We cannot keep going from shock to trance on the issue of energy security, rushing to propose action when gas prices rise, then hitting the snooze button when they fall again. ~ Barack Obama
Regardless of how you feel about the man’s policies, he’s right on this one. It was two frickin’ years ago we were pounding the death nail in the coffins of our gargantuan SUVs. Now look at us. We’re running scared, crying and complaining about how we can’t afford a 4-piece McNugget because astronomically high gas prices have rendered us insolvent.
I’m fairly confident you, along with the rest of the nation, will return to a zombie like stupor when a barrel of oil dips below $80. But while I have your attention, I’m gonna capitalize on the opportunity to introduce you to a new way of thinking.
You see, car ownership is expensive – ridiculously so. The price of gas isn’t your only problem. You’ve got oil changes, tire rotations, wheel alignments and the like. There’s car insurance, car loans, safety inspections, and tag registrations. You get ticketed. You get towed. You get property taxed. You get fed up!
Well, we don’t have to take this ish. There are other ways.
You can get by without owning a car.
I know. I know. Not having your own car is a radical move. I perfectly understand. So, before you work yourself up into a dizzying frenzy of excuses about how you can’t survive without your own private vehicle, let me say this.
Hear me out first, ya sissy.
You may not be able to utilize every technique, but you can still find one or two that’ll reduce your reliance on independent car ownership.
- Walk. When deciding on a place to live, the walkability of your neighborhood should be of vital importance to you. It’s so refreshing to be able to, literally, run to the store. Walking will require that you leave home a little earlier than you’re accustomed in order to get to your destination on time. But walking is both healthy and free. You’ll save money and get a bit of exercise while you’re at it. Get your Walk Score to find out how walkable your neighborhood or prospective neighborhood is.
- Bike. If you’re not like me, i.e., terrified of being run down by a book reading metro bus driver, this is for you. All you need is a bike and metaphorical balls to brave the open road. Not only can you find inexpensive bikes at thrift shops and yard sales, but bike sharing programs have emerged in certain cities. For instance, Capital Bikeshare has over 1,100 of the dorkiest looking, yet easy to ride, bikes located at self-service stations throughout the metro D.C. area. It’s specifically designed for those who need to make short distance trips around the city. It’s a really cool concept. It ain’t free, but it’s still pretty cool.
- Rent a car. Just because you don’t own a car, doesn’t mean you won’t ever have the need to drive one. There are the old and tired rental car companies like Hertz, Budget, and Avis. If you need a car all day or over a weekend, you can find a good deal using travel aggregators like Kayak or Mobissimo. Then, there are the hip and sexy car sharing companies like Zipcar where you can rent vehicles by the hour. They usually charge an annual membership and application fee. I’ve seen rates start as low as $4/hour. However, many car sharing services vary their price depending on the day and time you rent the vehicle. Gas, insurance, and up to 180 miles per day are often included in the price. Check out the Car Sharing Association for a listing of member organizations that provide car sharing services.
- Carpool. Organize your own carpool, or find one using Craigslist or Nuride. With carpooling, not only can you score a free ride, but you can get to work faster via the HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lane. A relatively new way to carpool has cropped up called slugging. It’s also referred to as “casual carpooling.” Basically, you stand in a line at a predetermined location, and hitch a ride with a driver headed to the area where you need to go also. Although free for the passenger, this mode of transit isn’t for the faint of heart. Some people are really bad drivers. Washington, DC’s Slug-Lines.com and San Francisco’s RideNow are trailblazers on the casual carpooling front.
- Take a taxi. Yeah they’re expensive, but they should also be reserved for when you have next to no other option and are in a transportation pinch. I had to mention them because they’re still a valuable resource.
- Use public transportation. Not only is public transit cheaper than car ownership, but you can also qualify for a tax break by using it. Your employer may deduct up to $230 from your paycheck TAX-FREE to cover the cost of commuting to and from work via public transportation. You can also use tax free public transit funds to commute to and from fun places like bars, concerts, museums. I’m not saying that you should or that it’s even legal to do so. I’m just sayin’ that you can. Download available iPhone, Android, or other smart phone apps to make the use of public transportation more convenient. For instance, the NextBus app combines GPS tracking tools to determine your location, the nearest bus stop, and the estimated arrival time of your bus. Leave at the last minute to avoid exposure to harsh weather conditions.
- Sit tight. You don’t have to go nowhere. Instead of going to get stuff, let the stuff come to you. There’s more to delivery than pizza and Chinese food. Web sites like Delivery.com and GrubHub feature numerous local restaurants that deliver to you. Order household and personal care items from Soap.com or Alice. Have groceries delivered to your door step with Peapod and Netgrocer.
In case you’re wondering whether I own a car, I do. I drive an atomic blue 2007 Honda Civic LX, specifically designed for pimps, players, hustlers and divas. And yes, I drive my paid for car most places. But it sure is nice to know that I don’t have to.
What other ways have you found to reduce or eliminate the cost of car ownership?