6 Alternatives to Owning a Car

6 alternatives to owning a carThis is no stunning revelation. But vehicles cost a lot of money to maintain.

Things like insurance, fuel, parking, tires, maintenance and repairs can add up at an accelerated rate.

One way to keep your monthly costs low is to find an alternative to owning a vehicle.

When I was in university I owned a vehicle but only had it insured during the summer months. This meant I didn’t have to pay for vehicle costs for about 8 months of the year and was able to save big.

At that time I had no choice - I was a student with little to no income, so I had to cut costs where I could. Even today, after graduating, I still try to drive as little as possible as I know vehicles can be expensive, especially with the rising cost of fuel.

Mr. Money Mustache, a Canadian-born engineer who retired at 30 and now lives in the United States, explains that vehicles are costly for most of us and advocates using a vehicle as little as possible.

6 Alternatives To Cut Your Costs

Below are some alternatives to owning a vehicle.

Assuming that owning a car costs $437.48 a month or $5,250 per year, potential savings can be calculated based on that.

1. Ride Sharing/Carpooling

Ride sharing is an economical alternative to owning a vehicle.

There are carpooling websites available to Canadians and numerous ads on classifieds like Kijiji and Craigslist in large cities with people seeking a ride-sharing arrangement.

Carpool.ca allows you to participate even if you don’t have a car. You can indicate that you want to be just a passenger. This arrangement involves one designated driver. And cost will depend on the number of passengers, and the agreed upon shared expenses such as gas and parking.

One drawback can be that the schedules of each person have to be the same.

2. Public Transportation

One the most economical options to owning a car is public transportation.

Depending on your city there are likely a couple options and most cities have bus service. Bigger cities such as Vancouver and Toronto offer train service, which is more efficient.

This might not be an option for you depending on where you live, but if it is the savings can’t be ignored.

3. Weekend Car Rentals

Car rentals are another alternative to owning a vehicle.

If you live close to work and only need transportation once a week (or less) you may be able to save money by using car rentals instead of owning a vehicle.

Car rental companies like Enterprise sometimes have weekend specials of $9.99 per day for the weekend, which means you’d pay around $20 (plus taxes) for having unlimited access to a rental vehicle for the weekend.

They are able to do this because the large majority of their rentals are corporate/insurance which are focused on the weekdays, so they can offer specials on weekends to making additional revenue off the vehicles instead of having them sit idle.

When I didn’t own a vehicle, I would rent cars on the weekends and was able to easily get around town on my days off.

Renting a car on weekends was great for me because it allowed me to have the freedom of having my own car but without the extra cost and I was able to take advantage of the reduced rates car rental companies offer on weekends.

4. Cabs

Taking cabs can help cut down the cost of transportation if they aren’t used that often.

Since the cost of each cab ride is generally higher than other alternatives, using cabs to get around town would be cheaper than owning a car for anyone who doesn’t need to travel often or can get by with other transportation methods most of the time.

Consider someone who lives close to work and has everything they need for their daily lives nearby like food, groceries and shopping. They would only need to take a cab for trips to the airport and would be better off than owning a vehicle.

I have a coworker who is in this situation – she walks to work and is also within walking distance to most stores and only uses a cab to get to/from the airport when travelling out of town.

The cab ride costs about $50 (one way) but since she only travels 1-2 times per year she saves money compared to owning a car year-round and rarely using it.

Another benefit of using cabs is the access for persons with disability. Most municipalities have bylaws that regulate the taxi industry on providing access for persons  with disability, who benefit from having access to cabs that are equipped to transport them within the city.

Even though they offer great convenience, cabs are still one of the most expensive transportation options available and shouldn’t be used as a primary form of transportation.

5. Uber

Uber gets lot of press these days, here’s a quick primer:

Uber is an a company that uses an app to enable people to arrange rides with others for money. Anyone with a smartphone can download the app and submit a trip request which gets sent to Uber drivers (who use their own vehicles). The trips are generally significantly cheaper than a cab fare - peak travel times excepted - and the app allows users to see in real-time where the vehicle picking them up is located.

Using Uber to get around a large city is a great alternative to owning a vehicle as it means you wouldn’t have to pay for all the costs a vehicle owner pays – depreciation, interest, maintenance, insurance, fuel, repairs and parking.

A couple downsides of Uber is that the company is currently only operating in select cities and fare prices tend to spike dramatically during peak travel times such as New Year's Eve. Find out if Uber is in your city, do a search here.

6. Walking/Biking

Without a doubt the cheapest alternative to owning a car is walking or biking.

