I owned a car from the day I got my driver’s license. To be more exact, that’s not far from my 18th birthday, since that’s the age you need in order to be legally permitted to drive in Europe. And ever since I got my driver’s license, my car was my main transportation vehicle. I was always too lazy to walk, go by bike or take public transport. Nevertheless, I never perceived a car as a status symbol. I see my awesome personality as my BMW. :)
For more than 15 years, I used a car, even if I only needed to go to the grocery store located within walking distance. Until this year, when I decided to sell my car (to keep blogging).
I know you may live in a huge metropolis where owning a car is not common; or you may live in the countryside where everything is miles away and you simply can’t live without a car. If you do own a car, maybe there is an option for you to consider living a life without a car, if nothing else just for a while.
For me, it was one of the best decisions ever, right next to ditching my phone. Here’s my experience.
Higher transaction costs lead to better focus
Without a car, the transaction cost for doing most of the things away from your home skyrocket. It can be meeting with a friend for a drink, going shopping, attending a meeting, or anything else. Participating in anything remote to your home/office location is a much bigger problem if you don’t own a car.
If you own a car, you simply get your ass in the car and drive yourself to a bar, shop, someone else’s office or wherever the “special” event is taking place. That’s very convenient and the transaction costs are extremely low. All you have to do is to push the gas pedal. And the transaction costs will get even lower with self-driving cars.
Without a car, everything takes a lot more effort. You have to either walk, take a bike, go by public transport or convince your friend/business partner to meet you at your house or a nearby pub. Wherever you want to go, it takes a lot more effort for logistics – physically (getting there) and mentally (planning).
The result is that you skip half of the things, from useless meetings to shopping sprees. You optimize your errands. You optimize when and where you meet with people, and you especially make sure you really meet the people you’re interested in bonding with and developing deeper relationships.
Instead of quantity, you start to appreciate quality. Instead of being stuck in a traffic jam, you appreciate creating in the flow, reading or going for a walk with a friend.
You don’t own stuff, stuff owns you
The next thing I learned is that a car is such an obvious example of how you don’t own stuff, but stuff owns you. A car is a liability and as such, it takes all kinds of resources out of your pocket – a lot of them. Amortization. Registration. Maintenance. Being pissed off about the scratch you just made bumping into a fence. Cleaning. Being worried that your car would get stolen.
It all takes money, time and mental bandwidth. I don’t even want to mention additional burdens if your car is on a lease and you need it to compensate for your ego weaknesses – which usually leads to driving a car you can’t afford. Drowning in a pile of debt to feel like a successful person, instead of really being one, doesn’t make any sense.
A car can definitely be an asset. It can be a sign of power. But only if it brings more money and other resources into your pocket. Only if you really need it and you can afford it. And if you really don’t have better things to do than driving around from one traffic jam to another.
Life without a car burns fat
The thing I like by far the most – without a car, you have to use all these transportation methods that run on fat. You walk to the grocery store. You run to catch a bus. You cycle to meet a friend in the city center. You spend time in nature instead of waiting in traffic jams.
The secret is that all these small exercise activities accumulate throughout the day. A 15-minute walk a few times a day, a 30-minute bike ride and a few sprints to catch the bus, and all this already adds up to you exercising for an hour and losing a few hundred calories; without even doing any kind of hard work.
If you want to lose weight, sell your car, and don’t even think about any electric bikes or using taxis, just walk, skate, bike, jog, run or sprint.
A new perspective
When I was regularly driving a car, I kind of disliked cyclists. You always have to be cautious of them on the road and they often cycle where they shouldn’t. But the thing is, I couldn’t understand their perspective because I didn’t have their experience.
Now I have the experience and I understand their (now also my) perspective much better. Bike paths are rare and car drivers are often the ones not paying enough attention to cyclists, using mobile phones while driving or in general not being attentive enough.
Not to even mention pedestrians camping on bike paths. You’re much more exposed to injuries on a bike, so you have to be that more careful on the road. That’s why I also bought myself the biggest helmet possible.
The main lesson is not that the infrastructure for cyclists should be better, which is true but I guess not an easy thing to update, but that you shouldn’t judge something if you don’t have your own personal experience with that same thing.
You can’t understand something if you don’t have the experience. Period. That also means that every new experience broadens your horizon and the level of understanding life and other people. So expose yourself to as many new experiences as possible.
Increasing tolerance levels
I guess using only a car as a transportation option in the past already somehow indicates that I was quite lazy. Being too lazy often also means that you have low tolerance levels. You get frustrated easily.
Everything you have to do is a demanding task, even more so if you have to do something unexpectedly. You won’t believe it, but using a bike increased my general tolerance level. There are so many mini-tasks connected to an average trip I take with a bike.
For example, if I want to go to the grocery store, I have to take a backpack with me, then unlock my bike, put a helmet on, cycle to the store, lock the bike again, put the helmet off, buy items, unlock the bike again, put the helmet on, carry items in my backpack, cycle back, sip a little bit of water, put my helmet off, lock my bike again, oh, but first I have to find my keys and I have no idea which pocket I put them in. And it often just starts raining in the middle.
The first few times I took a bike instead of a car, I was thinking to myself that there’s a hell of a lot more work to do and effort to put in. But after the first few times, it became normal to me.
The effort soon didn’t seem that huge anymore. Consequently, my tolerance levels increased, including in other areas of life. In other words, since I’ve been using a bike as the main transportation vehicle, I toughened up a little bit.
I’m not saying I won’t ever own a car again
There are definitely many benefits to selling your car – fewer obligations, more money, better health, you toughen up a little bit and much more.
I know it greatly depends on where you live, but if you have a chance to sell your car, just as an experiment, I encourage you to try it – just for a month or so. It currently works perfectly for me.
I am not saying I won’t own a car sometime in the future if needed, you know I like to keep things flexible, but you can gain so many insights from living with completely different life settings every now and then – and having no car is one such alternative.
And if you can’t sell your car, consider downgrading it; especially if you have it on a lease. You don’t want to be a slave to your car.
Let your healthy body be your Lexus, your awesome personality your BMW, your knowledge the Mercedes you own, the smile on your face your Tesla, and a full bank account your Maserati. At the end of the day, you want to be rich and happy, not only look rich and happy.
Experiment a little bit with your life settings and see if living without a car brings any benefits to you. And don’t be scared to try it, it’s only a car, nothing else.