/ Motoring

Could you get by without a car?

When the lease on my car came up I decided to give the car-free life a try. Do you need one as much as you think you do?

With emissions scandals hitting the headlines and a lot of conversations around poor air quality, it got me wondering whether I (and my family) really needed a car to go about our day-to-day lives.

After some lengthy discussions with my partner, we decided to take the plunge and go for the car-free life. Here are our experiences so far.

Shopping and day trips

With online shopping being so easy and accessible, the weekly shop was something we didn’t have to worry too much about (as long as you don’t mind someone else picking the items for you – we’ve had a few interesting sized carrots delivered!)

Fortunately the local shops are within walking distance, too. So if we do run out of anything essential, we know it won’t be an issue.

Day trips on the other hand required a bit more discussion. It’s a big one for me, as I love getting out of the city and into that fresh country air (plus hot chooclate and a scone, please!)

Without a car we’re severely restricted on where we can get to, meaning seaside trips and countryside walks are out of the question without some advanced planning.

Is a car better in an emergency?

We’re lucky enough not to have had any emergencies in the family recently, but it does make you appreciate the peace of mind that comes with having a car when you need to get somewhere fast.

For example, if I had to rush to my son’s school in an emergency, I’m not so sure I’d like the idea of being stuck on a delayed train!

My verdict on going car-less

So, will we go back to being car owners any time soon? Maybe not quite yet.

We’ve found we can get by now with little bother, but it’s not without a downside – it does severely restrict what we do (especially spontaneously) and, I have to admit, I am missing those countryside scones.

We are lucky that with living in London we do have convenient transport on the doorstep – I’m not sure we could have made the same decision if we had to walk miles to a railway station.

But what about you? Would you consider a car-free life? And do you have any advice for anyone who may be considering it? Let me know in the comments – I’d love to discuss the pros and cons, and my experiences so far!


I’ve never owned a car. I was initially working in London. Public transport was available to everywhere central and my family gave me lifts to get early morning flights or to get to Weddings in out of the way places. Of late I find people a lot less inclined to offer lifts as they assume you have a car and I feel reluctant to ask. It has hampered my choice of jobs since (as previously mentioned) public transport to industrial areas where many shops etc now are is abysmal. I encourage anyone younger who is taking driving lessons to persevere, as provision of social amenities is now designed by people who assume everyone has access to a car and I can’t see this changing unless central government makes a big push in a new direction.

I have agree to some extent, the main thing i would miss about not having a car would be the lovely drives to random country villages and being able to up and go to places that take your fancy. However, i have put so much weight on since having a car! which has had some health effects for me. So, i think i could live without a car, there are always trains and rambling groups i can join for that scenic fix as for shopping, you can go the stores nowadays and get it delivered…and take a nice stroll home.

A decent battery assisted bicycle and a set of weather-proof clothing may be a good investment. It would also be good for our health and fitness!
The major supermarkets do convenient delivery services, but we do have a problem with someone else choosing our fruit, veggies and meat. But that’s not an insurmountable problem.
We don’t do a big annual mileage – maybe less than 6,000 a year, so dumping the car and using bicycles maybe a positive change in life style.
In direct outgoings, it saves almost £2,000 a year in fuel, insurance and running costs, but it also saves the invisible depreciation, probably another £6,000+ a year.
The verdict is out at the moment, but it is definitely something to consider.

I agree with most of your points, Terfar, but cannot understand depreciation of £6000+ a year. Cars last a lot longer than they used to and mine would have a large negative value by now on that basis.

Cars like mine, bought used for less than £6000, certainly don’t depreciate at £6000 per year.

I wonder what it would take to get more people cycling, on electric bikes or walking, instead of using the car. Maybe some financial incentive.

Paula Burr says:
31 December 2020

Town and country planning should be revamped so that access to amenities does not depend on use of a car. In any case the current arrangements exclude the youngest, oldest, more affluent and more vulnerable members of society

1 month and 4 days since I was told to stop driving due to a medical condition. I call it ,’life in the slow lane’.

I’ve still got my car full of petrol just in case.

I’ve till got my insurance as I was told it would cost more to give it up and lose my no claims if I had to renew it.

I’ve still got my breadkown insurance.

It’s taxed, recent serviced and MOT’d.

Savings so far nothing.

The same happened to a friend after his foot was amputated to prevent an incurable infection spreading. Fortunately he now has a prosthetic foot and is allowed to drive again. Don’t give up hope.

For me the best advantage would be Saving Money. I mean including all the insurance, maintenance, petrol and many more things, we spend a lot of money for our travelling. Every decision has pros as well as cons, but going car free was pretty good decision I took. Other advantages were Better health, Less wasted time, Increased time outside and environmental safety.

