10 cities where you don’t need a car

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A 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 have an extensive public transportation system that helps avoid the need for cars.
  • Wide use of bike lanes also promotes car-free living in many of these cities.

Cars are a pain. They need to be washed, fed, repaired, stored, insured — and all this costs money. Lots of money. And that after You drop a small fortune to get it.

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

Living without a car usually means one of two things: a really tiny town — or a really big one. To get an idea of ​​which cities are the most comfortable to live without a car, we looked for places with the best public transport systems. Here’s what we found:

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The best US cities for traveling without a car

The best public transportation in the U.S. is in big cities, especially those that predate the automobile. They tend to rely on subways and buses, while some also boast less common transportation such as trolleybuses and ferries.

  • New York, New York: New York’s infamous subway system is the most extensive in the US, with more than 470 stations. Coupled with the city’s bus system (and extensive taxi service), you can get almost anywhere, so more than half of the city’s households don’t own a car.
  • Boston, Massachusetts: Boston’s MBTA, known locally as the T, is one of the simplest yet still efficient systems, using four color-coded rail lines and plenty of buses and trolleys. Boston is also quite safe for pedestrians, with less than a dozen pedestrian deaths each year.
  • San Francisco, California: 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 why, despite its many hills, San Francisco is also ranked as the most walkable city in the country.
  • Portland, Oregon: Portland has a wide variety of public transportation options, including an extensive bus network, light rail, commuter rail, and the Portland Streetcar system. It’s also great for cycling; the city has more than 385 miles of bike lanes and the highest proportion of cyclists in the country.
  • Philadelphia, PA: Getting around Philly without a car is easy, thanks in large part to its 52 square miles of trains, subways, buses, and trolleys. After getting off the bus, you will find yourself in the top five most walkable cities in the USA
  • Washington, DC: The nation’s capital is also one of the most walkable, thanks in large part to its bustling public transportation system. The subway offers 25 routes that carry countless tourists through the city each year, as well as thousands of commuters from neighboring Virginia and Maryland each day.
  • Seattle, WA: Even though the city is surrounded by many waterways, it’s easy to go car-free in Seattle. Not only do you have 22 public transportation routes, including buses, streetcars, and light rail, but you also have Seattle’s famous 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 commuter trains covering 56 square miles. In addition, Minneapolis is also considered one of the most bike-friendly cities in the US with over 200 bike lanes and paths.
  • Jersey City, New Jersey: More than half of Jersey City residents use public transportation, especially those who commute to nearby New York City. They can use the extensive rail system and bus lines, and perform many of their daily activities exclusively on foot.
  • Chicago, IL: Chicago’s extensive public transportation system covers a vast area, serving 35 suburbs with trains and buses. It also boasts over 200 miles of bike lanes and 13,000 bike racks across 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. After all, these are some of the most expensive places to live in the country. But if you deduct the cost of owning a car, how much can you save living in one of these cities?

According to AAA, that number is over $10,000. Its data shows that 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, since the typical new car costs $30,000 or more—just insuring your car can cost thousands. In fact, drivers pay an average of $2,875 per year for car insurance, and that cost goes up if you really need to file a claim.

Then there is gas and the inevitable expensive repairs. All in all, moving to a more expensive city where you don’t need a car can end up in the dust as far as your finances are concerned.

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