No Car?

So my not-terribly-old vehicle (2002, Civic with 86k miles) is costing me way too much. I just paid it off about six months ago and in the mean time I’ve spend $1700 in maintenance and I see even more dollar signs on the horizon.

It pisses me off that we purchase vehicles only so they can depreciate in value. Once it’s paid off the cost to keep it running soar. I purchased my civic because I thought I would run it into the ground around 150K miles in fifteen years or so but I just don’t know if it will make it, or if my bank account will make it.

So I’m listening to my dad saying I should consider selling it, buy new and pay the monthly payment, rather than pay to keep my old one running.

My first thought was that I have a lot of work ahead of me to make sure I get the best deal. I began to twitter about it and someone suggested I try to live without a car. Monetarily that sounds ideal. But is it really realistic in Columbus? I definitely live in the ideal neighborhood but work seems pretty far away. However Megabus runs between Cbus and Cincinnati… maybe I could do it. My thoughts keep going back and forth…

Some tips I could give you if you’re considering getting rid of your car:

1. Does your employer encourage it? There’s a program called Commuter Choice that your employer may participate in to get you discounted bus passes mailed to your house. Check your wageworks.com or your company’s HR.

2. If you’re like me and think COTA.com is unhelpful, well it’s time to look again. I haven’t done too much research but my initial searches have resulted in clear maps and route information using google maps. COTA has completely revamped their website so that it is much more accurate and easy to figure out how to get from point A to point B on COTA.

At this point I’m still considering it. I think what pisses me off most is that my car should still be running w/o so much of my money going down the drain. Why are we shelling out so much money for pieces of crap?! In my parent’s house we had at least one car in the driveway with over 100K miles on it. You don’t see that anymore. Is it because the cars don’t last? Essentially my car should have lasted. So my motivation for going car free would not be to save the environment. It would be in protest against car manufacturers.

Every time I think to get on the bus, I put it off until tomorrow. In the end I don’t know if I can do it. I used to take the bus when I first moved to Columbus (in fact I was completely convinced Columbus had great bus service until I realized I just moved to the right neighborhood!). The #5 route was convenient but being able to move faster than a snail’s pace is really nice.

Once you have the ability to move freely and swiftly, can you really give it up? My fear is that I’ll just throw the responsibility of driving onto someone else, namely my bf. Or my friends and family. Is that really going car free? I don’t think so.

In the meantime I’m going to test out the bus (tomorrow, of course), and wait to see what the mechanic says about my air bags. Then we’ll take it from there.

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9 Responses to “No Car?”

  1. Can I suggest an interim step?

    Buy a monthly bus pass from COTA for May ($45) and try to ride the bus as much as possible. See what it feels like to go without the car before selling it. If you’re unfamiliar with the bus system then it will take a week or two to get used to it, but it quickly becomes easy to navigate.

    If you’ve got short trips to take (5-15 minutes) then the bus ride is pretty quick. If you’ve got longer trips to make, take a book and relax. Sacrificing a little extra time for a longer bus ride can have a nice trade off when you don’t have to worry about being the driver and can put your eyes on something else like a book for a few minutes.

    My wife and I have one car and one bus pass, and we share both. Works great for us. For us to ride the bus into downtown takes about 10 minutes and saves us the hassles of looking for parking spots or paying for parking spots, so it’s well worth it. And keeping the extra miles off the car is nice too. They say that you spend around 55 cents per mile on your car when factoring in the overall cost of gas, maintenance, wear, insurance, and everything else that goes into upkeep. It ain’t cheap.

    Local bus-guru Jeff Johnson was a big inspiration for me with his COTA Challenge in 2008. He’s got some very interesting blog posts on the top if you’re interested in how he managed to fare with a year of riding the bus as much as possible.

  2. Of course I don’t live in CBus, but I ride the bus to work here in Cincinnati, I would sell my car except its paid off and the used car market has tanked.
    Riding the bus isn’t bad at all, I love getting home relaxed instead of full of road rage.
    And the Mega Bus is awesome, we’ve taken it to Chicago, can’t say enough good things about it.
    You should try what walkerevans recommended and ride the bus as much as possible to see how you like it.

