Life without owning a car – a year later

One year ago we became car-free. Or to be more precise, we stopped having a car at our constant disposal, we did not stop using cars whatsoever. If you would like to know why we did it, read about it here. In this article I want to report on how it went. Spoiler alert: for now we are going strong and have not regretted the decision. For a more faceted analysis, read on.

If we look at it financially, it has been a clear win – from around 5700 SEK per month for our leased Renault we went down to 830 SEK per month for all the rentals and car pools we did in Stockholm during the last year. If we take the time aspect into account – yes, we did have to spend more time on getting the rented cars as we have not always been able to rent in the direct vicinity of our apartment. On the other hand, we spent exactly zero minutes on changing tires, washing the car and taking it to service. So time-wise I guess it is roughly the same.

But time and money do not tell the whole story. How has our life changed? How do we feel about not owning a car? Well, I think we do go to slightly fewer events compared to before, but not fewer enough to consider it a problem. A decision whether to go somewhere we need a car for was mostly a factor of having time. But now it is a factor of having time and how much it costs to rent a car. I remember one Sunday when we strangely had some free time (this does not happen that often) I thought to myself “I would like to sit in a car and just drive around”. If we had our own car we would have simply done it, but now we additionally need to weigh in if this is worth the money for renting. And the answer is often a “no”.

Btw. this is a great example of how our brains often play tricks on us – renting is still cheaper than owning, but when you own a car the price of “just driving around on a Sunday” is distributed in time and then feels cheaper than it is. Renting on the other hand visibly kicks out several hundred SEK from the account, and the effect of this is much more tangible. Talking about brains playing tricks, I have noticed one more interesting impact of not owning a car. Now when we travel, making a decision whether to rent or not at our destination is always skewed towards renting. Since we now spend less car-money at home, I guess it is easier for the brain to think “well sure, spend car-money abroad then”.  These two aspects in a way cancel each other out – one makes us rent less while the other makes us rent more.

In conclusion, when it comes to money and the environment, not having our own car is great. When it comes to time, it is more or less the same. But on the other hand, we have lost the feeling of complete flexibility and freedom. It is just that this has not been as big a problem as we had worried. So we plan to continue being car-free for as long as it has more upsides than downsides for us. How long that will be, I cannot tell.

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