Overrated: Owning a car isolates you from your world


In 27 months without a car, I have saved thousands of dollars and become an entirely new person; happier, more balanced, and much more muscular. Though I spent decades of my life in love with the American car culture, and then happened into the decision to give it up without much forethought, I've learned that owning a car is highly over-rated. I'll tell you my story.

In the year 2000, I was young, sort of rich, and definitely single. Living in Northern Virginia and working in management for a dotcom startup I'd helped get off the ground, I was spoiled and spendthrift. I bought a brand-new Mercedes ML320.

Cut to June 2006. I'd finally paid the Mercedes off, but myriad mechanical issues (note to self: don't buy German cars manufactured in the American south), insurance and gas were costing me $300-500 a month. I had two little boys and an under-employed husband. Living in Portland, Oregon, I was becoming more and more concerned about our impact on the environment every day. Then I got a flat tire; it was unfixable, I'd have to replace all four tires to the tune of $650 (for the cheapie version).

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I parked the Mercedes, still rocking its "donut" spare tire, let the insurance expire, bought some bus tickets and fixed up my mountain bike.