I had to give up driving many years ago due to an eye complaint but was not inconvenienced until my husband died 4 years ago. So it was a case of my weekly groceries deing delivered after an online order- I have severe osteoarthritis so cannot carry heavy loads anyway.I have to walk 30minutes to the nearest bus stop but even at 88 years of age feel that I must do this to exercise my joints and help maintain a degree of fitness according to my age. Trips into the Derbyshire countryside are the things I miss the most but still lead an active life thanks to the local U3A. The most important thing is to have a positive attitude and to exercise one’s grey cells in the way you choose so to do – in my case the computer is invaluable and I still study every day.It is not the end of the world when you no longer use a car just a little change in your lifestyle. Enjoy it and make evey day count!

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Margaret says:
13 September 2019

I have never driven a car. If you don’t have a car you have to be more organised about travelling, but these days that is so much easier to achieve, even spontaneously, with websites and apps such as Rome2Rio (which I’ve used here and abroad when travelling on my own) and Traveline or bus companies’ own apps in the UK. Many foreign countries have their own transport apps and websites such as TripAdvisor can be useful. Not having a car allows me to travel to distant places such as Japan which I couldn’t afford otherwise. And walking helps me stay fit.There are certainly times when I can’t get to places by public transport, but if we all used it more then services would improve because of demand.

I own a diesel car car , 9 years old. I have only filled up with diesel twice this year and still have a half filled tank. I live in a small Market town and walk to the shops for food. I need it for visiting the neighbouring villages, there is virtually no other transport to them, and I use it for one long journey from the North Midlands to the South coast once a year. Christmas Time.
We do have a bus service to Shrewsbury and Chester and a very useful railway line, which I use very occasionally.
I should find it very difficult without a car, but I feel that reducing its use in this way I am not adding a great deal to pollution and because I am using diesel my carbon emissions are recorded as very low.

In 2012 I broke my leg badly. The person who has done most for me was, obviously, my brilliant surgeon, but a close second is the (anonymous) person who stole my car. I hadn’t been using it much, and had noticed that I was losing muscle mass. I took the decision to use the insurance money on taxis and ubers if I needed them, and to stop thinking of them as luxuries. So far it has worked really well, and my leg is alot stronger

After I took early retirement I decided to move away from the outskirts of a city and now live within a short bus journey from a town. My biggest disappointment has been the infrequent bus service, which was pruned soon after I moved.

Later this month I will have to go into the city for jury service but it’s not going to be easy. To get there I could take a bus from the village into the town and another to the city, but I would not get back to the town in time to get the last bus home, so an hour walk or phoning a friend for a lift. The park & ride is poorly situated for me and would involve driving on heavily congested roads with unpredictable delays.

I suppose I could just drive into town and park in a multi-storey car park, but I try to avoid driving in town. The least bad alternative seems to be to drive to the outskirts of the city, park near my previous house and get the bus into the city. I do this once a month but what a performance to do it daily. I’m not sure how I would cope without a car.

This set me thinking how we would get to the Courthouse in the event of a jury summons, knowing that it is in a slightly remote of the city centre. I looked it up on Traveline and found that it would be possible to leave home at 08:30, walk for eight minutes, take a bus through the city centre, and then walk for another eight minutes arriving just before 09:00. That surprised me because I thought it would be much more difficult than that. On the way back I would follow the same route but change in the city centre for a bus that stops two minutes walk from home.

Anyone living outside the city boundaries would have a much less easy journey and probably need to take a taxi to ensure a timely arrival.

When I go to the hospital clinic tomorrow I shall take a taxi because although the journey is possible by bus the timings are unhelpful and the taxi saves so much time. I shall come back on the bus because time is not so critical.

If you are saving the expense of running a car the occasional taxi is affordable.

Where I used to live it took less than ten minutes to get to the bus stop and there were very frequent buses into town. That’s what I plan to use as part of the journey.

I did consider using taxis but it’s a very expensive option and they don’t always turn up even if booked in advance.

When the wheel was first invented/discovered, it enabled people to move things around that were otherwise difficult or impossible to move. It was not first used for commuting, that is for sure! Living in Rural England most of my life I have been 100% dependant on having a car, and not just any car, but also one that will carry around the things I need to do those things that I am involved with. That has included garden equipment, musical equipment and instruments, for example as well as supplies for garden and house and other practical things. Public transport is virtually non existent hereabouts, and also one cannot carry large objects on a bus! Also, anyone who works with any kind of tools or kit needs transport and always will.