go car free course

Lesson 24

Try It, You’ll Like It: Go Car Free for One Week

“I’ve found a sure way to attract men. I spray new car scent on myself! I get dates and it masks any odor of reality.”
 – Sue Clancy, Artist & Illustrator

So, you’ve run the numbers on how much your car is costing you, you’ve done some creative brainstorming, investigated transportation alternatives in your community, and taken a few trial runs using alternate modes of transportation to your regular destinations.

How are you feeling about going car free?

Confident? Convinced? Uncertain? Skeptical?

Well, the best way to make your decision is to put everything you’ve learned into practice.

I want you to place your car keys in a drawer for one full week (including the weekend). Try not to use the car at all.

What you’re after is a sense of whether or not car free living suits you. Could you visualize your life without a car?

The Trial Week

It takes a little experience to figure out car free living, so don’t expect things to go perfectly smoothly right away. Here are a few tips that might help during the trial week:

  • Leave fifteen minutes early for work on Monday morning to allow plenty of time for unexpected delays.
  • Borrow needed equipment – like a bicycle or rain suit – instead of buying it.
  • Make sure you have cell phone numbers of friends, relatives, and coworkers.
  • Verify that your triple redundancy system is in place.

Evaluating Your Trial Week

So how do you determine if the trial week was a success? More importantly, how can you tell if car free living is a good fit for you? Here is a list of questions to think about during this trial period:

  • Did you get to work on time?
  • Were you more stressed or less stressed?
  • Did you feel a sense of accomplishment?
  • Did you ever feel isolated, stranded, or cut off?
  • Did you miss your car a little, a lot, or not at all?
  • Do you think you could live well without owning a car?

CAUTION: Don’t Expect the Payoff Just Yet

The big payoffs of living a car free lifestyle come only after you get rid of your car. That’s when your expenses will shrink and your bank account will surge. The big financial, time, and lifestyle benefits only kick in after you sell your car.

As long as your car is parked outside you still have deal with it, worry about it, maintain it, insure it, and pay for it. So during this trial week the tremendous peace of mind and financial freedom that come with car free living will not materialize. Keep that in mind as you evaluate this trial.

If the Trial Week Goes Well

If you made it just fine without your car during the trial week, go on to the next step; take the plunge and get rid of your car.

If you purchased your car – and maybe if you lease your car – there is a good chance you will bank some positive cash flow from the sale. Used car prices are so high right now you can probably sell your car for a profit. That’s money in the bank on day one of your car free experiment.

Easing into a car free lifestyle by gradually reducing your car use is another option. We call this going car lite.

But there are a couple of downsides to the car lite strategy. First, you won’t get any of the benefits of not owning a car. And second, it’s just too easy to hop in the car for a quick trip to the store. This will hinder your efforts to embrace car free alternatives and learn by doing.

If the Trial Week Does Not Go Well

If the trial week does not go well, don’t give up. Instead, identify the trouble spots. Then go back to the previous lessons of this course that pertain to those topics.

For example, if your commute by public transit took too much time, go back and review both Lesson 10 about Mass Transit, and lesson 9, Should You Move Closer to Work?

Once you figure out why the trial failed, you may determine that some mild lifestyle reengineering is necessary. Brainstorm about what changes you could make to facilitate a car free lifestyle.

Whatever obstacle lies between you and living car free can be overcome. It may seem like a lot of effort is required in the near term, but the long-term payoff will be worth it ten times over.

You Can Always Buy Another Car

Finally, remember that even if you sell your car, you are not locked into anything. Ending your car free experiment is as simple as buying another car. So if you’re undecided, I suggest you go car free anyway. You have little to lose and so much to gain.

If you later determine car free living is not for you, you have an easy exit strategy. You can even rent a car for a few weeks while you shop for a new one.

Let’s move on to Lesson 25, Let’s Do This: Getting Rid of Your Car

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