The average Canadian commutes 25 minutes to get to work each morning and those who walk (or bike) to work usually have the simplest commutes. Not only is walking or biking economical, it also forces you to focus on your health by providing a cardio workout each time you go to/from work.

An obvious drawback is that you are restricted to everything within walking or biking distance. One way to get around this is to use Uber (if available in your area) when you need to go somewhere far. Another idea is to schedule all errands for a day and rent a car that day to get them done. And of course there's also public transportation.

Question For You

If you’re serious in lowering your transportation cost, there’s ways to do that.

Here’s the question...

Which of these six alternatives makes the most sense to your situation?

Share your thoughts below.

Disclosure: Some links in this article may be affiliate links. We're letting you know because it's the right thing to do. Here’s a more detailed disclosure on how HTS makes money.


Mel's picture

It all boils down to where you live, in the city or in the suburbs where a car is a necessity.
I have used public transportation for a long time but at the cost of time. I would choose a car simply because its convenient for me at this present time. I suffered commuting with public transit (which nowadays is not cheap anyway)

June 16, 2016 @ 11:14 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Where you live has a big impact for sure.

However, even in the suburbs if you pick a location that is close to most of your shopping needs you could still make it work by combining walking/biking, car pooling, public transit, and rental cars.

Personally, I value time more than anything else in my life right now. A car helps me to save loads of time - especially with young kids - so that is why I choose to keep a vehicle and try to save money on operating it where I can. If I was in a big city, I would have to reconsider. When I get older and am hopefully slowing down a bit, I might revisit the idea again.

June 16, 2016 @ 11:46 am
Daniel Trezub's picture

Indeed, it depends on where you live. In most cities it's just not smart to rely on cars most part of the day because of traffic. I have a lot of friends that complain A LOT about time spent in cars, while they could use the same amount of time in public transportation spending a lot less money. But then enters other excuses and in the end people WANT to own cars.

June 16, 2016 @ 2:37 pm
Mary Lynn Bastian
Mary Lynn Bastian's picture

All very good points if you live in an urban centre, but in Northern Ontario none of this applies.

June 16, 2016 @ 11:25 am
Ken's picture

Comes down to situation and area. I live out of the city, a vehicle isnt a choice, its a need. With kids, part of working is providing for my children. Transportation to me is a cost assocated with living and doing what you want. Im all for saving money, but my lifestyle would have to do a complete 180 and move back to the city to even fathom using any of the above.

Not saying the options wont work for many, I used to walk/bike to work all the time. But things change and situations.

June 16, 2016 @ 11:47 am
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

It's a bit hard for me to fathom at the moment too Ken but working on this article with Dan reminded me that it is a real possibility that could save a lot of money.

June 16, 2016 @ 3:20 pm
TJ's picture

I think that your commentary is a good reminder. Even for those of us who live in areas where there is no public transportation (or we have a significant commute to work), we can consider where we live relative to shopping, schools, church, etc. to attempt to reduce the amount of driving.

This discussion could also be relevant for those with two working spouses (and require 2 vehicles), that there are options available to reduce our dependency on vehicles in the future. I am hopeful in retirement, that we won't have to own two vehicles as they represent considerable expense and capital outlay.

Thanks for the article.

June 16, 2016 @ 12:41 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Yes TJ, putting more thought and effort into choosing where we decide to live can have a big impact on our finances and our lifestyle.

June 16, 2016 @ 3:21 pm
Mel's picture

All valid points, bottom line is each person has to weight the cost, time, convenience and affordability factor and make a choice on what is important to them. I wish I was working next door to where I live, that would be perfect. But jobs and situations change every so often unlike years ago when you would works and grow in one organization. But I know of folks who still use a car even when they live within 15 minute walking distance in downtown Toronto. They have building parking so that is a great benefit.

June 16, 2016 @ 12:53 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Weighing all those factors is exactly what needs to be done. Going through the exercise is important even for people like me who thing that have made the right decision.

Even just knowing how much that car is costing you on a yearly basis can be an eye opener for people who didn't realize just how much of their money is going down the drain on one convenience.

June 16, 2016 @ 3:23 pm
Daniel Trezub's picture

Great post, Stephen!

One alternative you forgot to mention is Car2Go and other carsharing companies, where you grab a car on the street and leave it anywhere inside the designated area, and you pay for time/distance. We (my family) use it a LOT here in Montreal. For biking, we have Bixi that's basically the same thing but for bikes.

