I Have No Car in L.A. and It’s Awesome


I have no car in Los Angeles.

Friends sound shocked or even dismayed when I tell them.

“Really?”

L.A. is notoriously car-focused.

I didn’t think it would work myself. Every other time I’ve been to L.A., including when I lived here for four years, a car was as important to me as electricity.

But during this stay, I decided to conduct an experiment.

I skipped the car rental office at LAX and took a shuttle directly to my destination. My plan was to rent a car for only one week out of seven (for sightseeing with a friend). The rest of the time, I’d walk as much as possible, take the metro when it made sense (I stayed relatively near a metro station), and use Uber and Lyft.

I thought I would be at the Enterprise Rent-A-Car counter within three days, accepting a Honda Civic as a token of defeat.

That didn’t happen. I love living in L.A. without a car. I exercise more. I don’t worry about where I’ll park, how far I’ll have to walk in the dark from my parking space to the guesthouse, or how deserted the streets might be at night. I don’t worry about parking tickets or street-cleaning days, which can be hassles for L.A. residents.

Moreover, my typical car experience (mainly with Uber so far, though I’m using Lyft today to go grocery shopping) has involved the following: waiting less than 5 minutes to be picked up, sometimes as little as 2 minutes; being offered a fresh bottle of water; having a pleasant conversation with the driver; and paying a supremely reasonable amount of money.

Here are the numbers: My Uber bills have ranged from $4.80 to $14.49. Over four weeks, I’ve spent approximately $70/week on ride-sharing services, which includes three shuttle rides to and from the airport. That’s $280 for the month. A car rental plus full insurance would have cost about $1200 for the month, or $300/week, plus gas and parking fees. (I don’t own a car in NYC, so I don’t have my own auto insurance, and credit card insurance covers less than you’d think).

I saved about 80%. In L.A., the land of cars.

Caveats: I go out about three nights a week, and I don’t need a car service every time. I’m working from home or from cafes within walking distance. If I had to commute five days a week, especially over long distances, this system wouldn’t work. And if I planned to do a lot of sightseeing instead of working, I’d want a car. But for work-at-homers, occasional commuters and digital nomads, it’s a no-brainer.

Stephanie tweets @codexjourneys and blogs at http://codexjourneys.com. She’s creating software to let you program in plain English and teaches the course “Short & Sweet: Basic Programming Concepts in 2 Hours.”