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When to Break Down and Rent a Car

March 4, 2010

It’s not easy for me to admit, but we car-free people need cars too—sometimes.

In my last post, car-free advocate Jeff Peel said that it’s cheaper to rent a car every weekend of the year than to own your own automobile. But if you’ve got two legs, a bike, a bus, a train, or any combination thereof, you definitely won’t need to turn to Hertz on a weekly basis.

So when will you need to rent a car?

In my opinion, a short-term car rental (or car-share usage) is totally justified if it saves significant amounts of one or more of the following:

When it's a matter of renting a car or sitting on the floor

  • Time
  • Sanity
  • Back-ache

Here are some instances that come to mind that satisfy the criteria above:

Moving Residences
If you don’t have an extremely generous sister with a CRV and a couple extra vacation days, as I did when I moved from D.C. to Indiana, then you’ll probably need a vehicle. I once read about some people who moved homes using only their bikes, but I wouldn’t begrudge anyone U-Haul usage, especially if you’re making an intercity move.

Buying Furniture
As with the above item, it’s pretty much a given that you’re going to need some sort of vehicle. If home delivery is free, that’ll be your best option, but of course, that involves a vehicle also. The biggest item I’ve ever transported sans car from point of purchase was a full-length mirror on the subway—and to be honest, I was a little worried that I was putting other passengers in danger with my big shard of glass in the lurching train car.

Hosting Guests
If you’ve got out-of-town visitors, you’re going to want to show them a good time, and they’re going to want you to show them a good time. Said good time may or may not necessitate a car. If it does, spring for it. You can share aspects of your car-free life with them, but force the uninitiated into car-free-ness, and you may wind up with some grumpy houseguests.

Running Errands
You’ve saved up 101 tiny tasks that you need to take care of. If you try to tackle them all with bus, bike, and subway trips, you might have your list checked off before hell freezes over, but it’s debatable. Let Enterprise or Zipcar make your life a little easier. Rent it, return it, and go back to your car-free ways—no guilt.

When a road trip is just what the doctor ordered

Getting Out of Dodge
Work has been more than the normal drag lately. You’re getting over a bad break-up. The holidays are over, but it’s still winter. These are signs that a quick trip—to the sea, the mountains, what have you—might be in order. When nothing but a road trip will heal your wounds, turn to Dr. Avis. Being car-free is great. Not being so stressed out or burned out that you wind up getting in a wrestling match for the last empty bus seat is even better.

In my experience, most of the rest of life’s activities can be accomplished car-freely. Anyone beg to differ with other instances of car necessity?


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Melanie Evans permalink
    March 4, 2010 4:16 pm

    Hi Amy – I’m loving your thought-provoking posts…..I can’t imagine changing residences with only a bike…..I appreciate hearing how really determined people make things happen. Melanie

  2. avaerewyck permalink
    March 6, 2010 3:01 pm

    Thanks so much, Melanie. Glad you’re enjoying the posts. To be honest, I can’t imagine making a move on bikes either, but the videos in the link make it look totally do-able, if you’ve got a group of energetic friends. I’ll bet there are a least a few people in Boulder who’ve tried this too – sounds like something a Boulderite would try, doesn’t it?


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