Diamond Geezer has blogged about how, 10 years ago, he sold his car, and didn’t replace it. It’s interesting, and echoes my experiences with never having owned a car, or a full driving license, despite being in my late twenties.
It’s now been almost four years since I was last behind the wheel of a car, which would have been the second time I failed my driving test. I stopped having lessons afterwards as money was becoming short, with the intention of picking them up again later. That never happened – money remained an issue for quite some time.
But I’ve also had less motivation to learn to drive. I’ve always lived in places where I can either walk or use public transport to get to where I need to be, and on the few occasions when public transport isn’t available a bit of forward planning usually means that someone can give us a lift, or we take a taxi.
And, overall, it works out cheaper. Most of my travel is covered by my MetroCard, which, when purchased through my employer, costs around £60 per month. That allows me on any bus journey, provided it’s within the boundaries of West Yorkshire, and any train that doesn’t pass through Leeds, without having to pay any extra. And, it’s valid 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As I typically use it 6 days per week, it essentially costs £2.50 per day. Considering the cost of petrol at the moment, this is probably cheaper even before you factor in insurance, tax, and the annual MOT test.
It’s also as quick for me to get to work by train as it is to drive; with clear roads, it should take around 30 minutes, but if the roads are busy (and the best route takes me through Halifax town centre) then it could take up to an hour. By train and walking, it’s 45 minutes door to door, provided the trains are on time, and generally they are – only in periods of severe disruption have I had to wait much more than 5-10 minutes, and they’re rare. Plus, whilst you’re on the train, someone else is driving you and so rather than having to concentrate on the road ahead I can catch up with emails or Twitter on my iPhone whilst I’m travelling – so that when I get into work I’ve already dealt with most of my emails.
Of course, there are trade-offs with commuting. We deliberately chose a flat close to the local railway station and bus stops; had we been able to drive we could have looked elsewhere and potentially found somewhere cheaper to live. And you don’t always get a seat on the train – especially now that schools, colleges and universities are back after the summer break; this isn’t much of a problem for me as I’m only on the train for 20 minutes, but at least in a car you are sat down. Plus, there are better things to do than standing on an exposed station platform in the middle of winter waiting for a train.
But, on the whole, I prefer being free from the financial burden of a car, and I am proof that it’s possible to get by without one. Even in my late twenties.