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Carless For 3 Months

portland public transit

This picture is only missing a bus in the center lane.

What’s cheaper than sharing one car? It’s having no car at all! 🙂

We went completely carless for 3 months when our BMW Z3 broke down last year. We decided to go carless while we took our time shopping for a vehicle. We live in the city and we have great public transportation and besides, I was already a Zipcar member at the time.

Zipcar is a car sharing company. You’ll have to join before you can drive a Zipcar.

Join. It costs $60 per year to be a Zipcar member. We went to one of Portland’s many festivals in 2009 and Zipcar was giving a 50% discount to join ($25 at the time.) We also won a free day in a Mini Convertible from their prize spinning wheel!

Reserve. You can reserve a Zipcar on the internet. You figure out how long you need the car for and check the map for a Zipcar near you.

Unlock and drive. Your membership card unlocks the car and then you just drive to do your errands. If the car is low on gas, you are suppose to fill it up with a gas card provided inside the car.

zipcar portland

The hourly price ranges from $7.75 to $14 per hour depending on the year, make, and model. There are quite a few different cars available in my neighborhood. They have vans, trucks, coupes, sedans, wagons, and convertibles. There is even a Toyota Prius Plug-In Hybrid available. We rented a Toyota Tacoma to move a queen bed once and it worked out very well. There is a special overnight rate of $36 on the weekdays and I used that when we needed to move furniture.

The problem with Zipcar is you have to really watch the clock when you run your errands. We have a Safeway nearby, but sometimes we go out to Winco and Petco to stock up. We reserve for two hours and it’s always pretty tight. I returned a car a few minutes late once and got charged for another hour. It is also quite expensive to rent the Zipcar for the whole day. A day of Zipcar starts at $71 and that’s why we didn’t take any longer-distance day trips during our carless period.

All in all, we really like Zipcar. It is much less expensive than owning a car if you only drive occasionally. We used public transportation on weekdays and Zipcar occasionally. This strategy worked out quite well. We can walk to many places so that helped quite a bit. We still decided to get a vehicle because we were expecting a baby. I also work 15 miles away and occasionally need to drive if I work late.

This concludes my car week. Hope you enjoyed my car stories. Do you have Zipcar in your city? Would you consider giving up your vehicle if there are public transport and car sharing options nearby?

mini convertible zipcar

Didn’t have a good camera when we won a day in this Mini convertible.




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Joe started Retire by 40 in 2010 to figure out how to retire early. He spent 16 years working in computer design and enjoyed the technical work immensely. However, he hated the corporate BS. He left his engineering career behind to become a stay-at-home dad/blogger at 38. At Retire by 40, Joe focuses on financial independence, early retirement, investing, saving, and passive income.

For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.

Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.
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{ 25 comments… add one }
  • cashflowmantra June 17, 2011, 2:09 am

    I did enjoy car week. It’s great that you have those public transportation options. We don’t have that where I am in the suburbs.

    • retirebyforty June 17, 2011, 1:45 pm

      We had buses and the light rail when we were in the burb, but we still needed a car. It was just too inconvenient. In the city, there are more options so it’s much easier.

  • Niki June 17, 2011, 4:52 am

    Wow, that is such a great idea. That is something I would love to participate in if it was available in our area. We unfortunately live in a rural town, where people’s trucks cost more than their houses.

  • Moneycone June 17, 2011, 4:59 am

    Thanks much for the info on ZipCar. I’ve seen this around in my city, but didn’t know how this worked. I just assumed it was like any other car rental.

    Very informative post!

  • Nicole June 17, 2011, 7:42 am

    We went carless for a year before zipcar existed. But we lived in a city on a subway line so it wasn’t a big hardship. The only irritation was grocery shopping, but it wasn’t really all that bad. I was super skinny too.

    We visited a German town last year that’s the same size as the one we live in now, and it was so different… they had fantastic public transportation and all the shops were together in the town square, so they were able to have much nicer shops and less duplication. There was a fast train into the nearest big city, and we were able to take a daytrip to Luxemborg without any problem. Our life would be so different if the entire US were set up with public transportation. For the first time I kind of wished we lived in Europe– though ordinarily I would never dream of living any place other than the US.

    • retirebyforty June 17, 2011, 1:47 pm

      How does skinny relate to sharing one car? haha. 😀
      Portland has great public transportation and a lot of bike lanes. It feels almost European!

      • Kellen June 20, 2011, 9:54 am

        Okay, I’m definitely moving there. Eventually.

  • Jeff @ Sustainable life blog June 17, 2011, 10:05 am

    This is a great way to save money – I went carless for about 5 years. It was an awesome time, but there was nothing like zipcar in my area. Still made do and enjoyed it thought

  • krantcents June 17, 2011, 10:40 am

    The concept of renting cars in the city for hours at a time makes so much sense. You use it as you need it versus having a car and worrying about parking it somewhere.

  • Financial Samurai June 18, 2011, 2:46 pm

    With Moose dying, I’m definitely going to look into zipcar since I bus to and from work as well!

    Best, Sam

    • retirebyforty June 19, 2011, 10:07 am

      You should try it for a few months and take your time shopping for a new car. I like Zipcar a lot, but we still like having one car.

  • Mike Nulty June 19, 2011, 2:47 am

    it is great that you have the infrastructure to do it, at least public transportation and zipcar…most places you just can’t, or have to get a cab

  • Jackie June 19, 2011, 9:43 am

    The zipcar program sounds like a really cool program. We don’t have anything like that here nor do we have a decent public transportation system. Sometimes I wonder if we should move closer to a large city but I kind of like small town life. Unfortunately you can’t get anywhere without having a car.

  • Buck Inspire June 19, 2011, 12:35 pm

    Cool I think they have Zipcar in LA, but never saw them around. If you’re in a pinch, sounds like a great tie over until the next car. But aren’t the rates higher than renting a car? I rented from Enterprise for a weekend and they had an insane deal of $9.99 a day. I wasn’t watching the clock, but I had a miles cap of 100 miles a day. So I kept watching the odometer.

    • retirebyforty June 20, 2011, 7:46 am

      The rate is higher for a regular rental car if you take it for the whole day. Zipcar users only occasionally need to drive so it’s actually cheaper than renting a car for the week for example. You also don’t have to pay for gas or insurance and don’t have to do all that paperwork.

      • Buck Inspire June 21, 2011, 7:13 am

        Funny, I actually saw a Zipcar driving next to me yesterday. Will keep this in mind if I ever go carless. Thanks!

        • retirebyforty June 21, 2011, 8:36 pm

          I wonder how Zipcar works in LA. It’s so spread out over there.

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