Budgeting, saving and investing for a brighter financial future

Should you give up your car?

By Deanne Gage,

Comments (4)

When Pippa and Jason Van Dam’s 11-year-old car broke down again last winter, they feared a steep repair bill. With a three-year-old daughter and a baby on the way, it was likely time for a replacement vehicle.

Image of a woman considering whether she should give up her car.Or was it? They started asking themselves whether they needed a car at all.

New monthly car payments, gas, insurance, parking and regular maintenance might be a necessity for those who use a vehicle regularly, but consider the Van Dams’ situation. They both take public transit to work and walk their daughter to and from preschool. They shop for groceries and other small items on the way home from the office or at stores within walking distance from their home. They used their car generally only on weekends for excursions to places such as the zoo or a relative’s home. Why fork out a huge amount of money for something they barely used?

Car-sharing brings big savings

The solution for the Van Dams: joining a car-sharing program. Their choice has three locations within a 10-minute walk of their Toronto home. They simply rent a car by the hour or day when they need it, generally once a week.

Pippa, a marketing director, says they pay just over $200 a month for their membership, which includes gas, insurance and maintenance. Car seats are a bit tricky but not unmanageable. One of them will pick up the car, bring it home and pop in the seat. Pippa estimates she and Jason are saving $5,000 a year by not having a car of their own – money they can put towards other expenses.

“We’re a young family, we have childcare costs and a mortgage, so we have to watch where we spend our money,” explains Pippa. “This was one way we could save and maintaining a car is one fewer stressful thing to worry about.”

More walking can boost fitness

Natasha MacFarlane, a Toronto-based digital consultant, decided the same thing. She says that when she lived in Kitchener, Ont., she needed a car for the work commute and daycare run. Public transit was too spread out and it would take her too long to accomplish what she needed to. Since moving to Toronto two years ago, however, she found herself using the car less and less. So last March, she chose not to renew her lease. She and her three school-aged kids get by on public transit and simply walk more. She notes that in a few months, she’s lost five pounds and counting.

Of course, not having a car can mean saying good-bye to spontaneous excursions to places not close to home. You have to plan out things more, notes MacFarlane. When she had her car, MacFarlane used to drive her kids regularly down to the beach, spend an hour there and come home. Now, it takes too long on transit to do that: “We’ve changed what we do recreationally. We discover more things in our neighbourhood now, and we do something that’s close by.”

Sometimes, MacFarlane misses the simple pleasure of driving, but the economic savings outweigh the convenience factor.

If you’re thinking about parking your car for good, Pippa Van Dam recommends experimenting for a month before committing. “It’s interesting to see what impact it has on your life,” she says. “We find not having a car makes us a little more active. If it’s cold weather or raining, we might have driven our daughter to daycare. Now we can never do that, but you get used to it.”

Looking for more ways to save money and help the environment? Read: Five simple ways to reduce your carbon footprint

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DeeDee on

I moved here from Alabama, in the area where I grew up you have to have a car to get around and because of the heat most of the year I didn’t do a lot of walking. I moved here in 2010 and began walking more and taking transit. My fiance’s car broke down so he got rid of it. I have lost around 50 pounds since I’ve been here. In all honesty, in a city with a good transit system, car sharing and taking transit is far more sensible and economical. Besides the cost of insurance, car payemnts you also have the expense of gas and parking as well.

Linda Ashby on

We chose to sell our second car and got ourselves an ebike. Living in Innisfil Ontario there is no Public transit. A car is necessary to get to work. Not having the second car is definitely saving us money and we really don’t miss it.

Tim Landry on

As someone who is a licensed insurance advisor – and who has never learned to drive – I truly wonder about the value of owning a car – at least in a large city with adequate public transport (in my case Montreal). Yes – I may spend $5-$6,000/year on taxis – but given that this is an expense allowing me to earn money, I can deduct it. I do not have the aggravation of being stuck in traffic – will NEVER forget hearing the story of someone who looked out of her home to discover that there was a LOT of traffic – but NEEDED the car. She drove 900 METERS to work. It took TWO HOURS! We have a car – my wife drives – but we rarely use it – and almost the only times I get into it are to go to Church. I grant you that if I did not live where I live, I would need a car – but living about 45 minutes by bus and metro from my office? Not really. I can relax and read and let the bus driver deal with the traffic

    tarotworldtour on

    Another aspect to all of this is that there would be far fewer accidents if more of us took public transportation and left the liabilities to the experts. I can squeeze in more activities by deferring to someone else to drive. I am from Kansas but have been living in Vancouver and Montreal, and I can say that I do miss driving, but driving should never have been turned into this romantic, frivolous thing considering how onerous it is to extract and the burdens it carries.

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