living without. sort-of.


car-free!, originally uploaded by mintyfresh.

Four long years and fifty-five thousand kilometres ago, I bought a car. It was a lovely car, all shiny, and new, with only 6 previous kilometres belonging to its previous life. This past Tuesday, I took it back. Not for lack of love, but because I just didn't need it any more.

The process of returning a car is eerily dissimilar to the process of acquiring one. There is no insane hulk of a "dealership manager" named Igor trying to pressure you to "buy today!" or add that special feature you are hemming and hawing over. There's no bargaining for a price you might actually be willing to pay, there's no high pressure anything, really. You just simply walk into the dealer, tell them you're returning your lease, hand over the keys, sign your name, take your plates and go home.

The most delightful part of returning this particular car is being able to answer the incessant "what did you replace it with?" question with ... nothing. Nothing! That's right! For the first time in I-can't even-remember-how-many-years, I don't own a car. And so far, I don't miss it.

Working and living downtown has it's perks - the most notable of which includes walking to work, and otherwise riding our bikes to get groceries, hit the farmers market, bike to the movies, to soccer, and more. Since last October, my car traveled a mere 3000 kilometres. That's ~300 km a month. When I worked outside of the city, it was ~ 1,300 km a month.

While the walking and the biking will definitely be the main way we plan to get around town, we've also got a backup plan, especially important for things like getting kitties to the vet and other un-bicycle-friendly tasks. It seems to be one of Centretown's best-kept (but now maybe not so) secrets: vrtucar.

This great (but not as cool as zipcar) carshare program means that we always have at least 10 cars within easy walking distance of our house - any day, any time - and we just pop online and book one to suit our needs.

With no maintenance, no gas costs, no extra fees, no insurance costs, and best of all, no car payment, there's a substantial bit of savings every month. And we still get to go places when we feel like it without the guilt of 2800 lbs of car taking up the ping-pong table's rightful spot in the laneway.

At this point, it's an experiment in progress, but a fun one. If we hate it, we quit! If we end up using it so much it costs a small fortune, we buy a car again! But for now, just the idea that I don't have to actually own one is so, so, lovely.