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The Ultimate Guide to Living Life Without a Car

The Ultimate Guide to Living Life Without a Car

The Ultimate Guide to Living Life Without a Car

I have been living without a car for over 5 years. When I got my first car at 16 I never envisioned a life without it. However, when I moved into the city of Chicago I decided to sell my car.

I was nervous and had no clue how my carless experience would turn out. Besides knowing that Chicago had a bus and train system at my disposal I didn’t know what tools were available to me.

With this post I have put together all the tools I use to get around and some I haven’t used yet. My hope is that if you are on the fence about going carless or you don’t have a car this guide will help you.

Why go without a car?

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  • It will save you money. You can figure how much you spend on a car payment, maintenance, gas, and insurance. It is one of your biggest expenses. Imagine being able to use that money on things that bring you happiness. According to AAA the average yearly cost of vehicle is $10,000.   

  • You won’t have to drive and this will free you up to do other activities. My favorite activity is reading. If I had to guess how many books over the last 5 years I have read while riding the train or bus. It would be between 100-200. Some other common activities you can do while riding are watching netflix, playing games on your phone, or knitting.

  • Free exercise. Not having a car will involve walking or bike riding. If you don’t like to exercise this will force you into it.

  • It is better for the environment. Reducing CO2 emissions is good for the earth and humanity.

What are the downsides to not owning a car?

  • You can’t go wherever you want whenever you want. The good news is I have a bunch of tools to recommend and make you aware of that minimizes this downside.

  • The transportation of large amounts of goods, animals, or children is difficult. When you don’t have a car there is a limited capacity of what you can carry.

  • You have to ride public transportation. You have to deal with fellow riders. Occasionally you will try and see how many people can fit in one bus or train car which is not an enjoyable activity.

  • Planning out your route is necessary. Before going anywhere you have to figure out how you are going to get there via public transit, biking, etc.

  • You will have to deal with weather. You can’t walk outside and be in your car within a minute to avoid undesirable weather.

  • It’s hard to get around in non-city environments. If there is no bus or train system near you getting around can be tough. I would not recommend going carless if this is where you live.

Tools for Getting Around Without a Car

  • Walking This is good for close places or for getting to your nearest public transit. You should trying to live near places you need to go frequently. A bonus with this is walking is good for you and can be relaxing.

  • Pedway Most cities have a pedway system. Chicago where I live you can get across the entire loop underground. This is great for days it is cold or raining.

  • Trains and buses Pretty self-explanatory many companies have programs to pay for your passes pre-tax. If you use these make sure to look into that. This has saved me hundreds of dollars.

  • Bus and train tracker apps There a bunch of apps out there they will tell you the arrival times of the train or bus you are waiting for.

  • Google maps Google maps has a public transit, walking, and bike filter to help you with route planning. The bike filter will show you which streets have bike lanes on them.

  • Bike With the proper bike and weather gear you can get around year round. Make sure to have a good lock and bag to carry things on your back. I can carry a weeks worth of groceries with my newest bag (

  • Uber/Lyft/Taxis These are great for getting to places where there isn’t a direct route via public transit. Uber and Lyft are significantly cheaper than taxis and now have pool features where you can share trip with other riders to reduce cost.

  • Standard Car renting  Your local Enterprise or car rental place is great if you want to make a road trip or need a car for an extended period of time. The downside with this is you have to work with their pick up and drop times. The process for getting a rental car is a bit tedious.

  • Zipcar  I use zipcar it is pricer than renting a car, but it is super convenient should you need a car in a rush. How their service works is you sign up and get a card. You go on their website or app find a car parked near you, select an amount of time you want to rent if for. Then just go up to the car hold the car and you have a car. A few years ago my Mom was in a car accident. When I received the call that she was in the hospital. I went on the zipcar app and within ten minutes had a car rented. Then was on my way to the hospital. Fortunately, she just had some broken bones and was fine. I have considered cancelling my zipcar subscription because it is extra money I spend and I don’t use it often, but I kept it because it gives me piece of mind that if I need a car in an emergency I can get one quickly.

  • Turo Is a car sharing service where you can rent other people’s cars from them. I have not used this yet, but I plan on trying it out next time I need to rent a car. It looks to be cheaper than your standard car rental or Zipcar and my hope is that it will be a quicker process.

  • Delivery services  Nowadays you can get anything delivered to your house even groceries. This eliminates your trips to the store which saves you time and hassle. Peapod or Amazon are services that delivers groceries to you. Ordering online can be an affordable option if you are saving money not owning a car.

With all these tools available there will be a bunch of options for planning your transportation. Once you know where you plan to go just figure out which option best fits your needs in terms of time, weather, safety, and cost.

Living life without a car is not without complications, but with all of the tools we have today it is much easier. I hope if you are planning to live life without a car or already do so that these tools will be helpful to you.


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