Still car-free, but for how long?

Citroen AMI-8 Break

Before leaving Canada we budgeted 3000 pounds to buy a used car in the UK. We had been told it was a necessity for life in the Isle of Man and my husband is provided a car allowance as part of his salary.

Well, that money is still in the bank and we’re still without a car.

Not that we haven’t been tempted.

We walk a lot and there are many used car lots or for sale signs on cars parked on the street. Used vehicles are priced a lot lower here than they are at home. We’re told the prices are low because of the recession and that there is a glut of used vehicles. We’ve looked at cars from 1350 pounds all the way up to 6000 pounds.

We’ve looked and yet, we’re still without a car.

The other week I took a trip down south to Port Erin for a beach day with Henry. I was aiming to take the train but missed it and took the bus instead. The bus was relatively quick, easy to use and very modern. Lots of room for our stroller and the driver was very helpful when I asked for directions. Round trip it cost me 5.80. Even a dozen bus trips a month and a few taxis will be considerably cheaper than owning a car. I’d also be psyched to put that 3000 pounds we’re holding onto for a car, onto our remaining debt.

Before leaving Canada I was interviewed by Carrie Kirby of the Chicago Tribune for a piece on families that go without a car. I was proud and excited to share our story with Carrie and, hopefully, encourage other readers to rethink their automobile dependency. I was also really sad to be moving to the UK and have a car again.

Now we’re not so sure we need a car. We’re testing the waters with public transport, taxis for Chris to work on super rainy days (we’re told umbrellas are useless in the rain here – it goes sideways) and, as usual, walking a lot. Some days I walk more than 10km between getting a few groceries and going to the park. Pleasant footpaths here and it’s a great way to stay in shape.

So we’re still car-free for now. I’ll again be tracking our expenses and letting you know what it’s costing us.

Photo Credit

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  • Don’t know about the Isle of Man specifically, but have not yet needed a car in the 3 cities I’ve lived in in the UK. Seem to be more useful in rural locations or if you’re commuting.

    Umbrellas are fairly useless – they often turn inside out, and the rain does come sideways. I use a rain poncho for cycling – it packs up small enough to carry around. Something like these: (have not shopped from this store) while a lot of my colleagues go the waterproof-trousers-over-suit-trousers route.

    And the high-visability rain ponchos might be useful if you’re walking on roads without a pavement. It gets dark very early in winter and is dreary all day so can be hard for drivers to see pedestrians or cyclists. (Actually, might get one myself now I’ve found them!)

    • We walk mostly on sidewalks and on the waterfront promenade. I can see with shorter days and less light, we’ll need something visible on the promenade. It’s a multi-use pathway and we walk it at least once a day round trip.

      The only catch I see right now is that bus service is very limited on Sundays. It’s still possible to go places but you have to be quite organized.

      Thanks for the link!

  • Congrats on staying car free so far! I think it was very smart of you not to buy a car right away and just try it out without one. Is there some kind of car sharing service on the IOM you could use for rainy seasons?

    In the Netherlands umbrella’s are often of no use either because of the wind!

    P.S. my boyfriend and I were inspired by your dishwashing post and we have washed our dishes by hand for the past few days and we love it! Usually we tend to rush and do our own things after dinner, and now we spend some more time talking and relaxing after dinner.

    • The one car share/hire service I have seen is for Smart Cars. Cool but not family friendly.

      Yeah for washing dishes by hand! A month ago I would have told anyone that tried to convince me it was relaxing that they were crazy. Now I am enjoying the pace of it. Nice to hear you and your boyfriend are too.

  • I think if you can go without a car that’s great. The rainy winters may not be that pleasant for you though.

    It’s not really reasonable here for us since the public transit from my area into the city is pathetic. If we lived in the city centre – or even sort of close to it, it would be possible. Putting that much money down to pay off debt would be hugely tempting to me as well.

    • The first week of nonstop rain might turn us into car owners.

      Even if we do get a car I am hoping we do it in a few months. If we can hold off till January we will have all our debt paid and enough saved enough for a car. It would be great to pay cash for a vehicle and have no consumer debt.

  • I only passed my driving test last year and hardly ever drive, we do have a car but only use it once or twice a month. If we moved back to London I would be happy to go car-free, far less hassle and the money saved allows for the odd taxi. Plus so much better for your health and the environment, and I think it’s good for kids to be brought up walking to places – so many children think you have to have a car to get anywhere and grow up not confident in using public transport/walking. My parents have never had a car and are always out and about!

    • We had a car growing up but there were so many of us (6 kids) that there was no way my mom could chauffeur us everywhere. In the summer I walked down to the beach every day – probably 8 km round trip. I hope Henry gets the same experience.

