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You can walk anywhere you need to go, do you still need the car?

I have a friend who is moving from a city where she needed a car to a more densly packed city where most of what she needs is nearby.

She can walk or bike everywhere: her work, her gym, tons of bars and restaraunts, movies, ice cream, you name it. There's ok public transit if she really needs it. She's thinking about giving up her car, but here are the Pros and Cons:


  • She is about a 20 minute walk from the closest grocery store. And that's the closest one, not her grocer of choice. She could get to her grocer of choice on public transit, but it's not her favorite thing to do.
  • She likes to mountain bike outside the city. She can get closer to trails by biking there and/or on public transit, but it's a bigger time investment. 
  • Since she got her driver's license, she's always had a car. She's having a tough time imagining life without it. 
  • The car makes it easier to visit friends and family in other places--especially her family is difficult to reach without a car, they live kind of far out.


  • In moving to this city, the cost of owning the car has shot way up.  Insurance is now $1600 a year for her, and the car itself is towards the end of its life.  She usually spends about $600 a year in repairs to keep the thing going.
  • She doesn't pay for parking (she has a permit to park on her street in her neighborhood) but finding on-street parking is often difficult.  She's already gotten two parking tickets in the short time she's been living in the city.

All in all, she's probably using the car about once a week. Also, the city in question is not New York. 

Should she keep the car?

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Reckoning Comments!

I'm a car person, and you never know when you are going to need a car for long-distance driving or emergencies. Are you ready to give up driving anywhere outside the city limits? Even if there is transit, will it be available for all your destinations?

Have to weight the costs and rewards...I think the rewards of keeping your car will outweigh the costs....

This set of circumstances sounds reasonably close to mine, and I do indeed keep the car around.  Philadelphia does have decent-but-not-great public transit, and I do try to walk everywhere I can, but even in this dense Northeastern classic grid city you do need a car to get a lot of things accomplished.

Really, there are only four cities that you can get by with in this country without a car:

  • NYC
  • SF
  • Boston
  • Chicago

Maybe, maybe, maybe you can put DC in there as well (on the basic of its great honkin' subway system), but that's about it.  The car is expensive, but I'd keep it until it dies, and then give this question another turn.

My opinion on my friend's situation is this: she lives in a city that has zip car. I think she should just join zip car for those times she needs a car. It would cost her less in the long run and has all the convenience of a car when you want it and not when you don't. 

Anywhere is walking distance if you have the time. - Steven Wright

Gas prices are going to keep rising, average personal income is not.  

The age of the car as a convenient and fun thing for most Americans to have private access to is going to end in our lifetimes.

So, unless the person in this question is or plans to be rich, she should prepare for the transition now by selling it and getting a nice new bike.  

I've been without a car for a few years now.  I'm saving a ton of money on insurance!  ;-)

But while I've got all the basics worked out, a car would come in handy sometimes.

Since the insurance *is* so expensive, and her car is starting to be maintenance-heavy, perhaps she should just give it a trial, say for about 3-6 months, and see how well she can get by without it.  In the meantime, she can set aside her savings from not having a car and it'll be there if/when she decides to get another, hopefully better, car.

The Reckoner!