More money, better life, better for the environment
- Cassy Horton, 34, has been living a “car-free” life in New York and Chicago for a year.
- In addition to environmental concerns, many “light-driving” people point to a better quality of life.
- The current infrastructure in the United States can make it difficult to pursue a life without a car.
When Cassy Horton, 34, grew up in Fresno, Calif., driving was “freedom.”
“You really couldn’t get around without a car,” she says. When she moved to Los Angeles after college, her job required her to be all over town, which made a car still feel like a necessity.
But when her partner was accepted into a graduate school in New York, she recognized it as an opportunity to try something different. In September 2021, Horton sold his car and moved to the Big Apple. She works remotely, occasionally traveling to Chicago as she completes a part-time MBA. Over the past year, she’s embraced a car-free life, an experience she called “transformative” and one she has no plans to give up when she returns to Los Angeles in September.
“I have more money in my wallet, but I also feel like my life has improved,” she says. “And then when you add some sort of environmental benefit on top of that, this whole package is really compelling and even though I know it’s going to be harder when I get back to LA, it’s definitely worth it for me to try to live without a car.”
Horton is one of many millennials taking steps towards a life without a car – or with a light car. A 2018 survey of more than 1,000 Americans by transportation technology company Arity found that 51% of millennials felt owning a car was “not worth the investment,” compared to 47% of Gen Xers and 31 % of baby boomers who said the same thing. While many do it for environmental reasons, a myriad of other factors also push them in the way, including high car expenses, time wasted in traffic, and safety concerns.
For Horton, the car-free lifestyle has improved his quality of life. “From a psychological point of view, I hadn’t really realized how stressful being in the car and in traffic was compared to being on a bus or on the subway,” she says, adding that she thinks his physical health has also benefited from walking and cycling more.
Owning a car is getting more and more expensive
In June, the average monthly car payment hit a record high of $712, according to analysis by Cox Automotive/Moody’s Analytics, due to rising car prices and auto loan interest rates.
Part of the reason Horton sold her used car last September was that it had fetched such a high price – $5,000 more on online car retailer Carvana than she would have received six months ago, she said.
Then there are all the expenses of owning a car. A recent study by work-focused blog Overheard On Conference Calls used census and government data to analyze travel costs – focusing on gas prices, travel distance, insurance costs and maintenance expenses.
He revealed that the average American driver will spend more than $2,900 on their trip in 2022, a 35% increase from the roughly $2,200 spent in 2021, compared to $457 in 2021.
Horton, who says his monthly car and insurance payment was around $600 a month, says avoiding this “has been huge” in terms of financial flexibility, allowing him to spend the money on rent or to the things she likes.
Although Horton acknowledges that her life without a car won’t be without its challenges, she’s willing to give it a shot. She Googled bus routes and is seriously considering buying an e-bike – which she would use to commute to a coworking space about three times a week.
“I made a commitment that even going back to Los Angeles, which is such a car-centric city, I will not buy a car and I will continue this lifestyle that we were able to build and really lived while we were there. here.”