      PS. Maybe I don’t want a car because I am too scared of the driving on the other side of the road. It’s a small motivator to walk and use the bus system.

  • I think it would be great to be car free. With where we live though it’s not an option for us. My husband and I were discussing it last night though and we have decided to sell our minivan. We still have a car that seats 5, our family has 5 so it’s a little tight but liveable. For longer trips we can always rent a van. If we lived in an area with a good public transportation system or that was more walkable we would be willing to get rid of both vehicles.

    • Unfortunately, going without a car isn’t an option for most people I know. We’ve sought out locations to support the car-free life but most of our family and friends would be hard pressed to make things work without a car.

      Good for you on getting rid of the 2nd car!

  • Somehow I feel the same way about a car than about an I-Phone. If you can have it without getting addicted to it, great. If not, public transport will do just as well. (provided you live in the city etc)

    You seem to be doing very well in your new life! Well done. :)

    • Agreed on the parallel with the iPhone. So many of the conveniences of modern living can turn into traps.

      Things are going really well. Enjoying our honeymoon phase here. The winter and homesickness will come soon enough.

      Thanks for the Dublin ideas and encouragement to get out of the city. We’re still planning a loose itinerary. Will be in touch so we can hopefully meet up.

  • We loved having no car on our travels, as we enjoyed walking around and felt we experienced more by taking public transportation. This fall, we’re looking forward to moving to France where everything is a walk or bike ride away. I love reading about your minimalist life without a car. It really inspires/challenges me to live with less.

    • Will all the kids be getting bikes? That will be so cute!

      And you and your family inspire me. I am so excited to put up your guest post in a few weeks.

  • Interesting post. I passed my test more than 2 years ago and have never owned a car, nor have any desire for one. I live within 10 minutes bike ride of the town center, good train service to bigger citys, and I have no desire for status symbols or to fit in with others.

    At best, a car would only get used at weekends, there is no way I’m dropping £2000+ on something which would be used so rarely. Plus, if I had to commute more than 10 minutes, I would pick up and move. No amount of money is worth such daily drudgery, I would rather live on the street than do a hour plus commute every day :)

    If you need a car, get one, if you can manage without, do so :)

  • Hola Mi Amiga! Check out Get Rich Slowly’s posts over the last couple days. JD Roth had a Bike Vs Car calculator on there! May be of interest.
    And yes, UK rain does come at you sideways…

    • ps – really tempted to attempt a bike ride to swimming tomorrow with Dan. It’s further than I’d normally take him on the back of my “Mary Poppins” bike…and I’m not convinced it would still be there after swimming, bike lock or no bike lock – that’s the beauty of IofM (low crime rate?) I’ll sleep on!

      • A few months ago, after implementing your “no waste tastes great” scheme, my 7-year-old had the idea, that if we cycle instead of using the car between Monday and Friday, at the end-of the week we’d all get a treat!

        These days the kids insist on cycling even in the rain! :(

  • Hi
    how about to just own a car for the fun of it ?
    I mean if you dont need it you can just have it for fun of using or owning it ?
    sure if you think happiness comes from having a car or object or thing , its perhaps un real but if its you who puts the feeling in the idea of car , as you can put it in to anything there is no real bond or commitment , you remain free from these objects you than are truly only the user and not used by it .
    is that what your story realy is about ?

  • Good on you for not getting a car straight away so you can see if you can live without one. In cities and towns with decent public transport living without a car is a great option. I have lived without a car in two different cities in my life. At the moment I am sadly living in a city without great public transport options but my partner and I still limit ourselves to one car and it’s working well!

  • I read your link to the news article in the Tribune. It seemed the emphasis was that you have to live in a city to get by without a car and that you just can’t do it without 3 kids. We have 3 kids and live in the suburbs outside of Toronto. We went down to 1 car from 2. And now we’re selling our other car. We saved so much money getting rid of the second car. And we’ve come to realize that we don’t need a car, we just need to do a better job of organizing our lives. We’ve been practicing not using the car for months now and it’s been working. Yes, we still need a car to visit grandparents. But that’s on average 1x a month of less. My husband picked up a car (similar to zip) by his work downtown and brought it home for the weekend and returned it on his way to work on today.

    It feels like we’re the only ones in the suburbs moving to car free. But your lifestyle in Isle Of Man sounds somewhat similar. I appreciate your blog.

    • Emily – I’m impressed. Getting down to one car in the suburbs is one thing but going without a car – that’s commitment. Like you say, the biggest requirement is organization. I am finding it challenging here on the Isle of Man, things are farther away and the weather this winter has been terrible, but we have a bus stop across the street. If I time it right I can be into town in less than 10 minutes by bus.

      Thanks for sharing your story. Inspiring!

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