Can you live without a car?

It’s simple really—shedding things—I just had no idea we’d go this far…

Faced with the difficulty of providing a fixed address, our nomadic lifestyle forced us to evaluate owning a car. We sold it and now travel by foot, bike, train, and bus.

Is this something you’d consider?

How long have we relied on cars?

As a nation

In 1934, there were 2.5 million cars on UK roads. Data provided by the DVLA showed the number of licensed vehicles in Great Britain increased every year since the end of the Second World War in 1945, except 1991. In 2013, 35 million vehicles were licensed in Great Britain, a 14 fold increase in 79 years.

As a couple

Lyden and I passed our tests in our 20s. We’ve driven for a combined 20 years and owned 7 cars between us. In 2014 we became a one car family. I gave up my red Suzuki Wagon (Postman Pat van) to share Lyden’s more powerful Ford Fusion.

A Ford Fusion parked on a sunny road
The last picture of our lovely Ford Fusion before we sold it

Reasons for giving up the car

  • We were in danger of our insurance being voided. The car was registered at our current house sitting address, whilst the insurance was held at my parents address. This became a big problem
  • We became location independent in October 2013, working from home for yap.agency. Our car sat neglected on the drive
  • We prefer to cycle rather than drive short distances. When we cycle to the gym, we’ve done our warm-up by the time we arrive – outdoor exercise is best anyway

Why we were reluctant

  • We both loved our Ford Fusion – especially the boot space and leather seats
  • It was cheap to run with minimal maintenance
  • Visiting family and friends was easy
  • Transporting weekly shops and big items was a breeze
  • Going from A to B didn’t require us to consult the weather forecast!

The costs – driving a car

Let’s take a look at the overall costs of owning and driving our Fusion. You may want to add up the rough figures for yours as a comparison?

Annual maintenance

£500 insurance
£30 tax
£40 MOT
£200 servicing + repairs

That’s £2.10 per day – £64.16 per month. This adds up to £770 per year – for the car to sit on the drive.

Devaluation

Lyden bought the car in 2011 for £6000. We sold it at the recommended Autotrader price in 2015 for £2500. The car devalued by £875 per year.

This ramped up the cost of owning the car to £4.50 per day—£72.91 per month—before we moved it off the drive.

Fuel

Since becoming nomadic, we haven’t driven to a fixed place of work each day. For us, an average month of car use included:

8 trips from Breaston to Derby/Nottingham – 20 miles x 8
2 trips from Breaston to Birmingham/Sheffield – 120 miles x 2

This was roughly 400 miles per month. We calculated the fuel cost for the Fusion at 10 pence per mile. This would be much higher in a larger or more sporty vehicle and depend if you’re doing motorway journeys or driving around town.

400 miles x 10p = £40 per month, or £480 per year.

Total annual cost of the car

£770 – annual maintenance
£875 – devaluation
£480 – petrol

Total – £2125 per year

That’s £177 for 2 people to travel approximately 400 miles per month in a Ford Fusion, driving economically.

Our car was unbelievably economical with cheap insurance, cheap tax, and modest repair fees. If you have a newer, fancier car with higher insurance, the costs will be a lot more.

Let’s compare this to the cost of the same journeys without a car…

Janine and two friends on quad bikes
Maybe we could get to Scotland on quad bikes?

The costs – without a car

The same 8 trips from Breaston to Nottingham would be as follows:

  • 10 minute cycle to Long Eaton train station
  • Train to Nottingham – £5.40 for 2 people with a Two Together railcard (or £8.80 without)

The same 2 longer trips from Breaston to Birmingham would be as follows:

  • 10 minute cycle to Long Eaton train station
  • Train to Birmingham – £15.40 for two people with a Two Together railcard (or £23.20 without)

This is booking 4 days in advance – 07:15 outward, 22:10 return. We looked for cheap fares here – as that’s what we would do in reality.

Total train costs per year

The Two Together railcard cost us £27. It was £30 but Lyden found us a Two Together discount code 🙂

Adding up the costs…

£561.60 per year – short journeys (£5.40 x 8 x 12)
£369.60 per year – longer journeys (£15.40 x 2 x 12)
£27.00 per year – 1 x Two Together railcard
£958.20 per year

That’s £79.85 for 2 people per month compared to £177 for the same journeys by car.

That’s under £40 each for train travel compared to £88.50 each when 2 people share a car.

And the cost for one person?

The savings are even bigger for lone car drivers…

For the above journeys, it’s £62.20 per month compared to the same £177 by car. That’s a huge monthly saving of £114.80.

This doesn’t account for the savings you could make with a railcard (a possible 30% off the price of each trip). Find out what rail discounts you can get.

Hogwarts Express train carriage
How much did Harry Potter pay on Hogwarts Express?

Bonus tip for cheap long rail journeys

Check out Tickety Split to save money on longer train journeys.

The afternoon we sold the car, we booked our journey from Long Eaton (Derbyshire) to Darvel (South of Glasgow).

The 290 mile trip cost £39.10 in train fares, including booking fees (thanks to Tickety Spilt and our railcard) plus approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes of cycling in total. Cheap as chips!

Other considerations

It’s not all about the money of course…

Convenience

Many of us who depend on a car are emotionally attached to the convenience it offers. I felt the sting when our car had gone and it took me a few days to feel good about it. When I regained from the wobble, I again felt that life is an adventure, and we did the right thing. Getting around by bike, train and bus is exciting and liberating, and helps us feel free in our current lifestyle.

