Thinking about going car-free? Owning a car is no cheap business and not too climate-friendly either. Depending on where you live and your life situation, you might actually be better off not owning a car. Not to mention that it will decrease your carbon footprint and positively affect climate change and net-zero climate goals. Check out our top tips to determine whether a car-free life could be something for you.
A car-free life is climate-friendly and will save you tons of money. In a study made by Yle (2017) it was estimated that the cost of owning a car in Finland is anything between 5000 and 8000 euros per year, depending on the original price of the car. This includes estimates of gas, insurance, taxes, maintenance, parking fees, and vehicle depreciation (loss of value each year). Taking into consideration how expensive it is just to own a car (not even mentioning the price of buying one), it is rather paradoxical that cars stay parked for 92% of their lifetime (Ellen McArthur Foundation, 2015) and that the largest share of all car rides (over 20%) are only 1–3 km long (FTA, 2012).
A car-free life might not be an option for everyone — it depends greatly on where you live. However, if you live in a bigger city, there are many alternatives to owning a car! Many people like the idea of not owning a car but think this is impossible in their life. It is said it takes 66 days to form a new habit, ranging from 18 to 254 days (Lally et al. 2010). Something that might seem impossible today might be the new normal in 66 days! This blog post aims to help determine whether a car-free life is an option for you.
Get started by mapping your everyday life and transport needs. We’ve identified the most common reasons to use a car and organised our top tips according to these:
1. Use public transport
Using public transport can have great mental health benefits, as a study by MIT has shown that drivers feel more stress during their day than people who use public transport (Legrain et al. 2015). No matter if your commute is long or short, using public transport will allow you a moment to just pause –— tune into the alternative reality of your audiobook, pick up the book from your bag and devour a few pages, or simply zone out and relax and let it fade into a nap.
Public transport in the Nordics is top-notch, and you are taking one of the bigger climate actions by using it. Switching emission-intensive city driving to biking and public transport can mean you halve your yearly emissions from transport.
The economic benefit is remarkable as well: Based on the estimate above, your very own car will cost you anything between 400 and 660 euros per month. With this money, you can easily buy a public transport pass, rent a car for a day or two each month, and still save money. Public transport tickets for kids are often cheaper, which is great too.
2. Try car renting services
Now that exploring your own country has become so popular, it can sometimes work as an argument in favor of buying a car. We suggest considering using a car renting service instead. Because in the end, will you need a car just to go on a road trip twice a year? Nah, we didn’t think so. Car renting services such as Avis, Sixt, and Hertz have loads of alternatives available — especially good are the long-term rental deals.
3. Consider carpooling
There are plenty of carpooling groups on Facebook! This is a great way to get the best out of two worlds — enjoy the calmness of not driving yourself and the economic benefit of not owning a car. A small amount is often paid to cover the costs, but carpooling is usually cheaper than public transport. If you get lucky, you can find someone to regularly co-ride with through these groups. Carpooling with co-workers is also a good option. It might take 15 minutes longer in the morning to pick up a few colleagues, but by doing this, you can cut down CO2 emissions by at least half, not to mention the cost. If everyone were to do this, there would be only full cars on the roads, much less pollution, and no traffic jams! Meaning you might get there just as fast.
4. Use taxis or ride-hailing services
Imagine, in every city, there are professional drivers with fuel-efficient cars just waiting to give us car-free city dwellers a ride. Today there are many cheaper options to conventional taxis, such as Uber and Bolt. In addition to the economic benefits, these apps allow you to track a driver's location to see whether someone is close by. Additionally, you don’t have to worry about payment at the end of each ride, as once you have put your credit card details into the app, the payment is automated. Regardless of what app you use, utilising professional drivers and their cars means society is making more efficient use of resources and time since materials don’t need to be sourced for a car for everyone. Not everyone must take their car to service and find parking in the evenings.
5. Sign up for a car sharing platform
As a part of a bigger shift towards a sharing economy, the connotations of owning a car are also starting to change. The outdated view that not owning a car would indicate your social status is luckily starting to fade. The idea of having access to a car without having to bear almost any of the responsibilities related to car ownership sounds tempering to many. From a climate perspective, this is great, too, as fewer cars need to be produced as not everyone needs to own a vehicle. Car-sharing platforms such as GoMore, Bloxcar, Drivenow, Omago, City Car Club, 24 Rent, Ekorent and Go Now are riding exactly this wave.
