The traditional North American dream: get a steady job until retirement, buy a house, and own a nice car. Oh, how the times have changed!
For most Canadians, a car is the second largest life expense after a house. You might overhear (or partake in) debates on the pros and cons of leasing, financing, or fully owning a car; but what about a more drastic approach of ditching your four wheeled transport for good? When insurance, gas, and maintenance expenses are factored in, it is estimated that it costs between $8,600 to $13,000 per year to own a vehicle. It's easy to see why some Canadians are making a conscious decision to avoid car ownership. In cities like Toronto for example, 28% of households don't own a car.
If you want to get out of the city, pick up groceries, or commute to a work across town, having a car can help a lot. That being said, there are alternatives to owning a car, many of which provide the convenience of car ownership without all the costs and stress.
Depending on where you live, work, and shop, you might be able to get around just by walking or catching a cab. For those with longer commutes or different needs, there are still plenty of flexible options besides owning a car.
Many car-less individuals will use a combination of these alternatives:
Biking: Although many Canadian cities are covered in snow during the winter months, cycling can be a viable form of transport for a large part of the year. If you need to transport things, consider Cargo Bikes.
If you don't want to own, store, and maintain your own bike, check to see if your city has a bike share program. These make it easy to hop on an available bike and get around.
Car Share Apps: Car2Go is available in Calgary, Montreal, and Vancouver. This is a great option if you want to cover a moderate amount of distance. Simply use their app to find, reserve, and unlock a car near you, then jump in and drive! When you're done you just get out and leave the car for the next user. Although Car2Go recently pulled out of Toronto, there are other similar car-sharing companies in many cities across Canada.
Transit: Public transportation options are often overlooked, but depending on what is available in your city, this might be the most cost effective and convenient option. With public transit you can avoid road rage, relax, and catch up on reading a new book or blog post.
Peer-to-peer car rental: New apps like Turo now make it possible to rent someone else's car for the day; think of Air BnB for cars. Whether you want a sporty car for a weekend out of the city, or a larger truck to help with a move, you can likely find the perfect fit. As a side note, if you do own a car that you don't use, consider renting it out to others.
Traditional car rental: Even with other app based rental options available, it can still make sense to look at traditional car rental services like Budget or Enterprise if you're planning a short weekend getaway. Since these services are largely used by business travelers in the week, inexpensive rental options are often available on weekends.
Uber/Lyft: Open the app and click where you want to go - it's that easy! Within minutes a car shows up and you are on your way. These taxi industry disrupting apps make getting around so easy, you might wonder why someone didn't think of it sooner.
Lifestyle vs Savings
Owning a car isn't a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination. It usually provides the quickest way to get from point A to point B. If you're a 'car person', having a nice car can also bring value and enjoyment to your life.
From a strictly financial perspective, living without a vehicle could save you a lot of money over time. Assuming you can save $8,000 a year living car free, you would be at least $240,000 wealthier over the span of 30 years. You could retire years earlier with this meaningful chunk of cash.
As with any financial and lifestyle decision, it comes down to what you need, what you value, and what the alternatives are. Deciding to not own a car could tie into other decisions, like deciding to move closer to transit or work. If you're itching to save money, and it fits your lifestyle, try going car free!