My girlfriend and I took a three-day mini-vacation last week, driving over to Lake Tahoe and down through Yosemite. We camped for two days on the banks of the Truckee river and enjoyed s’mores’ and wine by an open fire.
A few people emailed in to askhow I could possibly go all of that distance without owning a car. Well, this is true. I don’t own a car, and I only drive a few times a year.
The way I see it, the object of not owning a car is not to live in a hole, without the ability to travel when necessary.
A few of you are probably guessing already how I was able to go all of that distance without owning a car, but first I want to go over a few reasons why I don’t own a car.
The reasons not to own a car.
- Cars are expensive, costing the average American $8,000+ a year. When people buy cars, they only look at the sticker price-per-month, but they don’t think about car insurance, damage, problems, and tickets. If I had a car, I’d have to make more money to pay for it. It’s a vicious cycle that never ends.
- Maintaining a car can be stressful and time intensive. You have to get the oil checked, and make sure all of your papers are in order. This would take time away from my business and pleasures. Instead, I opt not to own a car.
- Cars are bad from the environment. They emit greenhouse gases, and most use a diminishing resource called oil, which is currently still spilling out all over the Gulf of Mexico, and we’re still mired in two wars over. If we’re ever going to live free, we need to stop being so dependent on oil to get around on a daily basis.
- Driving every day increases the likelihood that you will die or kill someone with your vehicle. Cars are dangerous weapons, enough said.
That being said, a few times a year it might be necessary to have the mobility of a car to leave the city and explore the greatness of America.
Please note: Before you head straight for the comments and scream ‘hypocrite’ at me for driving a few times a year. There’s a huge difference between driving a car for hours every single day over the course of a year, and driving a car for a few hours a couple of times a year.
Yes, occasionally I drive. It is necessary sometimes in order to escape the city. No, I wouldn’t dream of commuting two hours both ways to work every day like so many Americans do.
The secret to ultra-mobility without owning a car.
I’m a member of Zipcar.
For those who don’t know already. Zipcar is a car-sharing program that has been expanding rapidly in most cities in the US.
The premise is simple: most people don’t need to drive a car every day. If you treat a car kind of like a library book, thousands of people can share one car throughout a year.
By crowd-sourcing the cost of the vehicle, the cost on any one individual is greatly diminished.
If I needed a car right now for a quick run to a place that I couldn’t reach via public transit, I could have my choice of more than 20 different vehicles within a mile of the coffee shop where I’m writing this. Most of them cost around $9.50 an hour or $88 a day. If I know I need the Zipcar in advance, the cost is even less. If I were to take an ad-sponsored Zipcar, like the Wicked-wrapped Ford Focus over at the Bart stop, I’ll only have to pay $6.50 for my hour of driving.
Here are some other benefits of being a member of Zipcar
- You can change up what car you drive. Sick of driving your Prius? Switch it up and sport a Mazda Hatchback. Every time I drive, I have a completely new driving experience. Over the last year I’ve had the pleasure of test-driving over a dozen separate vehicles for long periods of time.
- Gas, insurance, licensing and maintenance is included in the cost-per-hour. Every Zipcar includes a gas card, which you can use to fill up for free at any self-serve gas station. I can’t over-stress how important it is that you don’t have to worry about these costs. Imagine not having that sinking feeling in your stomach when you’ve just put away $30-40 for a full tank of gas in this economy? Eliminated by Zipcar.
- Using Zipcar so incredibly simple. I can reserve a car in route via my iPhone, or on my computer in advance. I use a simple plastic credit-card-like Zipcard to let myself in and out of the car when I get to the location. Then I’m driving within seconds.
- If the Zipcar is damaged in an accident, you only have to pay a $500 damage fee. This can also be offset, if you’re for whatever reason more accident prone, by paying an additional insurance fee to Zipcar. I’ve never damaged a car in my life, I have driving reflexes like a cat, so I’m not too worried about this.
- You can use Zipcar in any of 50+ cities across the United States and the UK. For example, if I were to fly into Brooklyn for a few days, and needed to get upstate, it’d be no problem for me to reserve a car there. If I headed to San Diego, no problem! London, a Zipcar is there waiting for me. Imagine trying to get your car to another continent? That’d be expensive, but this way there’s very little cost involved.
- Zipcar reduces your impact on the environment. Zipcar estimates that for every car they put into action, it takes 15-20 cars off the streets. I imagine as time goes on, that number will rise dramatically. The more cars we share, the less we need our own. Almost all Zipcars are brand new fuel efficient/hybrid vehicles, so you’re also never going to be driving a clunker (which is the alternative budget car for most people.)
For a full list of Zipcar benefits, visit their website.
If you join soon, Zipcar has authorized me to give you $25 in free driving credits.
This reduces the fee to join Zipcar to essentially only $25. That’s pretty much nothing compared to the $8,000 and all of the time you’d save if you got rid of your car, isn’t it?
If you live in an urban area, there’s really no reason not to ditch your car and join Zipcar. Save yourself tons of money a year, free yourself from the obligation of maintaining a car, drive a different car every time you take a trip, and save the planet. Not a bad deal, right?
Subsection for power users: how to use Zipcar for free.
Here’s a final tip, and with the right amount of effort can work for the right people:
It’s possible to use Zipcars for free.
How? Zipcar has an affiliate program that allows you to sign up drivers for driving credit commission. For example, if you were able to sign up 100 drivers via your blog, you’d be able to drive Zipcar anywhere from $2500-$5000 ‘Zip Credit Hours’, depending on which affiliate link you use.
I choose the ‘you get $25, I get $25′ for these links, because I want you to have some free time riding around in the car as well. This way you’ll know how to write about Zipcar on your own site in order to get your own free driving time.
I used my affiliate link to Zipcar in this post. So, if you sign up for an account, I’ll get a small credit that I can use towards my own driving. You can do this too, once you get the account.
Obviously results will vary depending on the size of your network. I have almost 5,000 subscribers to Far Beyond The Stars, so chances are a few dozen (probably many more) will take me up the offer. Your blog might have a larger or smaller following, so results will vary.
This works just like the affiliate system for my e-books –the only difference is that my affiliates get paid in cash. To read more, check out the affiliate section of the new Minimalist Business Bookstore.
For more on driving car-free, I definitely suggest checking out my friend Tammy Strobel’s blog, Rowdy Kittens. She’s an expert on this subject.
Oh! And don’t forget to check out my guest post on Julien Smith’s (co-author of Trust Agents) blog: One Way to Abolish Risk.
If you enjoyed this post, I’d love if you’d share it on Twitter or StumbleUpon. Thanks so much.