General Question

tinyfaery's avatar

Can you help me decide if I should get rid of my car?

Asked by tinyfaery (44033points) September 25th, 2023
35 responses
“Great Question” (2points)

I work from home now, I hardly ever go anywhere, and when I do it’s local. If I get rid of my car I can save approximately $500 a month. I can uber around for my errands for much less than that.

What’s holding me back is that I am completely alone in this area of L.A. If there is any kind of emergency (Okay, I am mostly thinking about earthquakes. Don’t laugh.) I would literally have no means of getting myself to another location, or get supplies for anything. I just feel like I need a car in L.A.

What do ya’ll think? What would you do? What should I do?

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Answers

Zaku's avatar

I would stop paying $500 a month for something I wasn’t using. Ubers, zipcars, busses, friends with cars, taxis, walking (I know, ’‘nobody walks in LA’’ ;-) )

Where would I need to go in a car if I were in LA during a major earthquake? I think my plan would be to stay put if possible.

Do you have a place to put a car without paying for it to park? If so, you could get a working junker for very little, and not even register it but just have it sitting there waiting for an earthquake, to be your escape vehicle. Or learn how to hotwire a car, for emergencies.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

This is indeed a conundrum. I have visited LA many times. My best friend lived there for 10 years. My oldest friend has been there for about 30.

I cannot fathom living in LA without a car, but you have outlined a scenario that is new, thus the conundrum.

Is there a way to reduce the monthly expenditures and keep the car? How locked in are those bills?

I hope you get good feedback, and I’m sorry that mine is so feeble.

janbb's avatar

Jeez – I’m probably not the right person to ask since I’m a belts and braces kind of person. I have a second car that I bought used for fun a few years ago and I don’t drive it much. But – when I had an accident with my every day car, it was very handy to have. And I can totally understand wanting to be prepared for emergencies when you live alone.

If you don’t use it much, what is the $500/month paying for? Insurance? Parking? Must not be gas. Maybe you can reduce those expenses by a higher deductible or cheaper parking?

Just some thoughts.

Cupcake's avatar

If it is possible to reasonably get to some kind of public transportation that can get you to an airport or train station in the case of a large emergency, I’d ditch the car.

JLeslie's avatar

It is understandably a difficult decision. I am not familiar with L.A. but I have almost always lived in suburbs and know what it is like to need a car and not good public transportation options.

I am not sure how that $500 is broken down, how much of that is insurance? A compromise might be to get insurance for car that covers it while in storage if your car is garaged and not used. I did this for two cars for a few months and it was something like 80% cheaper, which is a lot. Is part of the $500 the car payment on financing the car or a lease? If you will own the car outright soon, I would seriously consider keeping it.

I wonder if you find a driver through uber who you really like, if they can be more like a chauffeur for you and you can build a more trusted relationship and you would feel safer regarding not having transportation immediately available. A friend of mine used the same taxi driver for three years back and forth to work and to the supermarket once a week in the suburban North Miami area.

You could arrange something with a friend or neighbor as an emergency plan. If an earthquake hits you check on each other. Buddy system. How often is it likely that you would actually need to evacuate your home?

What about a scooter? Much cheaper to buy, keep, and service. It would have to be useful other times besides emergencies to be worth it though. Or, an electric bicycle? Is it safe to ride those where you live?

canidmajor's avatar

Could you ditch the car for maybe an emergency Vespa or equivalent? Cheap, immediate transport, without the big expense.

jca2's avatar

I am guessing the insurance is about 100 a month so is the other 400 for a car payment? If you sold the car, would you get a significant chunk of money to spend on bills?

I live in a rural area and I wouldn’t want to be without a car because I use it for leisurely activities on weekends. YOu work from home but on weekends, you don’t go anywhere?

kevbo1's avatar

If there’s an earthquake-scale emergency, would anyone in L.A. be able to get anywhere? I don’t ask that rhetorically, I just mean would traffic come to a standstill?

