Car-Free or Car Owner? : Finding A Happy Middle Ground

There has been lot of discussion about going car free and its benefits. Many of people are interested in being minimalist and saving environment are saying that going car free is one of the best way to do it. I agree, being car free is good thing for saving money, saving environment and also getting healthier (be able to walk more). However, It may not be possible for many of us, to go car free for various reasons as follows:

Possible Reasons for not being Car-Free

  1. Lack of near by public transportation
  2. There might be public transit, but it may take 2-3 connection to go to your destination.
  3. It might take an hour or longer to commute one way
  4. Public transit is not available at times you want to travel
  5. You have kids and mega stuff that kids seems to be having
  6. You want the freedom of coming and going at time you please, aka not waiting
  7. It might not be safe to travel in some area alone at certain times.
  8. It is inconvenient

While above seem like an excuses the some, it could be as real issues to others. I know I have been there and I am not car free myself right now. So why I am writing about being car-free?

I am actually want to share that there are more than Black and White in every issues, there are lot of Grey areas and being car-free or owning car has Grey areas too and simply we do not have to pick sides. We can still save money and our environment at the same time, weather you own a car or are car-free.

My college Life Experience

I used to take bus and local train to my college, even though I had to make 1 connection and it took 1.15 minutes one way to get to college it was helpful. My younger brother and I shared one car so we had one but we rarely used it and mostly for urgent trips.

Some benefits of using public Transportation:

  1. You do not have to worry about traffic or getting stuck.
  2. You can read, listen to music while sitting in bus/train
  3. You can do your homework/ check balancing / knit
  4. Some of us can take a good hour nap (if your trip lasted long)
  5. You can chat up with fellow travelers and make friendship (I know someone who got married this way)
  6. You can relax without worrying about direction finding
  7. You will always have fixed time to go and come
  8. You can always leave boring gathering, saying you have go as bus times are fixed
  9. You can save money on car buying, insurance and gas filling prices
  10. You might be more relaxed and be not part of road rage that some people go through.

I enjoyed using public transportation during my high school and college years and some times I actually walked to my destination (if the place was within a few miles). I actually got some fresh air and got some exercise at the same time.

During my single phase and working phase I had a car but I still shared rides with friends and occasionally rode public transportation.

Life as a family with 2 young kids

Right now, I find almost hard to be car free with 2 kids. I actually heard and know of moms in similar situation using bus just fine. They have their stroller, kids and small bag and off they go. I have tried it once, I was so exhausted and almost in tears. My kindergartner was super excited and asking question and my 1 year old was running around to the being dangerous. I guess I am one of these mom, who is not so organized or my kids are bit active.

And as a homeschooler, we often have park days, co-op classes and various field trips planned, some are close by, some are bit far. So it is not so practical for us to be car free right now. I am going to try again after a few years when kids are bit older to see if we can do it. Only time will tell.

How to have Middle ground and happy Compromise to car-free or car owning

While we are not car free right now and not going to be in near future, we still can do a few things to find a middle ground. Middle ground to save our earth and our money as well. Maybe many of you are in similar situation as me and are wondering if you can do this? Sure, here are some ways I have found that might be helpful.

  1. Combine errands together and drive a few times
  2. Instead of bigger car, drive smaller car
  3. Drive Hybrid, if possible
  4. If you have grocery store near by walk to it, instead of driving
  5. Share rides with other people, go in group
  6. Drive to local things and only occasionally to far places
  7. Do oil change and services to your car, prevention is always better then costly repair
  8. Buy used (good and certified) car/van
  9. Share a car between spouses/family if possible
  10. Maintain your car, air pressure, tire change (see 7)
  11. Walk to near by park, instead of driving
  12. Drive at normal and steady speed to improve your milege and less gas filling
  13. Fill gas early in morning See reason
  14. Be careful and safe driver
  15. Combine your insurance with other car and rental/home insurance to get best price.

I am sure there are many ways, we can own car and still be green and environment friendly. Even if we use a car, we can have days in a month or year when we can go car-free and be kind to our mother earth. Try it. Check out the videos around the world about car free day below.

Car Free Day: London

Car Free Day: 2001 Canada

Bicycle Mass Day: San Francisco

Other Resources to learn more about Car Free Life Style

1. How to Live Well Without Owning a Car.

How to Live without a Car book is Written by Chris Balish and sells for about $9.90 at Amazon. According its publisher, this is what they had to say:”The first practical, accessible, and sensible guide to living in North America without owning a car. • Exposes the true costs of car ownership and shows how getting rid of your car can simplify your life and put you on the road to financial freedom. • Packed with realistic, economical alternatives to owning a car, including chapters on carsharing, carpooling, and even car-free dating. • Includes more than 100 real-world tips, strategies, and success stories from people who are happily car-free or “car-lite,” from cities to suburbs. • According to a 2004 American Automobile Association study, the average American spends $8,410 per year (roughly $700 per month) to own a vehicle.”

2. Pedestrian Zone: By Beta Publishing

This book is called “Pedestrian Zone” and edited by Lambert M. Surhone ,Miriam T. Timpledon and Susan F. Marseken by Beta Publishing. Here is what they have from publisher:

“High Quality Content by WIKIPEDIA articles! Pedestrian zones (also known as auto-free zones and car-free zones) are areas of a city or town in which automobile traffic is prohibited. They are instituted by communities who feel that it is desirable to have areas not dominated by the automobile. Converting a street or an area to car-free use is called pedestrianisation. Auto-free zones have a great variety of attitudes or rules towards human powered vehicles such as bicycles, inline skates, skateboards and kick scooters. Some have a total ban on anything with wheels, others ban certain categories, others segregate the human-powered wheels from foot traffic, and others still have no rules at all. Many of the Middle Eastern examples have no wheeled traffic, but use donkeys for freight transport.”

