Why I sold my car before moving to Seattle
“Welcome to Washington” is a phrase I’ve heard over and over again since I arrived in Seattle to start the next chapter of my life a few weeks ago. As a business person, I travel to Cities for a living and I can say with authority that this is the most welcoming City in the West. I’m so fortunate to be able to call it my home now.
The first time I was welcomed was at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Seattle where I picked up my new drivers’ license. It’s a telling and funny thing that I had the immediate urge to be able to drive in Washington, when just a few weeks prior I had sold my car to a nice family in Berkeley, in preparation to be car-less in the Emerald City.
In the end my decision was a business decision; A cost-benefit analysis, net present value, return on investment and other financial calculations all produced the same result: sell my car before the move.
Spreadsheets aside, the cost of owning a car in Seattle is insane for how little it does for me. When you sum the monthly payment for the “average” car (31K financed over 5 yrs), parking ($150 per month), insurance (at least $100), fuel/maintenance (.55 per mile) and registration ($250 annually) the result is a staggering $1100 per month.
But what is the alternative? The alternative is a portfolio of options that are simply more fun than just driving but which also do not leave any destinations out of reach.
The City of Seattle has made it uber easy to have a car-light lifestyle. I’ve adopted using Pronto Bike Share to travel to my office in Belltown from one of the stations on Capitol Hill. When bike sharing isn’t an option for my one-way trips I use Car2Go, a free-floating car sharing service, and Lyft, a transportation network of drivers (when I’ve consumed alcohol). As a frequent traveler I need convenient airport access and Link Light Rail takes me to SeaTac from easy-to-access stations (including a new one in my neighborhood). For trips to the Issaquah Alps, for my weekly trail run, or Crystal Mountain, for a day of skiing, I can use Turo or Zipcar, which has on-street reserved spots in front of my apartment.
Did shedding my car save me money? Absolutely.
When you sum the costs for my weekly primary mode, Pronto ($95 per year with taxes), Car2Go and Lyft trips (between $10 and $20 per trip), airport train rides ($2.75 each way) and car sharing adventures ($50 per day) the result is an affordable $450 per month. That’s less than half of what I paid when I owned a car.
There is an additional area of value, for me, which is a feeling of enhanced freedom. I no longer fear getting a citation because I didn’t feed the parking meter. I no longer feel like I have to take car of an asset just because it’s my most expensive asset.
Because I can access many options to get from here to there just by reaching for my phone, no place is out of reach. Also, I can pick up dates in a well equipped BMW, so that’s now within reach.
I praise the indefatigable efforts of the Department of Transportation (“SDOT”), Mayor’s Office, Commute Seattle and countless other stakeholders to accommodate for startlingly rapid growth in Seattle without creating the requirement for developers to add parking spots for every new resident. If the goal were creating an equitable, safe, affordable, sustainable and fun public transportation system (while also encouraging private business growth), then the City of Seattle has done a great job.