Used cars are at a premium right now, although the market is starting to soften a little, so it’s a good time to sell.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

How long until said car is paid off? What make and model? Can you sell it and walk away with some cash to buy a less expensive one? Some 15–20 year old cars are still pretty reliable depending. Car payments in this economy are a non-starter.

tinyfaery's avatar

I average a car payment, insurance, gas, and upkeep to about $400—$500 a month. I lease my car and I can easily pay off my financing, but probably not get any extra. (I have already talked to my dealer.)

Scooter and motorcycles scare the shit out of me.

I do like the hotwire idea.

I lived without a car for a long time when I was in my 20s. But I was in my 20s lol. It’s a scary prospect to be alone and not able to be able to get anywhere without the aid of other people. But ultimately, I have divorce debt I need to pay off and getting rid of my car will definitely speed up that process.

janbb's avatar

@tinyfaery Here’s a modest maybe off the rail suggestion. Are there any neighbors you might initiate a comradeship with? I live alone as you know but there are a couple of women who are married that I became friends with who live a few doors down. I think I could rely on them for help in a climate emergency.

A Vespa in an earthquake or wildfire does not seem secure.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

First, since it’s a lease don’t hesitate to get out from under it. You’ll be ahead there most likely. Never lease a car again. If you can live without a car for a while that’s good. In a dire emergency you can rent one or Uber. If it were me, I’d look for a dependable used car you can pay cash for. Like a 15–20 year old Toyota Corolla, Camry, Avalon etc. With less than ~150k miles. Not sure about L. A. But most places you can find something like this for $1500—$5k and get another 10 good years out of it. You have the advantage of being able to take your time. Good luck with it!

jca2's avatar

Your gas is probably minimal and your upkeep is probably minimal if you’re not driving much (or at all), @tinyfaery. Are you sure you’re not overestimating the amount it is costing? I agree with @Blackwater_Park that leasing is not a good idea, from a financial standpoint.

JLeslie's avatar

I think since you are leasing, if you don’t plan to buy the car at the end, I would get rid of it. I bought my car that just finished its lease, because used cars went up so much in price that I could buy and sell it and make a profit, but for now I am just keeping it, but I use the car.

Even if it makes perfect sense financially to get rid of the car, I understand why it is hard to do. I think I would feel like it is a loss of control, but you will have a lot more money if you rarely need to uber. To me an extra $400 a month is a lot. Add you can get 4–5% right now on the money. It sounds like you will have over $4,000 extra a year for savings or travel even with some ubering.

tinyfaery's avatar

I have no desire to own a car anymore. Leasing is fine for me.

I could be overestimating, but not by much. I pay a lot for insurance (two accidents in 3 years), and it is very expensive to drive in L.A. You have no idea unless you live here.

I’ll let you know what I decide.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

I’m sorry but leasing is a huge ripoff. Please don’t do it. Strike that option from your list. Rent or Uber if you must. Leasing is paying the depreciation, operating costs and liability on an asset you don’t own. Most people purchase it at the end so it’s effectively the most expensive way to finance a car. This is especially insidious if you don’t use it much. Sounds like Uber is your friend.

JLeslie's avatar

I’m not criticizing leasing, my husband and I often have one car leased and one owned outright, but with your situation of not using the car much it is just part of the equation.

I hope the decision isn’t too stressful. Looking forward to finding out what you decide.

filmfann's avatar

If it was me, I would get rid of the car, get a vespa or a bicycle.

Jeruba's avatar

I understand keeping the car, for about the same reasoning that has me keeping a landline. One question: do you want to just have A car, or do you particularly want THAT car?

This is a time when I would also apply my reversibility principle:
If you dump it, can you undump it?
If you keep it for now, can you dump it later?

Ultimately I would say if you can afford it, keep it if it gives you comfort and a sense of security to do so, especially given the givens of LA. (Those “ifs” are all yours.)

In a public emergency, I’m doubting that Uber drivers are going to be out there waiting for your call.

Caravanfan's avatar

I disagree with @filmfann. I’ve seen LA drivers. My daughter is one. I think driving a Vespa would be a ticket to the hospital.

If public transit were a viable option in LA like it is in San Francisco or New York then I would dump the car. But public transit in LA sucks rotten eggs.