More resource:

Tammy Strobel from Rowdy Kittens has a good collection and ebook selection on being car free.

You can check outCarFree USA’s blog about living car free lifestyle.

There is another blog called On the level, which has a good information about being Car Free.

Your turn: I would like to hear your suggestions and tips. What works for you and why?

Image: Paul /


  1. TheSimplePoppy says:

    I try to be car-light. We are a two car household; my husband works out of state in a rural area and like you, there is no way I’m dragging my hyper homeschooling family all over this bike-unfriendly city without a car. I think I might have a nervous breakdown bringing my grocery shopping home on the bus.I try to consolidate my errands and we walk a lot. I took the train and walked all through college and loved it. One day I’d like to get down to one car, but I feel like we’re still doing our part to be sustainable. Also, I have to point out, that many of the people advocating car-less lifestyles fly many, many times a year for pleasure. It’s all what you’re willing (or able) to give up.

  2. Betsy Bargain says:

    I have been car-free for over 20 years, but now that I am living in Southern CA, Mr. Bargain has a car, so we are car-light. I walk to the grocery store, library and anywhere else I need to go while he is working. I share a ride to work with my partner. I have never missed my car. In many cities, the public transportation is great, and owning a car is just a hassle. Unfortunately, the public transit is not so great where we are now. I say if you live somewhere it is feasible, go for it! You will love all the money you save. Good post, Preeti.

  3. rob white says:

    Hi Preeti,
    Being car free is admirable. The US is very car-centric and aside from large cities our society was built around the assumption that we will have access to a car. Like you point out, a middle ground can be found. I make it a point to walk to do all my errands and drive only when necessary. We do have to change our minds about our dependence on big cars and fossil fuels. It is reassuring to see people embracing Hybrid technology these days.

  4. Invest It Wisely says:

    There are ways to reduce car use and save money even if one doesn’t go car-free. I’m considering keeping my car for a longer period of time in order to cut down on those depreciation costs. I also recently posted my thoughts about this and mentioned your article in there as well.

  5. Angela Artemis says:

    Hi Preeti,
    I often think how much simpler life would be without a car, but living in the suburbs makes it very difficult. I do think getting a smaller car, or hybrid is probably the way I’ll go when I next buy a car.

  6. ZenGirl says:


    Yes with kids and living in rural area can be hard for going car free. We are not car free, but we do our own way of going green and save money. Like you said, many people do fly, instead of car driving. It is all same.

    I know you do many other going green ways in your life from your blog posts! Keep up the great work.

  7. ZenGirl says:


    Yes, I remember you saying you are car-free. I am totally amazed for people who can do that. Some places are good at public transportation, US is not the best in my opinion for it. I have seen it better public transportation in India, Europe and elsewhere.

  8. ZenGirl says:


    You are so right about US being so car centric, it does not make going car free easy! Zenguy has a Hybrid and I use my van little as possible and do errands together to save time and gas. We are finding that middle ground seems to work for us and many others like your self.

  9. ZenGirl says:


    Thank you for mentioning my article, I will sure check out your post. Yes, we are doing the middle ground right now as going car free is not something we can do, with 2 little boys. USA sure is car-centric place. I found Europe, India, China do better in terms of public transportation.

  10. ZenGirl says:


    I think sometimes choosing right thing maybe not be right at the time. I think you are very wise to wait until you are ready for next car to buy, it does not make sense to buy it now, if your car is working fine.

    I wish I could go car-free but it is not possible due to kids, lack of public transportation choices and times. Will see, like I said doing middle compromise works for us.

    There are not black and white always, life has lot of grey area and it is okay to live that way for us!

  11. Alien Ghost says:

    Hi Preeti,

    It seems to me sometimes people in this country tend to go to the extremes. I can understand the need for cleaner air and reducing expenses at home, plus adding some more exercising in the process, but it is my believe that, as you mention in your examples, many times it is just not convenient to not have a car, and there are alternatives in the reduction process.

    Owning a car is been a dream for people for the past century for the freedom of movement it gives, so promoting the no-owning car idea is to me like promoting going back in time. Instead, just changing to a more sensible car will make a big difference.

    People tend to still go to the extreme in this matter of a sensible car, and think of expensive hybrid vehicles, when going to a small four door sedan, with a small engine, will do a lot, without having to loose mobility and convenience. Just think of the kind of cars available in Europe.

    For an idea of the difference in the environment and cost when switching from one kind of car to the other take a look at the post “Burning Fuel” in my blog, where I explain this differences.

    Thank you for bringing this important issue to people, so a better environment can be achieved, together with a better quality of life for everyone.


  12. ZenGirl says:


    Yes, it is hard to achieve balance in doing things that works for us along with what works with masses. You bring up an important point that car-free might seems like going back to time idea! We can use sensible small car and do more walking it will help our health and earth both.

    We use cars, zenguy uses Hybrid and I use my minivan for traveling with kids to minimum. Thank you for your thoughtful comment on this topic! I love your unique ways, did you know?

  13. nazimwarriach says:

    Hi ZenGirl,
    I am living a Car Free Life but now I want a mini car as I am living 300km away from my home town and public transport on this route is very uncomfortable.
    I will try to live an environment friendly life even after having a car by using it when it is necessary.
    Videos are likable.

  14. ZenGirl says:


    It is good that you are car free, but sometimes we can own a car and still make a impact on environment. You seem like a guy who will just do that, I am glad you liked the videos.

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