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Life without a Car!

life without a car

What’s life without a car like? Here’s how I sold my car privately and lived without a car for three months. It wasn’t easy.

“Five-thousand is all I have,” he opened his fist and had a stack of Benjamin’s.

That’s how my journey of life without a car began: a cash offer to buy my previous car.

NEVER in my life had I seen that many hundred-dollar bills in one physical place: in front of my eyes.   

Minutes prior he asked me if I would take $5,000 for my car; I had listed it at $6,000. Admittedly, I knew the $6,000 was on the high-end according to the Kelly Blue Book fair value. A dealer, Carvana, who in theory is awesome, offered me a measly $2,500.  As cool as it is that they have car vending machines, I wanted the most bang for my buck.

Afterall, my car was a Mercedes. Selling it for $2,500 seemed criminal, even if it was eleven years old. Wasn’t it superior? Luxury?

“It will maintain its value,” said the car salesperson years ago.


The total ticket price was originally just under $40,000. The thought of it makes me want to go back in a time machine and continue driving my previous used car, a Chevy Blazer. Dang, that car was great! Hindsight is 20/20.

Five-thousand dollars sounded pretty darn good compared to $2,500. I always knew logically that ‘Cash is King!’ Seeing the cash in hand, confirmed that cash is indeed King. I’d received many other private party offers in the $4,000 range (with no cash in hand).

We went to my bank (me and the car buyer) and deposited the money so I could be certain, it was REAL money before handing over the keys! LOL!

The $5,000 cash was indeed real.

I signed the title, unscrewed my license plate, submitted a form to the DMW, and just like that, I was car-less.

I texted my friends, “Man I feel like a woman (Shania-Twain-style)!” My excitement of making a cash deal was off the charts.

I’ve been without a car for three months.

The excitement quickly faded.

What’s life without a car like? Ask a tween, teen, or even brand-new college graduate. They’ll respond, “I love not having a car!” Apparently, there’s a growing trend of young people not owning a car. The LA Times reported that only 60% of 18-year old’s even have their driver’s licenses. 

Having now experienced life without a car, when I read stats like that, all I can think is, “Do these people have a life? How in the world do you get from Point A to Point B without a CAR?!”

It must be their momma bear driving them around town. Or they just sit at home and watch Netflix all day. I dunno!

In my opinion, it ain’t easy living without a car.

I’d been planning on buying my next car for almost four years. With my mini sabbatical in Hawaii (here’s how I took months off to travel with no income), I thought it’d be the perfect time to see what life with no car is like.

Heck, I ended up selling everything I owned to travel. Selling my car was a large part of what funded my travel.  

I wish I was one of those cool financial bloggers who bikes everywhere and LOVES it! They make being without a car sound so easy, so doable, and so cool. As if being car-free is living carefree.

In my experience, not having a car has been expensive and it takes two or three times as long to get where I wanna go. That is, unless you have your mom or friend as on-call chauffeurs. For me, there’s been a lot less going or exploring in the first place.

How exactly have I gotten around without a car?

I ended up initially getting a car rental (which is expensive!) because I had a handful of errands left to run before my sabbatical. Then started taking Uber or Lyft rides (this adds up), the bus (ok this one’s dirt cheap), and have done A LOT of walking (free!).

I am that girl walking on a sidewalk in 90-degree weather hauling a bag of groceries. It’s great exercise, but so. dang. exhausting! The bus stop is right around the corner (literally) from where I am staying temporarily. The walk is slightly uphill, but somehow it feels like once I’ve reached the bus stop, I’ve completed a marathon.

Since I don’t have a permanent home on my sabbatical, I didn’t want to purchase a bike and worry about immediately selling it when traveling to my next destination. I’m sure having a bike would make life without a car easier!

I bartered getting use of a car in exchange for doing chores for a week.

In one of the Airbnb’s I stayed in a tiny house in the backyard on someone’s property. They left on vacation and in exchange for me driving them to the airport, feeding their cats, and cleaning up the space when I left: I could use their car for free for over a week!

That’s when I saw the Hawaiian volcanoes, beaches, and extensively explored the Big Island. I also went to a coffee shop in Puna. If South Austin and Jamaica had a baby town, it’d be Puna.

In Puna, going to church means Ecstatic Dancing on Sunday.

Someone invited me to experience the ‘life-changing Sunday Ecstatic Dancing.’ I ended up not going and his response was, “Well, we all have our priorities,” he shook his head in disapproval.

I was Ecstatic Dance shamed!  

Of course, Puna was the location that my borrowed car would not start. GRREAT. It needed a jump. The only people in sight were clearly high and openly smoking weed. What’s a girl with a borrowed car that has a dead battery to do?

I asked the islanders who were high to give me a jump.

The car started up again and I’ve returned to the “mainland” as islanders call it. Now it’s time to buy a car. I’m in the process of getting a new-to-me, used car. Unfortunately, I’ve found that buying a car, without a car is very tricky!  

I was reeled into test-driving (er, test-walking?!) life without a car.


I bought a new (to me!) car with cash! Here’s my painstakingly slow journey to buying a car part one and part two.

I saw the appeal of helping the environment, gettin’ those extra steps in, and utilizing public transportation. Plus selling it meant getting the extra cash above the trade-in value from my previous car. I just miss having a car! Having a car (without car payments!) equals freedom to go, do, and experience the world.

In summary, life is a highway, I want to ride it all night long. 

best money class ever carly michelle

Hi! I'm Carly

I’m a Finance grad and creator of Best Money Class Ever, a 4-week live virtual personal finance class. I paid off $35,000 of debt and saved a nest egg of over $100,000 by age 26 (earning only around the median household income!).

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