Ryan Waggoner is an Associate Product Manager with CNET Networks, working primarily on GameSpot. He writes about entrepreneurship, real estate investment, and technology at ryanwaggoner.com. In this guest post, Ryan talks about his experience without a car in San Francisco.
My wife and I moved to San Francisco from Colorado about 10 months ago. We sold one of our cars just before we moved and took the other with us to SF. It was nice for a few months, as we were doing freelance work around the Bay Area, but after about 3 months of living here, we both got jobs within a couple miles of our house. At that point, the car began to look pretty expensive. Our parking alone was $235 per month. Throw in insurance, gas, maintenance, and depreciation and we were looking at close to $500 per month. So we sold it, giving us a nice little chunk of change to help pay off some lingering debt.
We’ve made some changes in our transportation life, including the following:
For commuting to work and running errands within a couple miles, we use the awesome public transportation options that SF offers. It does add a few minutes of waiting to our transit time, but it’s pretty convenient. We pay about $65 a month for two passes that let us use the buses, trains, and subways within the city.
For times when it’s raining, there’s not a convenient bus route, or it’s too late for the bus we need, we just take a cab. The city isn’t that big, so most cab rides fall between $5 and $10. We probably do this once or twice a week.
Since lugging our groceries onto the bus twice a month is a pain, we use Safeway.com and have our groceries delivered. For between $8 and $10, we go online and order all the groceries we would normally order and have them dropped off in a 4-hour or 2-hour window.
When we really need a car, perhaps to run an errand or to pick up something that isn’t practical to lug onto a bus, we use ZipCar, an awesome car-sharing service available here in SF. Basically, they maintain a fleet of cars at parking lots all over the city. When you join, you get an access card that unlocks the cars. If you need a car, you just go online or call to reserve the closest one. You pay about $9 per hour, which includes gas and insurance. It’s not practical for daily commuting, but if you need to run to Costco or IKEA once a month for a few hours, it works beautifully.
Overall, it’s been a wonderful change. There are still times when I wish we had a car, but in a city like San Francisco, it’s very practical to live without one. We cut our transportation expenses from about $500 per month to about $200 per month. I’m sure we’ll get another car at some point, once we value our time and convenience more than that $300 per month, but until then, we’re enjoying this chapter of car-free living.
For more on personal finance from Ryan Waggoner, visit his blog.
Published or updated April 6, 2007.