What’s it Like Living in Wichita Without a Vehicle?
What’s it like living in Wichita without a vehicle? Terrible? A pain? Impossible? These descriptions come up frequently when I tell people I have been living without a car for almost a year, but when I explain to them why and how their attitudes change. By using Uber and making adjustments to my lifestyle, I have been able to successfully live without a car, save significant amounts of money and gain a new appreciation for my city.
Many people live without automobiles in Wichita, and have been doing so longer than I. My situation is a choice, and as such, I’ve been willing and prepared to make compromises. I won’t suggest that anyone get rid of their car and start relying on alternative methods of transportation, but I do think I can provide some insight and tips on getting around sans-auto.
Should you ditch your car and only use Uber?
Let’s Talk About Money
I’m going to play loose with the numbers, but I think they will illustrate my point. If my car payment is $200/month, my insurance is $100/month and my average Uber trip costs me $7 (rounding up), that’s roughly 43 Uber trips per month to break even.
At first, I was working from home, so I was taking MAYBE one Uber trip a day, staying under that 43-ride-limit and saving some cash. Now I’m back working at an office five days a week, but the number of rides I take each month remains at an average of 32 rides. This includes recreational trips and excludes gas, oil changes, and other maintenance, so I am indeed still saving cash.
How Has Everyday Life Changed?
I've made a number of choices and compromises in order to live this lifestyle, and the fact that I’m single with no children makes it easier: no one else is relying on me to get them places or help with transportation. Having said that, I do try to walk/bike as often as possible.
The first consideration is where you live. Getting to places where you’ll spend extended periods of time away from home is not an issue, and I rarely have to wait longer than 5 minutes to get picked up.
Running errands, on the other hand, can really become a drag, so having certain places within walking or biking distance is important.
I moved to a neighborhood near a number of businesses that provide services I use frequently: grocery store, bank, restaurants, etc. While not everyone can live close to all the amenities they’re used to, it is worth considering which amenities one really needs. By not having the convenience of hopping over to a gas station to grab a giant drink and some baked sugar, I’ve actually become better at avoiding frivolous spending.
At first, it’s these little errands that make the whole ordeal seem like a bad idea. Getting to the places I need to be isn’t hard, but running errands has become a hassle. It feels like a waste taking an Uber to the bank to run in and deposit cash, then hop back in and head home...we’ve just spent roughly $10 to deposit cash. Need to drop something off at a friends house, or any number of other errands that require quickly doing a few things can get expensive. Get ready for confused drivers or double paying for a trip (to and from your destination).
The upside of this is that it’s forced me to become better at planning ahead and reduced the amount of frivolous shopping/errands I run. For example, I will walk to the grocery store and then shop. While I’m waiting to check out, I’ll ping an Uber to take me and my food home. Also, I go to convenience stores several times less a month now that I don’t have a car.
So, as you can see, you can save money using Uber rather than owning a car, especially if you’re flexible and can make some changes in your lifestyle. Long-time Wichita residents may find such a transition more difficult than recent transplants from cities with more public transportation, but if you can develop systems, take a carpool, find other ways to manage, this is a really easy way to get rid of the perennial hassle of owning a car.
The biggest upside of all these things for me has been how much more I enjoy my time getting around. I walk a lot now. I see places I didn’t see before. Wichita isn’t that big, but there’s a lot here, and taking a 20-minute walk instead of a 5-minute car trip can really put you in touch with your city.