5 Best Alternatives to Car Ownership

  • Based in Los Angeles, Warren Clarke loves providing readers with the information they need to make smart automotive choices. He's provided content for outlets such as Carfax, Edmunds.com, Credit Karma and the New York Daily News.

can be reached at wgcla@hotmail.com
  • Based in Los Angeles, Warren Clarke loves providing readers with the information they need to make smart automotive choices. He's provided content for outlets such as Carfax, Edmunds.com, Credit Karma and the New York Daily News.

can be reached at wgcla@hotmail.com
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There are some good reasons for not owning a car.

One of the most compelling justifications has to do with cost. A car is a big investment. According to Kelley Blue Book, the average transaction price for a new car rose to more than $36,000 in 2018. For most people, a new car is among the most expensive purchases they’ll make throughout their lifetime, second only to buying a house. This doesn’t even include peripheral car-related costs like gas, insurance, and repairs.

Car ownership can also play a role in making traffic conditions worse. This is especially true for those who live in large cities like Los Angeles or New York. Then there’s the issue of pollution. The average gas-powered vehicle creates emissions that take a toll on the environment.

Because of these concerns, many people have started to look beyond traditional car ownership. The good news is that it’s now easier than ever to embrace a car-free lifestyle. Recent innovations provide the support needed to succeed in this way of living.

What choices are available for someone who’s thinking about saying sayonara to his or her car for good? Here are the 5 best alternatives to car ownership, listed in alphabetical order.

Bicycle ownership or rental

Women riding bicycles in bike lane
Bicycle ownership or rental may shorten commute times in gridlocked traffic.

Tired of sitting in a car, stuck in traffic? Try cycling. A bicycle may shorten commute times by allowing riders to cruise past congested traffic.

According to Harvard Medical School, cycling can also bring health benefits. Aerobic activities like cycling release endorphins that can boost mood. And since it’s a resistance activity, cycling can build bone density. Also, pedaling a bicycle can strengthen your abdominals, calves, and glutes.

For longer distances, electric bicycles are a great solution. These bikes come with electric motors that provide a power boost as riders pedal. When pedaling stops, this bicycle slows down like a traditional bike.

Many cities have taken steps designed to make cycling easier and safer. For example, many offer protected bike lanes. These lanes use physical dividers, ranging from concrete curbs to posts, to separate bike lanes from both sidewalks and vehicles. According to PeopleForBikes.org, these lanes are available in 82 cities across 34 states.

A bicycle is relatively inexpensive, costing anywhere from $80 to $1,000 or more. Electric bikes command a premium, and range from $600 to thousands of dollars. For those who’d rather not deal with the cost of bicycle ownership, many cities offer bike-sharing services that allow inexpensive bike rental for as little as 30 minutes via a smartphone app.

Remember to cycle responsibly, and always wear a helmet.

Car subscription

Ford Canvas vehicle subscription service vehicle delivery

If your living situation changes and you need a car, but you don’t want to buy or lease one, a subscription service like Ford’s Canvas program might be a good option. (Canvas)

Car subscription bears a passing resemblance to a traditional lease, but there are some key differences.

First of all, with a car subscription, there’s a lot less commitment required. While a lease can tie someone down for two or more years, car subscription companies offer plans that are as short as a month.

Also, with a car subscription, most of the costs associated with car ownership are absorbed into a flat monthly fee. This includes expenses related to insurance and maintenance. Companies usually charge extra if mileage exceeds a certain monthly limit.

At Canvas, a San Francisco-based car subscription service that’s part of the Ford family, there’s no extra fee if monthly travel is 500 miles or less. Various packages allow the addition of extra miles, and there’s even a $100 package that includes unlimited mileage.

One of the most exciting perks of car subscription is that it allows drivers to spend time in a variety of different vehicles. It’s possible to swap vehicles during a subscription. A driver could have a frugal hybrid during the week, a fun convertible on weekends, and a pickup truck on moving day.

Some subscription services are affiliated solely with a single automaker, while others offer vehicles from a variety of brands. At Canvas, plans are available that offer subscriptions for a total cost of less than $400 per month.

Electric scooter ownership or rental

Man riding a Bird scooter
Cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco offer services that facilitate easy scooter rental. (Pixabay)

Electric scooters live in the space between motorbikes and bicycles. Like motorbikes, electric scooters are self-powered. This means they can get from one place to the next with no physical effort required by the rider, though they’re not nearly as quick as motorbikes. And, like bicycles, they emit zero emissions. This gift is a product of the efficient electric powertrain that governs these scooters.

In some states like California, a driver’s license or learner’s permit is required for piloting an electric scooter. And, like cars, scooters are subject to the rules of the road. On some roadways, operating a scooter at speeds in excess of 15 miles per hour is prohibited.

New electric scooters can range in cost from around $400 to $5,000 or more. For those who’d prefer to avoid this expense, cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco provide services that allow riders to easily rent electric scooters using a smartphone app.

If there’s an electric scooter in your future, remember that a helmet is always a good idea.

Peer-to-peer car sharing

Turo-Toyota-Tundra-in-Mountains

Options like peer-to-peer car sharing provide convenient access to a car without the responsibilities that come with owning one. Turo is one of the larger companies offering this service. (Turo)

Peer-to-peer car sharing is like the younger, cooler, mellower sibling of traditional car rental. This service allows users to rent a vehicle from someone in their community for as little as one hour. Unlike traditional car rental, no office visits are required, and there’s no paperwork to sign. The entire process is handled via a smartphone app in a matter of minutes.

It’s possible to rent on an hourly or daily basis, and vehicles are offered for as little as $5 per hour. Rentals include insurance coverage. With Getaround, one of the largest peer-to-peer car-sharing companies, each rental also includes free roadside assistance.

The range of vehicles offered varies from location to location, but it typically includes everything from frugal hatchbacks to premium luxury cars.

Peer-to-peer car sharing allows drivers quick access to vehicles right when they need them, at a very reasonable cost.

Ridesharing

A Lyft full of passengers
Ridesharing has exploded in popularity during the past few years, with Lyft and Uber two of the best-known apps for getting from where you are to where you want to be. (Lyft)

Ridesharing is a more user-friendly alternative to hailing a cab, and it’s often less expensive. With ridesharing, riders download an app that allows them to easily summon a driver to take them from one location to the next. The app allows riders to track their driver’s progress on the way to the pickup, so there’s never any mystery regarding the time of the arrival.

All payments, including tips, are handled via the app. Ridesharing companies typically provide an online estimator that provides riders with fare estimates for their trips. To generate an estimate, the rider needs to enter a pickup location and destination.

Drivers are typically local car owners who are looking to make some extra cash by providing a service to their neighbors. Because drivers are usually based in a rider’s community, there can be less of a wait than there would be with a cab. In cities with lots of rideshare drivers, it’s often possible for riders to have a vehicle at their door within 10 minutes of submitting a ride request via the app.

The Bottom Line

These are happy times for those who are fed up with the costs and responsibilities of car ownership. Whether it’s ride sharing or car subscription, there are exciting alternatives out there for those who have decided they’d rather not own a vehicle. Know also that all of the options discussed above are good for the environment since they reduce the number of cars on the road.


About the Author

  • Based in Los Angeles, Warren Clarke loves providing readers with the information they need to make smart automotive choices. He's provided content for outlets such as Carfax, Edmunds.com, Credit Karma and the New York Daily News.

can be reached at wgcla@hotmail.com
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