On the downside, we may need to get on our bikes in all sorts of weather, and the spontaneous trips out may be a little more… planned. We can’t transport heavy or bulky items without thinking ahead. Instead we’ll be lightweight, carrying only what fits into our backpacks and bike panniers.

Janine and Lyden cycling to Long Eaton
Being lightweight on our bikes

Fitness

We love getting super-fit without even trying. And we love having a really low carbon footprint as we travel by public transport. When we had a car, we were guilty of doing short car journeys to the shops or gym. We now have the consideration of spending out on train or bus fares – so we’re more likely to take the healthier option.

Time

The entire journey from Breaston to Darvel will take 7.5 hours by bike and train compared to 5 hours of driving with no stops. On public transport we’ll get over an hour of exercise thrown in and a possible 6 hours of reading, relaxing or even working on the train!

Occasionally, we might just beat a car or bus to its destination as we sail past queues of traffic on our bikes. If only we could run like Avatars!

Avatar Neytiri ready for action
Neytiri doesn’t need a car

A change in lifestyle

We plan to ‘batch’ activities – so we’ll have a day out rather than a couple of hours here and there.

As far as shopping is concerned, we’ll cycle and shop more often for fewer items. Hopefully the more frequent shopping trips will mean we’re eating fresher veg!

Moving forwards

We had previously been slimming our belongings down to one car load for our move to Glasgow. And now? We will only take what we can fit into a 35 litre backpack, plus a single pannier – adding a further 20 litres. So in total, we’ll be carrying 90 litres between us. We’ll keep you posted on how that works out!

Girl walking up a hill with 35 litre Osprey rucksack
No looking back – me with my trusty 35 litre Osprey backpack

Anyone else given up their car? We’d love to hear about your experiences!

Comments

  1. says

    What a fun adventure in carlessness. I like the idea of getting fit without trying – I’m giving up one of three cars which is a start. I could probably get a decent bike with the proceeds of car number three, and with Spring on the way using a bike to get to the tram stop in Nuthall certainly becomes more appealing.

    That third car was definitely a suck on a two driver household. We couldn’t have driven it if we’d tried. While it wasn’t depreciating, the cost of tax and insurance would pay for a few pieces of biking gear in a few months.

    • Janine says

      Hi Garreth,
      Thanks for the comments! What a great idea to get a bike with the money from the car sale. Let us know how you get on – we’d love to hear about it and maybe see some pics?! 🙂

  2. says

    OMG. Tickety Split. Thank you! I’m saving money just looking at it. I’d always used Megabus for train tickets (I know, it doesn’t sound right but it works) but this is an extra money-saving trick to keep up my train sleeve

    • Janine says

      Oh yes – Megabus – I used to get from Birmingham to Manchester for a pound! Tickety Split is a new favourite, and saves LOADSAMONEY!

  3. Rocco says

    Yes, we have given up the use of one car and I now travel by motorcycle instead

    So I can carry a fair bit more 50l box and 40l panniers not including back pack but that is fully loaded but I still have to plan what and where I am going, what I am going to carry and bring back not to mention the weather.

    Costs…

    £200 fuel, 26 miles a day at 0.032p/mile
    £17 road tax
    £60 insurance
    £50 servicing
    £0 depreciation as its worth more now then when I bought it 🙂

    £327 total, round to £330 which works out to £27.50 a month

    Using my car…
    £1368 fuel, 30 miles a day at 0.19p/mile (This was when fuel was £1.33/L)
    £200 tax
    £300 insurance
    £200 servicing
    Not counted depreciation as we still have one car

    £2068 total so say £2100 which comes to £175 a month

    Not quite carbon neutral but low 🙂

    I could loose my car but I wouldn’t loose my bike 🙂

    • Janine says

      Hey Rocco,

      It’s admirable that you’ve given up the use of one of your cars. Your motorbike seems a very economical option – and fun too. Thanks for sharing the details with us.

      A motorbike/scooter may be a consideration if we want to get to places with any sort of speed!

      • Rocco Ianiello says

        Hi again, sorry forgot to tick the notify box

        Yes it’s a nice option but trust me speed isn’t everything 🙂

        With a top speed of 60ish mph I don’t go on the motorways (I could if I wanted to) so I look for alternative routes and believe me I’ve not looked back at all!

        Even just going to see my son in Stoke its such a beautiful ride on the A38, A50 and the A34 the views are georgeous 🙂

        Even on my daily commute taking the non motorway route (I call it the road less traveled) its so nice compared to the M42 I have started to seek alternative routes for occasions when I do use my car (weekends away with my wife etc) and we are both amazed at how beautiful our countryside is and as there is little or no traffic we find just as quick as taking the motorway.

        But if you were to consider motorcycle or scooter them check out performance figures as bigger sports bike can be as bad on fuel/CO2 as cars

  4. Janine says

    Thanks Rocco.

    The ride to Stoke sounds great. As we’re on the move soon we’ll stick to our push bikes, but will probably try a scooter or motorbike at some point along the way 🙂

  5. Bronson says

    Hello, Janine. I am going on my first backpacking trip this summer. 2 months across Eastern Europe. I have a strict budget, so naturally, minimalism has came up in many of my searches which have brought me to your site. On this article there is a mention of working at home for yap.agency. The link is not working, could you relink me or explain what this is? I am currently in graduate school in order to become an online college instructor. I love the idea of working remotely and on my own time, so this immediately caught my attention. Thanks!

    • Janine says

      Hi Bronson,

      Sorry to disappoint you. We set up our own business, Yap, and finished working on that project in 2016. It’s tricky to find work you can do at home, but being an online tutor sounds just the ticket – good luck with that. Thanks for getting in touch

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