Goodbye Saturn SL1, Hello Carsharing

I love my 2001 Saturn. Love it. 12 years of friendship. But it’s become just another complication in my life, which I’m trying to simplify. The insurance, the oil changes, the initial purchase price, fueling up at the end of a busy day, multi-hundred dollar repairs…waaahhh.


And now that I’m trying to swing living in two places at once—Seattle and Chicago—what do I do? Own two cars? Just keep the Seattle Saturn and let it molder, lonely, in the garage while I’m away?

Most important, I’m here to share ideas about reaching FI so you can live whatever life you can muster for yourself. Car expenses are a big part of that.

These ideas have been rattling around my brain for over a year now. Not coincidentally, they bubbled up around the time work became a misery. A few months ago, an answer manifested like MAGIC. Car sharing! That, along with walking (which I do a lot), public transit, and taxis, could do it for me. Thing is, I’ve been under the spell of the American Car Culture 4-ever, so it took awhile for this to percolate. But as of 8 days ago, I am the proud possessor of a Zipcar card. And I’m putting the Saturn in a resthome (handing it to a charity). You heard me right.


Now I know there are those of you who are wondering—maybe out loud—maybe even shouting—“what about a bike.” In reply, I refer you to my maiden post of yesterday, in which I stated “I love going out, drinking, and comfy hotels”. You’d be correct in thinking that means I don’t love biking around. But by all means, for those who bike, it’s a great and cheap alternative to owning and using a car.

I’m a numbers person. And I love tables, too. Also spreadsheets and bulleted lists. Long story short, here’s the bean counting:

Expense Zipcar in 2013 Saturn in 2012
Purchase price (divided by 12 years) $25 (annual fee) $1583
Repairs and maintenance (divided by 12 years) $0 $700
Roadside assistance $0 $57
Insurance $0 $620
Gas $0 $1500
Use of car $600 $0
Use public transit and taxis $900 $100
Total annual $1525 $4540

I need to ‘fess up here—I am the kind of person who keeps service records. I know. But, that’s how I have an average of my repair and maintenance (batteries, tires, oil changes, whatnot) costs.

The final numbers are a kind of shocking. I’ve never totaled them up until this very moment. It’s a good thing I have a glass of wine to help me through this moment. Wow, what a fool I’ve been. Driving a car that cost about three times what car sharing does. Holy crap. I acknowledge that Seattle Saturn was a good pal to me. And I definitely love the convenience.

Further, I think it’s obvious to you that my car had a lower purchase price, insurance, and gas costs than larger and / or more expensive ones. Do your own math and see what you come up with.

By the way, here are the car sharing companies I looked at before choosing:

  • Zipcar. I chose this because it’s in most cities I visit, and I like the usage model better than…
  • Car2Go, which I looked at, but realized I use cars more in the way that Zipcar is designed for.
  • I-GO. [UPDATE: Now called Enterprise CarShare, still doesn’t operate in Seattle] This is a great service, and is run much like Zipcar. It’s also a bit less expensive. BUT, it’s only in Chicago. I need a service that also at least runs in Seattle.

Zipcar advertises a lot with “$75 credit for first month” ads. A pretty easy way to find an ad to click: search for “car sharing” on Google. It’s likely the ad will come up.

It comes down to what we’re willing to pay for ease and convenience. Too much ease and convenience is whittling down my ability—all our abilities—to live the life we want. There’s also evidence it’s giving us big butts, but that’s another post for another time (which I likely will never write). I’d rather use a bit more elbow grease and put the thousands toward whatever I want. A trip to Maui, saving $ to buy a rental property, or FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE. Because that, my friends, is what I’m writing about.

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14 thoughts on “Goodbye Saturn SL1, Hello Carsharing

  1. spudart

    And you are being more environmental by not owning a car. Personally, it drives me completely crazy how our urban planning is so centered around the automobile. I would LOVE LOVE to live in a city where there are no cars. At all. If someone is visiting this carless city, they would park on the outskirts and take a bus or train into the city.

    With last night’s snow, it reminded me of February 2011 when Chicago had 20 inches of snow. That beautiful day after the snowfall, there were no cars. None. Zero. It was so quiet. People were out walking. Enjoying the snow. I loved it.

    Not owning a car will make you love the snow as well. There are so many Chicagoans who hate the snow. It blows my mind. It’s beautiful! And we have a city built on public transit. You don’t have to drive in the snow in Chicago! Just get yourself a good pair of boots and bam! Snow is fantastic.

    Ditching the car makes you slow down and enjoy life more. Congrats!

    1. giddingsplaza Post author

      I LOVE the snow in Chicago! I was so excited yesterday. Glad you feel the same. From reading other blogs and looking at demographic stats, it looks like more and more people are starting to feel the same–getting rid of personal cars, and using other ways to get around.

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  4. Andrea

    I commend you on your separation-from-Saturn. The numbers certainly do not lie. If I could go the ZipCar or Car2Go route, I would. Certainly not ruling it out – some day.

    Furthermore, allow me to share how much I appreciate and enjoy your FI blog. I find it informative, engaging, intelligent and witty.
    Thank you!

  5. Peach

    I liked reading your blog! There are so many benefits in living without a car that I never grow tired of hearing stories of how people are doing it. I haven’t tried zipcar. Right now, renting thru weekend specials, taking public transportation, and borrowing a family member’s car when needed, work fine for me. I fill up the gas tank for my family member and it’s a plus for us both financially. I’ve gotten really good at combining my errands into one trip and cannot believe how much money I’m saving. Your comparison says it all. Living without a car has turned out to be a great way to increase my net worth, AND decrease my carbon footprint.

    1. giddingsplaza Post author

      Thanks. And good going with not owning a car. Here’s to being financially independent asap!

  6. Jeff

    How is it that your cumulative annual gas expense is equal to your total cost without a car? You’re clearly traveling less than you did previously, which makes this a somewhat misleading comparison.

    1. giddingsplaza Post author

      Hi Jeff–you’re right, this is something of an apples-to-oranges comparison. First of all, if you begin carsharing, you by definition use cars less. Also, this blog more-or-less begins with me talking about both leaving my previous job, and trying to achieve FI. So in this post, one of the things that has changed with my transportation expenses is no longer having a long commute into the suburbs. Finally, because I want to be better at sustainable living, saving money, and getting more exercise, I use carsharing as little as possible.

      If you’re thinking of using carsharing, you might want to plug in your own current and projected expenses. Is that something you’re looking into?

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  8. Robert

    I completely agree with your discovery. Living in NYC, I found that I spent an incredible amount of money on gas, insurance, and maintenance on a car. I’ve been car-free for about 7 years. Since I live in the city, I use public transportation to get to work and to visit relatives. Everything else is a close walk away. Whenever I needed the convenience of a car, I’d call for a cab.

    Summers were a problem. I love to travel, so I would have to rent a car for the weekend, but after all the fees it would cost almost as much as the cost of the hotel. I joined ZipCar recently and plan to use it a lot this summer. It’s definitely cheaper than owning, and also cheaper than renting.

    Happy travels!

  9. Tom

    I joined Zipcar in 2007, and had very few issues with them at first, but as time got on they got worse and worse. I just went into detail on their Facebook page, and will spare you the details, but if it is not too late you should keep your car. I would love to know that my car is going to be where I need it to be when it is supposed to be there, and you get no guarantee of that with car-sharing. You are saving money, which is nice, but if you went through what I have gone through with this company, you would think twice…

    1. giddingsplaza Post author

      Tom, sorry to hear about your bad experiences! So far, I’ve been lucky using Zipcar, and have really liked it, both in Seattle and Chicago.


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