There’s nothing quite like the exhilaration that comes with owning your first car. Mine was a 1968 Buick Skylark, a supermod, deep-purple coupe with a white hardtop. The car was 10 years old by the time I got it, but it was fast. I got it airborne more than once on the hilly roads of northern Michigan, where I grew up.
Greased Lightning, as it came to be called, was a blast to drive. Even better, it set me free. My family and I lived about 10 miles outside of town in a house that overlooked a lake. It sounds great—and it was—but for a 16-year-old, boy-crazy girl, it was way too far from the ballparks, beaches, and other places where my friends and I liked to hang out. Having a car meant I could go where I wanted, when I wanted.
Forty years later, I’m feeling that same sense of liberation. But this time it doesn’t come from owning a car; it comes from giving it up.
It happened, literally, by accident. Last fall, I loaned my Prius to a friend while I was out of town. I had been gone only a day when he called and told me that he had been in a wreck. Both cars were totaled. Thankfully, no one was hurt, and insurance covered everything. When I shared the news with my oldest son, who works in new-car sales, he began talking up a friends-and-family discount. “Hold on,” I said. “I’m thinking of going car free.”
As much as I loved my Prius, I had hardly driven it in the three years since moving from a three-bedroom in the suburbs to a downtown apartment a few blocks from work. I did a little research and found that the typical cost of owning and operating a car runs $8,500 to $9,500 a year. I crunched my own numbers. I had a monthly car payment of about $500, insurance was about $250 (with a 21-year-old son on the policy), parking was $75, and gas was about $50. That added up to $875 a month—$10,500 a year—without factoring in maintenance, depreciation, and things like valet parking.
I’ve been without a car for eight months now, and it has been a revelation. Even with the Uber and Lyft trips (which I can often expense), I’m saving a boatload of money. And it’s a treat to be driven everywhere, door to door. Then there are the health benefits of walking more—not just physically racking up steps but the mental break it provides. It’s relaxing to walk past the fountains of Robert Jeffress’ Baptist Bellagio on the way home from work or through Klyde Warren Park to a lunch appointment in Uptown. And on weekday mornings, I walk under a fairy-lit tunnel of trees outside Ross Tower to the Shangri-La that is Starbucks.
I ride DART to the airport and the McKinney Avenue Trolley (which has a handy tracker at mata.org) to Whole Foods and happy hours. I pick up supplies at CVS downtown and buy everything else online. (I hate shopping, so this is no hardship.) And I bum rides from friends.
I invested in a good backpack and umbrella. I haven’t yet worked up the courage to try the electric scooters, but it’s on my list.
According to a Business Insider report, just 20 percent of Americans will own cars by 2030. Instead, they’ll rely on EV ride-shares or autonomous vehicles to get to and from. I can get away with it now because I have no kiddos at home and because I live so close to work, amenities, the trolley, and DART (which I wish extended to Frisco). I’ve loved getting a more intimate look at the city and—much to my son’s ever-loving disappointment, I’m sure—can’t imagine ever owning a car again.
Christine Perez is the editor of D CEO.