My husband and I moved from Indianapolis to Chicago in July 2014, and we brought our car with us. We liked the idea of going car-less in a big city, but we weren’t immediately sure getting rid of it was a good idea. After all, there were advantages to having it, perhaps the biggest being the ability to go anywhere we wanted at any time. We also have family in other states we try to visit regularly, as well as a dog that needs to be transported to the vet and daycare on occasion.
Deciding to Sell
In our first six months in Chicago, we used the car infrequently. We most often got into it just to move it to a different parking space, when weekly street cleaning required us to do so. Meanwhile, we continued to pay for insurance, parking permits and the occasional tank of gas.
We decided to sell it mainly for two reasons. First of all, it was annoying: Moving it for street cleaning, circling block after block in search of a parking space every time we used it and, even though we sold it in early December, we knew one huge disadvantage loomed ahead — winter. Digging a car out of snow to use it maybe once or twice a month did not appeal to us. Second of all, it was expensive. We paid for insurance and parking permits, and had we kept the car, we needed to renew the license plates and city sticker, which aren’t cheap.
We already used public transportation or rode a bike on a daily basis, but getting rid of the car meant those would be our only options. Any time we left the city to visit friends or family, we would either need to pay for bus or train tickets, rent a car or borrow a vehicle. With those extra costs, we weren’t sure how much we’d end up saving, but now that we’ve been without the car for a year, I’ve been able to figure it out.
How We Saved
In general, we spent about $1,000 less this year than last year on auto- and transport-related expenses (I defined the years as December 2013 through November 2014 and December 2014 through November 2015, since we sold the car in the first week of December 2014). That includes everything — insurance, gas, oil changes, tolls, bus tickets, transit passes, cab rides, parking and so on. However, merely calculating the difference in transport-related costs from year to year doesn’t exactly show how much money selling the car saved us.
Because of this, I calculated my savings a couple different ways. I isolated expenses in 2014 that were directly related to having a car (like insurance, tolls and maintenance) and expenses in 2015 that were a direct result of not having a car (like bus rides or trains out of the city or state and gas to fuel a borrowed car). By that measure, we spent $2,400 less this year.
That figure probably overestimates our savings, because gas was a lot more expensive in 2014 (when we drove more), and we lived in Indianapolis for half the year, where our insurance was cheaper, we didn’t pay for a parking permit or city sticker and we rarely traveled on toll roads.
So I looked at what it cost when we had a car in Chicago and what it cost when we didn’t over the same time period: July through November of each year. We spent about $750 less when comparing those two timeframes. During that period in 2014, the only car maintenance we paid for was an oil change, so it was a relatively cheap few months of car ownership in the first place.
Making the Most of Savings
Saving $750 over the course of five months is a pretty big deal. That’s $150 a month. Considering we put a few extra hundred dollars toward our student loan payments every month, selling our car has put us on a path to paying off our debt faster and saves us money on interest. I hadn’t really thought about how selling the car has helped us tackle our debt until I wrote this story, but I’m happy to have another reason to support our decision. If $150 is really the average amount we save in a month, that’s $1,800 a year. (Debt can impact your credit and you can see how your debt levels are affecting your credit score by viewing your free credit report card each month on Credit.com).
There are of course downsides to not having a car. We have less flexibility when traveling, because we’re generally beholden to a bus or train schedule. Carpooling requires tradeoffs and a lot of coordination. Planning ahead is important so we don’t have to pay a ton for last-minute travel planning.
Going car-less isn’t for everyone Still, however you calculate it, selling our car saved us money, and we never have to shovel a vehicle out of a snow drift. This makes me very, very happy.
More on Auto Loans:
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