Each platform offers somewhat different deals — some are based on monthly subscriptions and others on a fare paid per minute/hour of use. Some platforms allow you to rent out your own car, while others provide cars to be shared among habitants in a housing cooperative/ a neighborhood/ a workplace or a whole country. What's great about these car sharing services is the ease of grabbing a car waiting for you down the road at the best, and everything from payment to return can be managed through the app. Most car sharing platforms include all costs and insurance. With a small amount (1-4e/use) the deductible can often be decreased significantly.
6. Borrow a car from family or friends
Borrow a car for the weekend from family or friends, and next time the lenders will need a hand, they can count on you in return. We need to do more of this anyway!
7. Consider keeping only one car
If you have come to the conclusion that your current life situation requires a car, that is ok too. If your household owns several cars, maybe consider surviving with only one car? If this car is electric, it is even better. The everyday life might need to be rearranged somewhat, but the money and the environment saved by this action is worth the effort we’d say. Remember: a new habit is formed in 66 days!
8. Shop your groceries online
We agree that, especially with kids, weekly grocery shopping can be problematic without a car if you don't live close to the grocery store. Those liters of milk being heavy as stone and so on... We got a solution for this as well: do your grocery shopping online and have it home delivered! This is genius as it’s both time-saving and cheaper than you think. Services like this are, for example, Kauppahalli24 and foodie.fi (S-market's and Prisma's webshops), as well as Oda and Wolt Market.
9. Invest in a cargo bike
Owning a cargo bike makes moving around with kids, dogs, groceries, hobby gear, etc., much easier! Spoil yourself with an electrified one, and according to your needs, you can get some electrified help when muscle power is insufficient. Some popular brands are Christiania Bikes, Urban Arrow and Babboe. Tavarapyörä asiantuntija is a real expert in this field and they do retail on various brands.
10. Sign up for a mobility service
Use mobility services such as Whim, where you pay a monthly price to use all forms of transport: public transport, city bikes, e-scooters, taxis and rental cars. Managing everything from one app makes switching between modes of transport easy, plus you access great offers and other economic benefits by using the app. And if you urgently need to use a car, for only 49 euros/day, this can be done through Whim if you are on their regular subscription plan. Combining different modes of transport more seamlessly is expected to be a big part of the solution in reducing emissions from transport in the following decade. Although giving up owning a car just sometimes to rent one or call a taxi might feel counterintuitive, Remember that you are already halving the emissions by going one way by e-scooter and the other by taxi, rather than going all the way by car! Another important thing that comes into play here is the number of vehicles that need to be produced; only some need to own a car for all of us to utilise one from time to time.
11. Bike, or get an e-bike or e-scooter
Biking is often the fastest way to get around a city, provided good cycling routes exist. If biking is not for you, you get the health benefits of fresh air by commuting by e-scooter or e-bike without getting exhausted. And guess what? E-scooters are surprisingly cheap! You get a good-quality e-scooter for the same price as a bike in the lower price range.
E-scooters in public use have been criticized for a too short lifecycle (at worst only a month) due to their overuse, bad battery technology and poor treatment. Battery technology is evolving all the time and recycling and reusing parts of broken e-scooters is becoming more common. Some e-bike retailers are Bikester and Baiks, or buy a real gem directly from Wheelström. Some popular e-scooters are Xiaomi Mi and Segway Ninebot. If you are up for trying something new then check out Augment.eco — they provide e-scooters on monthly subscriptions, all services needed during the season, and the possibility to buy the scooter at the end of the contract.
Want to know how you can become part of the solution to climate change? Download our app The Donut to calculate your lifestyle emissions, get personalised tips on how to reduce them and track your progress! Find it in the App Store and on Google Play.
Psst! Don’t forget to send us your feedback. Let’s build an app that will make climate action the new mega trend!
Ellen McArthur Foundation, 2015
GROWTH WITHIN: A CIRCULAR ECONOMY VISION FOR A COMPETITIVE EUROPE
Lally et al. 2010
How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world
Legrain, Eluru & El-Geneidy, 2015
Am stressed, must travel: The relationship between mode choice and commuting stress
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