10 cities where you don’t need a car

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Is the future without cars?


Key points

  • Ditching your car can easily save you thousands each year in gas, maintenance and insurance costs.
  • The cities that are most walkable tend to be those with extensive public transportation systems that help you avoid the need for cars.
  • The extensive use of bike lanes also contributes to car-free living in many of these cities.

Cars are a pain. You have to wash them, feed them, repair them, store them, insure them — and it all costs money. Lots of money. And that’s it after you grab a small fortune just to get it in the first place.

But what if you could live a life without cars? For many of us, this is simply not practical. Many modern cities and suburbs are literally designed around cars. However, there are still a number of places where not only is it possible to not have a car, but it’s actually preferable.

Living without a car usually means one of two things: a really small town — or a really big one. To get an idea of ​​which cities make car-free living the most practical, we looked for places with the best public transport systems. Here’s what we found:

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Top cities for car-free travel in the US

The best public transportation in the US is found in larger cities, especially those that predate automobiles. They tend to rely on a combination of subways and buses, with some also boasting less common transport such as trolleys and ferries.

  • New York, New York: New York’s infamous subway system is the most extensive in the US, with more than 470 stations. Combined with the city’s bus system (and extensive taxi services), you can get almost anywhere, which is why more than half of the city’s households are car-free.
  • Boston, Massachusetts: Known locally as the T, Boston’s MBTA is one of the simpler but still efficient systems, using four color-coded rail lines as well as numerous buses and trolleys. Boston is also quite safe for pedestrians, with fewer than a dozen pedestrian deaths each year.
  • San Francisco, CA: While we’ve probably all seen the city’s famous cable cars depicted in movies and on television, San Francisco’s vast public transportation system also includes subways, buses, and streetcars. This system is a big part of the reason why, despite its many hills, San Francisco is also ranked as the most walkable city in the country.
  • Portland, Oregon: Portland has a wide range of public transportation options, including an extensive bus network, streetcar, rail, and the Portland Streetcar system. It’s also extremely bikeable; the city has over 385 miles of bike lanes and the highest proportion of bike commuters in the country.
  • Philadelphia, PA: Getting around Philly without a car isn’t difficult in large part thanks to the trains, subways, buses, and trolleys that cover 52 square miles. Once you get off the bus, you’re also in one of the five most walkable cities in the US
  • Washington: The nation’s capital is also one of the most walkable for pedestrians, thanks in large part to its busy public transportation system. The subway offers 25 routes that take countless tourists around the city each year, while attracting thousands of commuters each day from nearby Virginia and Maryland.
  • Seattle, Washington: Despite being surrounded by numerous waterways, it’s easy to be car-free in Seattle. Not only do you have 22 public transit routes, including buses, streetcars, and light rail, but you also have Seattle’s iconic ferries to get you from coast to coast.
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota: Minneapolis has all the public transportation options you could want, with light rail, buses, and trains covering 56 square miles. In addition, Minneapolis is also considered one of the most bike-friendly cities in the US, with more than 200 bike lanes and paths.
  • Jersey City, New Jersey: More than half of Jersey City residents use public transportation, especially those commuting to nearby New York City. They can take advantage of an extensive rail system and bus routes, and manage many of their daily activities entirely on foot.
  • Chicago, Illinois: Chicago’s extensive public transportation system covers a vast area, serving 35 suburbs by train and bus. It also boasts more than 200 miles of bike lanes and 13,000 bike racks around the city.

How much can you save without a car?

Looking at the cities on this list, you might question the cost of living without a car. Still, these are some of the most expensive places to live in the country. But if you subtract the cost of owning a car, how much can you save living in one of these cities?

According to AAA, that figure is over $10,000. Its data shows the average cost of owning and operating a new car is $10,728 per year. And that’s just the average; many people pay much, much more.

Even if you exclude car payments — which is no small amount, with the typical new car costing you $30,000 or more — simply insuring your car can cost thousands. In fact, drivers pay an average of $2,875 per year for auto insurance, and that cost adds up if you do need to file a claim.

Then there’s gas and the inevitable expensive repairs. In general, moving to a more expensive city where you don’t need a car can be a wash as far as your finances are concerned.

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