The Life-Changing Benefits Of Ditching Your Car

Turns out choosing earth-friendly public transportation over your own set of wheels isn’t so bad after all.

January 8, 2016
biking to work
Teguh Jati Prasetyo/Shutterstock

Say you want to save money, lower your stress, get in better shape, and make an effort to be greener. Here’s something you can do to accomplish all these and more: Sell your car.

Improvements in public transit, inexpensive car share programs such as Zipcar and Enterprise CarShare, the expansion of bike lanes and secure parking, and the increased variety of battery-powered movers—from electric bikes to motor-powered skateboards—all provide planet-minded alternatives to owning your own car. Intrigued? Here are five things that happen when you commit to more eco-friendly ways of getting around.


Related: 8 Awesome Commutes To Look Forward To If You’re Outdoorsy

You Save Money
Cars are expensive assets, and getting rid of them can potentially yield some major dividends—even beyond the initial windfall from the sale of the vehicle. According to the most recent transit savings report from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), the average annual savings for making the switch from car to public transit for a daily commute is a staggering $9,247. Of course, there are times when a car is a necessity—either because public transit doesn’t go to your destination or maybe because you’re stocking up at Costco. So consider joining a car share for these situations. Services, like Zipcar, enable members to rent vehicles by the hour, with insurance and gasoline included in the fee. City dwellers can save an average of $6,000 a year by doing so and greatly simplify their lives.

You Save Time
While it often takes longer to get from point A to point B when you aren’t driving a car, consider more than just travel time. Think about the hours spent looking for parking, cleaning, and fueling; the Saturday afternoons spent changing the oil, tires, and battery; the time spent checking emissions and sitting through repairs. You just might agree that giving up your car rewards you with more freedom to do the things you want on your hard-earned weekends.

Related: 10 Ways To Make A Bike Ride Even More Eco-Friendly

You Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
One of the biggest challenges we each face is finding ways to lessen our individual impact on climate change, and private vehicles are the largest contributors to a household’s carbon footprint.  A typical passenger vehicle emits 4.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. That’s a seriously big weight to carry on your shoulders—the equivalent of 13 tons of coal for every year you drive.


You Reduce Your Stress Level
While it’s no surprise that driving through traffic is stressful, a recent Canadian study documented that the time spent commuting by car was not only associated with elevated stress and lower levels of life satisfaction but an increased sense of time pressure. The study’s author, Margo Hilbrecht, an associate director of research for the Canadian Index of Wellbeing, also reported that car commutes are linked to poor sleep quality, lower levels of self-assessed health, and higher obesity rates. On the other hand, taking a bus or a train gives you the opportunity to relax, listen to music, read, watch a video, or catch up with friends and family via social media. Traffic reports on the TV and radio no longer trigger your interest; they fade into pleasant background noise, like a public service announcement about an affliction you no longer suffer. Just make sure to be a respectful rider—many cities have an Idiot Hall of Fame on social media to shame bad behavior on public transit. Avoid actions that would cause photos of you to be posted here.

Of course, public transit isn’t completely stress-free: Busses and trains can be crowded and run late. But technology has not only increased the variety of transit options available. It has also improved the experience as a whole. For example, many bus and train stations now display a real-time schedule, and if they don’t, you can use apps on your phone to see when the next one is coming. If it’s going to be too long a wait, grab Uber, Lyft, or a taxi. Remember, without a car expense, you can afford to have someone else chauffeur you around every now and then. Plus, Uber and Lyft now both have carpooling options if you want to leave an even smaller eco-footprint. 


Related: Ten Ways Stress Takes A Toll On Your Body

You Can Get In Shape
A study in the British Medical Journal
 concluded that, “men and women who commuted to work by active and public modes of transport had significantly lower BMI and percentage body fat than their counterparts who used private transport.” Women who got to and from work by any means other than a private vehicle had a body mass index (BMI) 0.7 points lower and weighed five pounds less than women who drove to work. Men were even bigger losers—those who did not drive to work had a BMI one point lower and weighed nearly seven pounds less than men who drove to work. The combination of reduced stress and more walking is a good formula for keeping fit. Accelerate to the next level by adding in a bike ride to your daily commute. Not only will this burn a few more calories, but it also increases the possible range of a commute using public transit. Buses now commonly include bike racks, and some trains have dedicated spaces for bikes. There are even lightweight bicycles that fold up like Swiss army knives. 

Not yet ready to trade in your car for a transit pass and membership in a car share program? You can still enjoy many of the benefits listed above by increasing your use of public or alternative transit and leaving the car at home. The day may come when you are ready to sell what for many is their most prized possession. As Mildred Lisette Norman (a.k.a. the Peace Pilgrim) noted during her eight walks across the U.S., “Anything you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness possesses you, and in this materialistic age a great many of us are possessed by our possessions.”

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