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Alternatives to Cars: Ways to Get Around Without a Car

Alternatives to cars have been on the rise as environmental concerns have risen to the forefront of consumers' minds. Some alternatives to cars in cities include riding a bicycle, taking the bus, taking a light rail or commuter rail, using a rideshare app, doing shopping online, and renting cars. Some cheap alternatives to cars that are brand new include buying a used car or sharing a car.

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Eric Stauffer is a former insurance agent and banker turned consumer advocate. His priority is to help educate individuals and families about the different types of insurance they need, and assist them in finding the best...

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UPDATED: Sep 18, 2020

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A black and blue bike with a basket is propped up against a wall outside

Cars have long been considered a necessity in the lives of many Americans, but in recent years, that mindset has started to change. As climate change becomes an increasingly bigger concern, more and more people are looking to reduce their environmental impact. Driving less frequently is one of the simplest and most effective ways to do so.

Luckily, there are a number of different car alternatives available to those looking to spend less time behind the wheel.

There are also many advantages to using sustainable transportation beyond a positive environmental impact, including health benefits and economic savings, making these alternatives even more appealing. From well-known options like public transit to modern solutions such as ridesharing, here are a few ways you can get around without a car.

#1 – Ride a Bicycle

Riding a bicycle is a green, healthy, and cost-effective way to get from place to place. Not only are bikes more environmentally friendly than cars, but they are also significantly more affordable. You can even calculate how much your commute costs when driving to see just how much you’ll save by biking instead.

Further, bikes are just as versatile as cars are. They can go almost anywhere that a car can, and, in many places, are able to legally share the roads with them. Bikes can also go places that cars can’t, such as on trails or in narrow alleyways, which makes them particularly useful in crowded and busy areas.

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#2 – Take the Bus

Taking the bus is another green and affordable alternative. Most metropolitan areas and even some smaller towns have some type of bus system that residents can use for a small fee.

Unfortunately, some bus systems have not been implemented effectively; for instance, they may not have enough routes or may run so infrequently that people can’t realistically use them. However, if your city does have an easy-to-use and efficient bus system, it is a truly great way to get around.

#3 – Light Rail or Commuter Rail

In addition to buses, some cities have light rails, trains, or commuter rails as public transit options. Any sort of rail system is a convenient way to quickly get around to major hubs of activity and popular destinations in your area — if your city has one.

Light rails are not nearly as common as bus systems, and there are currently only 51 operational rail systems in 42 cities in the U.S.

Though few cities have them at this time, light rails are quickly becoming more popular as metropolitan areas grow.

#4 – Use a Ride Sharing App

If your city doesn’t have a great bus system or a light rail, you can likely use a ridesharing app, like Lyft or Uber, to get you where you need to go. Unlike public transit, rideshares don’t have fixed or predetermined routes, so you can use them to go just about anywhere you want.

On the other hand, this still puts cars on the road, and they can get costly if you use them frequently. Depending on how much you drive, though, ridesharing may be less expensive than owning a car.

If you use ridesharing services in conjunction with other sustainable transit options, such as public transportation or biking, it can still be a viable alternative.

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#5 – Shopping Online

Aside from commuting, one of the reasons people commonly use cars is to shop for groceries, clothes, and other items they need. Before the advent of the Internet, driving to stores was necessary, but now, you can purchase just about anything online and have it shipped right to your front door.

Though experts worry about the environmental impact of online shopping, you can still use online shopping as a way to get what you need without using a car.

For smaller items or grocery trips, you can also consider using your bike or public transportation to get what you need instead.

#6 – Rental Cars

Finally, if you only need to use a car on occasion, you can always rent one. Renting a car will provide you with all of the freedom and flexibility of owning a vehicle without having to pay for it when you aren’t actually using it.

Previously, you may have only rented a car when necessary, such as when traveling out of town or when insurance covers the cost after the damage done to your own vehicle. However, you’re also welcome to rent a car simply because you want to.

You can either use a traditional rental car company or look into a newer alternative such as Zipcar. Whatever you choose, keep in mind that you absolutely should still be insured as a driver to use a rental car.

Owning a Car For Less Money

Of course, some people still have to have a car to get around. You may lack access to public transportation, live in rural areas where biking isn’t feasible, or require a car for work. Whatever the reason, there are still a few ways you can own a car without breaking the bank:

  • Buy a used car – Depending on your wants and financial resources, it may be better to buy a new car, but if you’re looking to reduce the cost of owning a car, it’s a good idea to consider buying a pre-owned vehicle.
  • Perform basic maintenance on your own – You can likely handle simple tasks at home, including oil changes, radiator flushes, and battery replacements. You may have to invest in a few new tools, but that’s probably still cheaper than paying a professional.
  • Shop around for affordable car insurance – Chances are, you can find something that has a lower monthly premium that still offers the coverage you need.
  • Look for inexpensive gas – There’s no need to fill up with premium (unless your car requires it), and regular fuel that costs more at a certain gas station isn’t necessarily better than what you’ll find somewhere else.
  • Share a car with your partner or roommate – Depending on how often each of you needs to use it, you could either split the costs or simply chip in whenever you need to drive it.
  • Use alternatives when you can – You can increase the longevity of your car and save money by biking or using public transportation when possible.

There are many different modes of transportation available, and it’s easier than ever to get around without a car. Even if you still need to own a car, you can use sustainable transit when the opportunity arises.

Try out different alternatives, find the ones that work best for you, and use them to save money and lessen your environmental impact.

About Eric Stauffer

Author: Eric StaufferI am a former insurance agent and banker turned consumer advocate. My priority is to help educate individuals and families about the different types of insurance they need, and assist them in finding the best place to get it.

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