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. Check out or top tips to determine whether a car-free life could be something for you.
A car-free life is not only climate friendly but it 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, insurances, taxes, maintenance, parking fees, and depreciation of the vehicle (loss of value each year). Taking into consideration how expensive it is to just own a car (not even mentioning the price of buying one), it is rather paradoxical that cars stay parked 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 a lot on where you live. However, if you live in a bigger city, there are so many alternatives to owning a car available! Many people like the idea of not owning a car, but think this is not possible in their life. It is said it takes 66 days to form a new habit, with a range from 18 to 254 days (Lally et al. 2010). Something that might seem impossible today might be the new normal in 66 days! Through this blog post we aim to help you 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 audio book; 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 by using it you are taking one of the bigger climate actions. Switching emission-intensive city driving to biking and public transport can mean that 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 sum of money, you easily buy a public transport pass and 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 in some cases work as an argument in favor for buying a car. We suggest considering using a car renting service instead. Because in the end, will you really 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 having to drive yourself and yet the economic benefit of not having to own a car. A small amount is often paid to cover the costs, but carpooling is most of the time cheaper than public transport. If you get lucky you can find someone to regularly co-ride with through these group. 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 emissions at least by half, not to mention the cost. If everyone was to do this there would be only full cars on the roads, much less pollution, and no traffic jams! Meaning you might actually 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 out there, such as Uber and Yango. In addition to the economic benefits, these apps allow you to track the location of a driver 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 the whole society is making more efficient use of resources and time, since materials don’t need to be sourced for a car for everyone and not everyone needs to 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 starting to change as well. The outdated view that not owning a car would be an indicator of 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 less cars need to be produced as not everyone needs to own a vehicle. Car sharing platforms such as Bloxcar, Drivenow, Omago, City Car Club, 24 Rent, ALD Sharing, OP Kulku, 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 on that especially with kids the 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 really genius as it’s not only timesaving but also cheaper than what you could think. Services like this are for example Kauppahalli24 and foodie.fi (S-market's and Prisma's webshops).
9. Invest in a cargo bike
Owning a cargo bike makes moving around with kids, dogs, groceries, hobby gear etc. so much easier! Spoil yourself with an electrified one, and according to your needs you can get some electrified help when muscle power is not enough. Some popular brands are Christiania Bikes, Urban Arrow and Babboe. Tavarapyörä asiantuntija is a real expert in this field and they do retail on a variety of different 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 in case you urgently need to use a car, for only 49 euros/day, this can be done through Whim as well 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 to sometimes rent one or call a taxi might feel contraintuitive, 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; not everyone needs to own a car for all of us to be able 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 there are good cycling routes. In case biking is not for you, you get the health benefits of fresh air by commuting by e-scooter or e-bike, without getting all exhausted. And guess what? E-scooters are surprisingly cheap! You get an e-scooter of good quality to the same price as a bike in the lower price range.
E-scooters that are 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 however evolving all the time and recycling and reusing parts of broken e-scooters is getting more and 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 service needed during the season, and the possibility to buy the scooter at the end of the contract.
A final tip for our Finnish speaking readers about an upcoming tax reform concerning an employment-related transport benefit:
Osana vähäpäästöiseen liikenteeseen siirtymistä, vuonna 2021 astuu voimaan työsuhdeliikenteeseen liittyviä verouudistuksia (Valtiovarainministeriö, 2020). Meitä kiinnostaa erityisesti työsuhdepolkupyörän muuttuminen verovapaaksi eduksi 1200 euroon asti. Käytännössä tämä tarkoittaa sitä, että työntekijä voi ostaa polkupyörän samalla tavalla kuin lounasta voi ostaa lounasseteleillä. Eli pyörä maksetaan rahalla, josta ei peritä tuloveroa. Tämä etu voidaan vähentää suoraan palkastasi, tai vaihtoehtoisesti työnantaja voi tarjota tätä etua palkan päälle.
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.
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Ellen McArthur Foundation, 2015
Lally et al. 2010
Legrain, Eluru & El-Geneidy, 2015