How I ditched my car and went full Uber

Note: This post originally appeared on GeekWire on March 8, 2016

In May of last year, I finally pulled the trigger: I got rid of my car, a 2013 Honda Civic. I was paying an exorbitant amount for parking as a resident of Seattle’s popular Capitol Hill neighborhood. And, as an unmarried, mid-twenties male, insurance companies weren’t cutting me any deals either. I was regularly taking UberX’s for all the usual reasons: To meet friends for dinner, drinks, or occasionally to get to work. The $6 ride downtown was far less expensive than parking if I was short on time (translation: I slept through my alarm).

I had been holding onto my car for outdoor adventures, errands to the suburbs, and theoretical “what-if” scenarios. I ran the numbers and came to grips with reality: I was blowing several thousand dollars a year on car ownership, and I wasn’t even taking advantage of it. I decided that it was worth it to sell my car and see if I could save money without sacrificing too much of the convenience I enjoyed in my car-owning days. I would take Uber everywhere, and join Zipcar for those rare far-away occasions.

Since I’ve gone “full Uber,” I have saved $4,000 per year by not owning a car.

Here’s how the numbers break down, according to data from Mint.com from 2015:

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Expenses calculated by extrapolating the cost during the months of 2015 with a car and without a car to a full 12 months.

The overwhelming costs associated with car ownership in my life were parking and car insurance. I was also losing $1,500 per year to depreciation according to KBB.com’s depreciation calculator.

The crazy thing is how little the ridesharing line item increased. Here’s my month-over-month ridesharing spend:

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Aside from the huge drop in August when I was backpacking, my ridesharing expenditures only grew 50%. Most of the time when I take an Uber now, I would have taken one before: Going to dinner or drinks, getting to a meeting downtown, or hurrying to work. The only incremental cost comes from errands that are farther than I can walk and a more freewheeling attitude toward opening the app; I now get to call an Uber guilt-free, so I do it in borderline situations where I wouldn’t have done so before. I also added the cost of a few Zipcars a year, but this is relatively insignificant.

The cost savings have been great, but I think the biggest benefit has been the quality-of-life increase. Imagine a world where you literally never have to worry about parking. Where it is impossible to drink and drive. Where transportation time can always be used for productivity, or to have an undistracted conversation when going somewhere with a friend. And another perk: I’m never stuck behind the wheel in rush-hour traffic.

There are a few other magical things that make this work. First, we are in the honeymoon phase of ridesharing. Uber and Lyft are offering crazy incentives to get customers to integrate their services into their daily lives. I have the Capital One Quicksilver card, which currently gives me 20% off all purchases at Uber. For a while, Lyft was also doing an insane promotion in Seattle where I received 50% off all rides, but that unsustainable strategy appears to have passed. I have spent the vast majority of my transportation time with Uber over the last year, as it proved to be the most reliable of the services with shorter pick-up times, not to mention that killer credit card offer that came with it.

There are a few caveats to this. This lifestyle is only possible because I live and work in the city. It also has, what I like to call, “the friends-and-family tax.” I now have an unintentional dependency on those close to me, as I can no longer drive to hikes or weekend trips. Sure, I could rent that Zipcar that I budgeted for, but when a friend has a car of their own, they just end up volunteering to drive. At the end of the day, there is one more cost that isn’t reflected in that spreadsheet: Drinks and meals bought for those who generously volunteered.

All-in-all, going full Uber was a massive net win. It’s not for everyone yet, but as transportation continues to become more autonomous (reducing cost), and intelligent about economies of scale (with things like Uber Hop), it just may be soon.

In the meantime, if you consider following this car-less playbook, here’s a pro-tip: Brush up on your small talk skills. You’ll be riding around in a lot of Priuses amidst awkward silence otherwise.

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