  3. Jeff and I have been talking about the bus actually. I def. will do some kind of interim step… in Cinci I was a bus pro and when I moved to Cbus I started as a bus pro but realized it wasn’t as easy as it was in Cinci. Now that I live in Merion/German VIllage I think it’ll be easier than at my first apartment here in Cbus…. I’ll keep you all posted! 🙂

  4. Do you have a bike? Bikes in combination with COTA make a great team.

    Once you start cycling regularly you’ll find yourself making all sorts of excuses to bike places rather than driving. I know I do. 🙂

  5. The bus is a great solution if you live in the center of the city. Other than that, the lines are spread too far apart, and the scheduled stops are too infrequent for me to use the bus.

    I actually lease my car and it’s cheaper in the log run since I have no choice but to drive everyday. A couple things to think about in terms of justifying leases:

    1. The monthly payment is general $100 – $150 cheaper than purchasing new.
    2. A new car has better fuel efficiency than a cat with 75K+ miles, regardless of how well maintained it is.
    3. Used cars can cost twice as much to maintain as a new car, and over ten years you will have 95% more expense on maintenance for a used car than you will on a leased vehicle.
    4. The older a car is, the higher the chance that replacement parts will be difficult and/or expensive to obtain.
    5. Once a used car starts needing repairs, the added expense of rental cars, missed work, and other intangible loss associated with constant car repairs can quickly out weigh the value of the $250 a month you are saving by driving a car that is paid off instead of leasing.

  6. I’m delighted to see this dialogue. Considering the location of your home, going without a car, even for just a month or two, is going to be easier than you think. Your life’s necessities are within walking distance – grocer, pharmacy, hardware, library, and White Castle.

    When I started relying upon the bus to get to and from work, I’ll admit, the first few weeks were a chore. I had to set the alarm earlier than I would have liked. A commitment such as the one your proposing takes a bit of time to adjust to. You have to create a new rhythm.

    The toughest part is not cheating. If you’re doing it to stem the flow of money to oil companies, then calling someone to pick you up is twice as bad as driving yourself. If you’re doing it to diminish wear and tear on your automobile, then you’ll have to remember that for every day it’s parked, you get another day of future use.

    If you’re doing it simply to save money – then you’ll have to weigh the options daily.
    When I was weighing the costs, I tried to remember this: Riding COTA supports local jobs. Buying gasoline supports foreign countries.

    Regardless of personal passion, I believe you can do this – just to prove to yourself that you can.

    My favorite things about using public transit in Columbus:
    Parking: One less thing to have to search for. Finding my keys everyday is enough of a chore.
    Traffic: I seldom, if ever, deal with rush-hour traffic.
    Education: Between podcasts and books, I get the time to fill my brain with some good stuff.
    Naps: On the ride to and from work I get to doze off and when I get to where I’m going, I’m ready to engage.
    Exercise: A little more walking is also good for the brain.
    Friends: There are some friends that I only ever see while I’m on the bus. For a few minutes each week, we get a chance to catch up. Even one of my regular bus drivers asks about my occasional absences.

  7. Just wanted to add that it’s important to study all of the routes within a 10-15 minute walk from where you normally travel. Anne & I ride the 6, 11, and 16 a lot because they all stop about a 30-second walk from our house and shuttle us straight into downtown… but we also have the #10 on Broad Street that will drop us off about a two-block 5-minute walk from home.

    Today I got done with a meeting downtown and went out to look at the timetables to see that the next 6, 11, or 16 wouldn’t be by for 20 minutes. I had just missed them. I could have went back into the coffee shop and worked for another 15 minutes on my laptop, but instead the #1 was pulling up which I knew could take me 3/4 of the way home and drop me off at Columbus State, which is about a 10 minute walk from home. So armed with that knowledge I was able to ease my travel time a bit. 😉

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