Have you ever thought about selling your car and arranging your life so you can take Uber and Lyft everywhere?
Most people would say, “Heck no!”
I did it and it’s wonderful. Not only did I save a ton of money, but I don’t have the hassles of car ownership–traffic, parking, smog checks, oil changes, occasional tickets and trips to the DMV are all things of the past.
(Bonus: I lived in San Francisco when I did this where there are an average of 85 car break-ins PER DAY so I don’t have to worry about that either)
Due to my job, I was forced to move around the country on a frequent basis in my 20s and early 30s. It was fun and I learned a TON by experiencing life in different parts of the US. San Francisco was my home base for many of those years and I returned there to live in-between gigs.
In 2010, I drove across the country from the East Coast (a highly recommended drive, by the way) and planted myself back in San Francisco.
I found a place to live in SOMA, which was one of San Francisco’s up-and-coming neighborhoods (Update 2023: most of SOMA is now dangerous and should be avoided).
When I say “up-and-coming” what I’m really saying is it’s gritty and a little dangerous. I prefer neighborhoods like that in most cities because they have some personality and haven’t had all the interesting bits gentrified out of them yet.
The tradeoff with living in those parts of town is that there tends to be more crime than the other parts of town.
Another interesting thing happened in 2010: Two ridesharing companies were founded in San Francisco. You’ve probably heard of them.
Those companies are Uber and Lyft. (Those two links are affiliate links that earn you a free ride if you click them and sign up. I also get a free ride if you do that, which would make me happy).
I didn’t have a garage or secured parking space at my new place and I didn’t want to park my car on the street overnight due to the car break-in epidemic in San Francisco.
I would either leave my car at the office in Mountain View (a Silicon Valley city about 20 miles south of San Francisco) OR I would pay $30/night to park it in a secured garage down the street from me.
At $30/night, I only used the parking garage for special occasions.
My car would sit at the office for weeks at a time. I would take the train to work and I would walk or take Uber and Lyft anywhere I needed to go in the city.
After six months or so, I decided to sell my car. It simply didn’t make sense to keep it considering how infrequently I used it.
To make my decision even easier, another transportation company launched around that time. Their name is Getaround, and it’s best described as an Airbnb for cars (More affiliate links! Get some free money when you sign up). Whenever I needed a car, I could easily get one from Getaround or the local Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
There are a few helpful things to note here. This worked for me because even though San Francisco is a major city, the physical area is not very big. The entire city is seven miles by seven miles.
Also, I occasionally take public transportation. I understand that people who live in rural areas or small cities don’t necessarily have that option.
The number of times I took a train or bus last year was negligible, but it’s worth noting that it’s an option for me.
How much does it cost to take Uber and Lyft everywhere instead of owning a car?
First, this is what it cost me every month to own my car:
- Car payment: $650
- Insurance: $110
- Gas: ~$100 (I didn’t drive much)
- Maintenance, including oil changes: ~$150 (averaged over a year)
- Parking: $120
- Tolls: $30
Monthly total: $1160
Annual total: $13,920
This is what it cost me in one year (2017) to take Uber and Lyft everywhere:
- Uber: $517
- Lyft: $1326
- Occasional Getaround or rental car: $1200 for the year
- Public transportation: $210
Monthly total: $271
Annual total: $3253
That’s some sexy math right there. But there’s more.
While the arithmetic is certainly interesting, the more interesting parts to me were the responses from the people in my life when I told them I sold my car. These were the types of things I heard for a few months.
- Why would you do that? Don’t you *need* a car?
- Is everything okay at work? Do you need to borrow some money?
- I could never live without a car.
- How do you ever expect to find a girlfriend if you don’t have a car?
- What if there’s an emergency and you need to get to the hospital?
- How do you do your grocery shopping?
And on and on and on.
I’m originally from a medium-small city in the Midwest. I think there were a few bus routes in my hometown (population 115,000), but I never once took the bus. Bicycles were leisure items. Walking was something you did for exercise, not a mode of transportation. It was a car-centric environment.
Explaining my decision to sell my car to my Midwestern friends and family was exhausting. They didn’t get it.
I don’t blame them, though. If you’ve lived your life in one place and you’re exposed (mostly) to people who are just like you, deviations from the norm are considered weird.
So, would you rather be weird and getting ahead with your personal finances, or fit in with your friends who never left your hometown?