However it is true you can uber or lyft wherever you want, and you don’t need to deal with parking hassles. For me? I have itchy feet and I like to see different things and go different places so a car is essential. If you’re a homebody, maybe it’s not so much.

janbb's avatar

@filmfann The OP said above that scooters and motorcycles are out for her.

RocketGuy's avatar

I lived in LA (Torrance) for 9 years. You NEED a car of some sort to get anywhere interesting in LA. If you can make Uber/Lyft work for less than $400 a month, do that. Saving money in the short term sounds like it would help you a lot. Maybe get a bike if you are really worried about transportation after a big earthquake. You’d be able to get around if gas and electricity were cut off for an extended amount of time. Uber might be hard to come by if that happens.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Maybe you should rethink at a far more fundamental level. That is, if your primary fear is of being stranded and helpless (transportation-wise) in L.A. due to a major earthquake, maybe you should rethink the idea of living in a major metropolitan area whose name is closely linked to the very idea of ‘major earthquake’.

When a major earthquake hits Los Angeles (or San Francisco, or Seattle, or St. Louis, or any number of other cities that can be named in high-risk seismic regions), “being stranded” will be for the lucky victims.

I lived in SoCal for one year, and it was long enough for me to decide: never again. (And we only had a minor temblor one night; I was the only one in the house even awake to it. It wasn’t the earthquake that helped me to decide, though.)

L.A. is a nice place to visit once in awhile, but it’s no place to live.

PS: But to solve the problem, I’d suggest that you sell the car, and then set aside your expected savings so that you can build up your next-best transportation backstop: buy a motorcycle for emergency use only.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

I would get rid of it and spend time searching for a good older reliable vehicle, but that’s just me we live in a rural town and need a vehicle.

seawulf575's avatar

What about selling the car and getting a bicycle, E-Bike, or even a little motor scooter for running around? In case of Earthquake these would likely be able to get you around better than a car anyway.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Ditch the lease, pay some bills a few months and get a cheap beater. Win win. Both my old cars run like champs, and insurance is cheap as full coverage is not required. So insurance is my only expense.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I don’t know where you are in LA but if you are close and need help I’m willing to bet at least a couple of us would gladly jump in. Really!

kritiper's avatar

I would keep the car. LA was founded on the automobile and not having one dooms you to always be a homebody. (You could always sell it and get a cheaper used model…)

MrGrimm888's avatar

Buy a $2,000 moped, and a $3,000 lock…

I’ve been a motorcycle guy my whole life, but if I weren’t so tall I’d definitely just have a ped. To Hell with car payments, insurance, maintenance/repairs, etc…

Please. If you ditch the car, always carry mace…

Forever_Free's avatar

The need of a car in L.A. is quite different than living in a compact city like NYC, Chicago, Boston.
Work needs and day to day living needs are one thing, but the social needs for travel in L.A. have always seemed focused around distance travels not simple or easy on their public transportation. People in NYC, Chicago, etc dump their cars cost all the time. Parking and Insurance in a city is the thing that throws it over the edge.
While I love to drive, I can’t even imagine this. I however would jump at the opportunity if you think you can do it.
Why not just give it a year to see how it goes. You can always buy a car later if it doesn’t work out.

jca2's avatar

Actually, you can try not driving your car at all for two months, and use other forms of transportation only for that time. See how it goes. See what your other transportation costs are (Uber, taxi, asking friends and giving them gas money, etc.). Then at least if you don’t like it, you’ll still have your car to keep. If you finish your lease and give up your registration and insurance, and then don’t like not having a car, it will be more effort to reinsure and re-register a new lease or purchase.

Jeruba's avatar

I think @jca2 has a great suggestion: a trial separation.

tinyfaery's avatar

I have been working from home for almost two months and I have left the house like 4 times, all places I can get to cheaply with uber.

janbb's avatar

@tinyfaery I would say give it a few months more and if that is still the case, then dump the car. But see if you can develop a disaster plan with a few others as well so your mind is more secure. (Of course, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!)

RocketGuy's avatar

Earthquake backup: 3 days of food+water, water heater is a useful source, cash, small solar panel to keep your phone charged, flashlight+batteries, candles, camping stove, etc. A regular bike is nice because you never have to charge it.

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