I grew up in California, and everyone I knew had a car. Even the corner market was a mile away, and no one wanted to walk that far! So imagine my surprise when I moved to Chicago after graduating from college, only to find out my car was more of a burden than a benefit! At this point I’ve been living without a car for more than three years, and I love it. You don’t have to be afraid of life without a car; here are some tips and tricks to help you survive!
If you are thinking of moving to the city and you’re worried about not having a car, or if you already live in the city and want to get rid of your car, here are some great tips to help you survive city life without a car!
Get familiar with your city’s public transit system
Chicago has one of the best public transit systems I’ve ever seen, and we use it every single day! My husband and I both work downtown, but it takes less than half an hour to walk to the closest El station, take the train downtown, and walk from there to the office!
Most cities have some form of public transit, be it buses, trains, trolleys, ferries, or whatever. So figure out what your city has to offer, and use it!
TIP: If you’re commuting to and from work on public transit, wear comfy shoes and stick your work shoes in your bag so you can put them on once you get to the office. Don’t walk to the train station in high heels everyday; you will not like it!
Ride a bike
Another great way to get around the city without a car is to ride a bike! Used bikes are a cheap form of transportation, and many cities have public bikes that you can rent on a daily or hourly basis.
If you are looking for a used bike, start at your local bike store. Even if they don’t sell used bikes, they can point you towards some great sources and they can help keep you from buying a lemon!
Get a wheeled cart
Once you figure out how to get around your city without a car, you’re going to need to transport your stuff without a car! This has been the hardest part for us; because of my love of DIY projects, we’ve had to be pretty creative to carry lumber and power tools home from the hardware store. But it can be done!
My best tip is to get a metal rolling cart from Bed Bath & Beyond or your local hardware store. We use our cart for everything! It can be used as a grocery cart while you’re in the store, and then you can refill it with your bagged groceries for the walk or bus ride back home. We take it to the farmer’s market, we take it to the hardware store; anytime we know we’ll have more than we can carry home in our arms, we grab the wheeled cart and take it with us!
Carry a reusable bag with you
For smaller trips, always have a reusable bag with you. It’s easier to carry one larger, comfy bag over your shoulder rather than three smaller plastic bags in your hands. So find a reusable bag that will fold up pretty small and stick it in your purse or your pocket whenever you leave the house.
Get to know your local businesses
If you’re a creature of habit, giving up your favorite grocery store or hardware store can be difficult. But if that store is ten miles away and not easily accessibly by public transit, you may have to! But if you get to know your local businesses, I’m sure you can find a great replacement!
Find your local farmer’s markets, bookstore, hardware store, pharmacy, grocery store, and restaurants! If you give them a chance you might find you like them just as much. And since they’re local, not only are you supporting small businesses, but they’re easier to get to as well!
Join a daily or hourly car rental program
Even with all these great ideas, there are still times when you just need to have a car. If you are a DIYer like me, you just can’t carry sheet lumber home in a metal rolling cart, no matter how hard you try! Or you might need a car for a weekend getaway, or if friends come into town. So get to know your local hourly or daily car rental programs!
There are a bunch of short term car rental companies out there, and they’re all a little different. Some require a monthly fee, some charge by the mile, or by the hour, or any combination. Just make sure to do your research first, because you don’t want to pay a monthly membership fee if you only need a car three or four times a year. But if you need a car every time you go the grocery store, you might want that monthly membership fee, because it usually means the car rentals come at a discount!
What to do in case of emergency
This is a big one: What if you need a car right this very instant?! Make sure you have a few options planned out.
You should always know how to call or hail a taxi. If you’re caught in an unexpected downpour in the middle of the night, a taxi is your best bet!
Also, know which of your friends and neighbors have a car and would be willing to drive you. If you have really great friends, they may even let you borrow their car!
And of course, in any serious emergency, call 911! They can always send an ambulance to come pick you up if needed.
Do you have a car? If not, how do you get by without one?