use the car for anyway. Living on a modest pension because I now care for my wife on a full time basis. It has had the added blessing that it allows me to get out of the house and have a break occassionally froom the demands of caring as well.

    This site has inspired me to start even looking at doing some very short weekend tours and extended weekend tours with my bike and trailer and only today I loaded the bike and trailer up with everything I would need for a 3 day trip and road around the block which was around a mile and I now realise that I need to improve my fitness from its current level before I venture out ont to the open road with this setup otherwise I will be setting myself up for failure before I even start.

    Bruce NSW AUSTRALIA

  12. Brandon Carlson

    January 13, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    I don’t drive at all and I’m 20. My parents keep trying to get a car and a license but I won’t. I ride my dads bike everywhere I go.

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