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The First Week

It has now been exactly one week since my Mazda Miata blew its head gasket–one week of being car free.

Ecology Auto Parts towed my Miata away on Thursday and all I felt was an all-consuming sense of relief. Cars are like a heavy weight on your soul. Get rid of yours and see how great your feel!

They gave me $100 cash and now I am going to save about $150/month in insurance and maintenance. At the end of the year, I save $100 in carbon offsets. I need to pay for public transportation for long trips, but I was doing that anyway. I no longer need to wash, fix, or park a car. My driveway looks huge. I was a little curious to find out how much the car actually cost me over the eleven months I owned it. A little time-value analysis on my trusty spreadsheet program yielded a fairly shocking result:

Spreadsheet screenshot

My $1500 compact car cost me nearly $400 per month, not counting gas! Of course if it had survived for a few more months I could have amortized the expenses over a longer period. Even so, the cost was really too high for what I was getting out of it. Also, I should point out that I did all of my own mechanical, paint, and body work. About the only thing I paid someone else to do was change the oil. If I had had to pay labor on all of my maintenance it would have cost much more.

Of course, the first week has not been without its hiccups. I forgot to look up the bus transfers the night before to get to a doctor’s appointment. I ended up borrowing a car for a couple hours so I could get there on time. Friday, I had run to downtown LA on business in the afternoon and there was no point in going back to the office, so I have been stuck with a pickup all weekend. Still, these things are minor and it is only the first week.

Things are going great for me since I lost the car. Please, think of following my example. Living auto-light is a start, but you really do not receive most of the benefits until you are totally auto-free.

One organization in my part of the world that helps people transition to an auto-free lifestyle is Auto-Free Orange County. Check them out.

Car Free Again At Last

I have a confession to make. I write about the evils of cars. I hate the automobile and try to have as little as possible to do with it. Despite these facts, I have owned a car for most of the last year.

I had plenty of justifications. The car, a 1990 Mazda Miata, is just about the most minimalist excuse for a car that I could get away with. It is small, fuel efficient, and used. I offset all of the emissions through Carbonfund. It seemed like I needed it for work. After all, I need to visit job sites in six counties.

Of course, all of these arguments are complete hogwash. Cars are dangerous and destructive. They consume space and money and make you lazy. Getting a car “for work only” like an alcoholic deciding it is OK to drink as long as it’s just beer. Naturally I soon began using it to get to night school. From there is was a short leap to driving on the weekends.

Lucky for me, some higher power decided to intervene. Yesterday the Mazda blew a head gasket. I am not going to fix it, even though I have the skills and tools. I am not going to replace it, either. Car ownership is a dangerous trap. The hypocrisy ends here and now.

I already ride the bus to school and use my bicycle for errands. I am training for a century ride right now anyway so I can use the miles. Now from now on at work I am going to use company trucks for company business or else I will not go at all. I am car free and I plan to stay that way.