Written by Dominique Jarry Shore
Friday, February 15th, 2019
Our family of five has never owned a car. We didn't plan to live car-free, but as our family expanded, we found it was actually simpler (and less expensive) to live without a car.
Because we live in Montreal, a city that has excellent public transportation, as well as several car-sharing services and lots of bike paths, we've been able to make it work. And I definitely don't miss driving in traffic and shovelling the car out of the snow in winter.
No Car? Plan for Proximity
When we were looking to buy our first home a few years ago, we knew we wanted a place close to my husband's work, and close to a school and daycare for the kids. We were fortunate to find a home that's now right across the street from the kids' daycare and primary school. My son can even see our house from his grade 1 classroom window. My husband's work is a 10-minute walk from home, and I'm a 25-minute walk from work. The longest commute is our teenage daughter's – she takes the bus and subway for a 35-minute commute to high school.
My husband and I both start work quite early in the morning, and we have to drop off the kids earlier than we'd like, but we also finish work by 4 p.m. and have more time to spend with them in the late afternoon and evening. And we're not losing precious family time stuck in traffic.
Use Bicycles and Equip Them for Transporting Kids
We use our bikes from April to November. My husband and I both have a child seat on our bikes. This gives us added versatility, because each of us can pick up or drop off our youngest at activities.
We've used a bike trailer in the past as well. The trailer also comes in handy for big grocery shopping trips to Costco. A car sharing service or a taxi are also convenient when you've got a lot to transport.
Use Public Transit
My daughter and I both have monthly transit passes. Even if I don't use it every day, it's convenient to have a pass and not have to scrounge around for change every time I want to go out. I recently took advantage of a program through my employer that gives me a 20% discount on transit passes, which works out to savings of more than $200 a year.
Rent a Car for Special Occasions
We like to get out of town once in a while, and for those occasions, we rent a car. I use a car rental company that has a "manager's special" at a daily rate that's even less expensive than renting a compact car. The hitch is you never know what you're going to get. Sometimes it's an older model sedan – but other times it's a purple Jeep Wrangler or a brand new Dodge minivan. I've even been offered a Ford Mustang!
The Downsides to Not Having a Car
To be fully transparent, being car-free isn't always great. For example, we tend to go to the grocery store closest to our home where prices are a bit higher. If we had a car, we'd probably go to the discount grocery store more often. But when you factor in gas and the cost of owning and maintaining a car, the difference in price we pay for groceries is probably not that big of a deal.
There are also times we'd love to hop in a car and just get where we want to go without dealing with public transit or bikes. But overall, a car-free lifestyle works well for our family.