People will always find the most amazing pre-made excuses to not listen to any reason around not having a car, without even thinking about it. It's the confirmation bias working hard on our brains. "I cannot afford to not have a car", but they never really stopped to think about it, it's an automatic though.

For me it all boils down to choices. We chose to not have a car. Because of that we had to choose an apartment nearby a subway station and bus stops. But this was our choice. People say "I don't have a choice about having or not having a car". Yes you do. The other choices in your lives led you to make this specific option. You only have to stop and think about it, but changes are hard and changing hurts.

Thanks for sharing, Stephen!

June 16, 2016 @ 2:34 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

I agree Daniel, it's all about structuring your life to make the things you want happen. If there is a will there is a way as they say. Choices, choices, choices.

June 16, 2016 @ 3:18 pm
Charlene's picture

If you absolutely have to buy a car, get it from the auction save thousands of $$$$.

June 16, 2016 @ 5:29 pm
Christine's picture

Currently we live across the street from a grocery store, a higher end store price wise, but I can make it work with sales and such. Being able to walk over a couple of times a week is very nice. When we bought this house it was also within walking distance for hubby's work. A rather long walk but do-able if needed. He has had to retire early due to health reasons now.
Any medical appointments for him these days are out of town for us so we need that big old truck of ours. We try to make it worth the drive, what stores can we hit or what groceries can we pick up some place we can't normally get to. Hitting a couple of other places on the way home afterwards can help make it worth the drive and the gas.
I also talked to our insurance agent about things, because I am now listed as principal driver and am not using the truck to drive to work it saved us a little on our rates. Only $5.00 a month but when money is tight every little bit helps. We get every discount he could give us on the insurance.
Our vehicle right now is a late model pick up truck, 1998 Sierra, big 8 cylinder engine but it is paid for so we have no car payment and we have a garage we trust fully to keep the old girl running well. Because of all those out of town appointments there are a lot of highway miles on it and it gets us there and back no matter the weather. With hubby's health issues I need the vehicle to get him to where he needs to go, when he needs it. Worst case here if he needs to get somewhere fast it isn't a rental vehicle it would be an ambulance......

June 17, 2016 @ 1:09 am
Millennial Moola's picture

Uber carpool to the hospital was only $3.57 the other day when I looked. the public bus in $2.25, slower, and unreliable. It's an incredible service

June 17, 2016 @ 1:09 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

That's a great example. Convenience and reasonable price rolled into one.

June 17, 2016 @ 3:32 pm
Deborah 's picture

When we lived in metro Vancouver, a big factor in choosing our rental was that I could walk to a Sky Train station that took me downtown right to my office. We also used public transport to attend shows and festivals downtown without the hassle and big expense of parking. We did fine with one small car. In retirement, we live in a much smaller city without much transit. We are close to shopping however and try to consolidate our shopping in one trip. We walk to the library and the many parks. The one small car (Nissan Versa Note - love it!) still works fine and is super economical to operate.

June 17, 2016 @ 1:45 pm
L. McIntyre
L. McIntyre's picture

..own or lease ?

All of your points are well taken re owning a car for getting around, particularly as some of the alternatives are simply out of the question. Getting to work for instance by public transit is over an hour to 90 minutes of bus riding with transfers each way versus the twenty minutes to and from direct by car, - for us it is a no-brainer.

For the last thirty years I have leased rather than buying a car, except for an interlude of five years when I had purchased the last car I was driving. For me it is a simple matter of economics. The monthly cost, all in, of keeping a car on the road for an older or newer model is about the same. For me, leasing means I am driving a newer model car, with servicing by the dealership, warranty repairs if necessary, roadside assistance as needed, the vehicle going back to the dealership no-hassle at the end of the contract in a likely exchange for my next. The up-front negotiation for getting into a lease or ownership, - bargaining for the deal which you can accept, - is virtually the same, .

June 18, 2016 @ 11:54 am
Milan Somborac
Milan Somborac's picture

Cycling does not make your list? Wow!

I cycle the 4 km. to and from work, summer and winter (studded snow tires).

Milan Somborac DDS

June 24, 2016 @ 12:55 pm
Stephen Weyman
Stephen Weyman's picture

Cycling wasn't in the article at first and we actually revised the list before publishing to include it. Then an old version actually got published accidently a few days later. This is now fixed you will see that biking is back.

June 24, 2016 @ 4:36 pm
Milan Somborac
Milan Somborac's picture

P.S. I own a Tesla Model S 90D. Electric cars have a very, very low cost of ownership.

June 24, 2016 @ 1:00 pm

Post new comment