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Carfree living - what is it really like?

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Can you live without your car? After using a car for over a decade, CTC's Victoria Hazael finally became carless in February 2011. Find out what happened next.

As soon as I passed my driving test, I bought my own car and I loved it. In almost a decade, I drove it over 100,000 miles and I thought I couldn’t live without it.

Then, my shiny red car got older and more expensive to run. I’d wince at the petrol pump when a full tank was double the price it was when I first bought the car, but still I convinced myself it was worth it.

The final straw came last year, when my VW Polo showed no sign of being able to pass its MOT and our mechanic politely gave us directions to the breaker’s yard. After watching my car be thrown onto the scrapheap, my husband left with £150 in his pocket and caught the train home.

As I’d just had a baby, we did think about buying a new family car but, with a shrinking budget, we decided to save money and see if we could cope without one.

We worked out what we used the car for and looked at the alternatives: the weekly food shop can be ordered online, we live near the station so my husband can get the train to work, we both have bikes so can cycle or walk shorter distances and for longer journeys we can take the train. If it got too much, we said we would get a car but so far we’ve not been tempted.

We are saving money, not just on the price of a new car, but on petrol, insurance, car tax, MOT, repairs and parking.

There’s no denying it is a bit more hassle, especially with a child. However, we are saving money, not just on the price of a new car, but on petrol, insurance, car tax, MOT, repairs and parking. It all adds up, so even if we take a few taxis or hire a car occasionally we are still not out of pocket.

So far I’ve learned many things including:

  • There is only so much shopping you can fit in a bike trailer, so you’ll need to think about this inside the shop, not at the bike rack. 
  • It is easier to order bulkier items online, even DIY shops deliver to your door now.
  • You also need to be pretty strong to ride an overloaded cargo bike home up a hill.
  • If you are using the train with a bike, or even a buggy, check that there are not lots of steps at your destination.
  • Car clubs can be pricey and it is often cheaper to hire a car for a whole day instead of paying by the hour.

The main problem for a cyclist who gives up their car is, once your garage is empty it is extremely tempting to fill it with more bikes!

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  • Chief Executive: Gordon Seabright
  • Cyclists' Touring Club (CTC): A company limited by guarantee, registered in England no.25185. Registered as a charity in England and Wales No 1147607 and in Scotland No SC042541
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