Monday, March 26, 2012

One year without a car!

Exactly 12 months ago today I moved out of my now sold "big house" in Westmount to my loft in Old Montreal.  It was also the day that I gave up my car -- actually my third ever car...

For a Canadian born in the 1960s I have an unusual relationship with cars; first as a teenager I lived downtown where owning a car was not only useless but was far too expensive, although I had great summer jobs (working in hospitals) the idea of paying a $100 dollars a month for parking was a non-starter.  As I grew older (and went to university -- less then 3 blocks for my parents's apartment), the idea of moving out was less than appealing .  So after three years of university I moved to London (England) where owning a car made absolutely no sense whatsoever (so by the time I came back to Montreal in 1994 -- I was 33 by then) I had never owned a car!  

In fact, the first car I ever owned was a 1994 Saturn -- all of three years before moving to Singapore where I was the proud owner of a white 1985 Mercedes  -- a tank, but since speed in Singapore is limited to 90km/h not really an issue.  It was a beautiful car, and old enough that it had character.

Returning to Canada my then wife and I bought a yellow Ford Escape.  I know that everyone bitches about American cars, but I've got to say that this small truck was unbelievably useful and versatile, and aside from some breaks issues (apparently a common complaint on SUVs) it was a great car.  But on March 26th 2011 I gave up my car and have been operating without one since then.

Now,  I've got to state that this move required adjustment on my part, but it was not all that painful either; first off there's a car rental agency across the street from where I live, picking up a rental (which I do often) is a very simple process (less than 5 minutes).  In fact, I rent a car almost every weekend -- so that I can go to my cottage.  The cost of renting cars for the whole year has been $ 4,000 including fuel.   I also "rented" a car from a friend last summer for a month.  Therefore, total for the year has been about $5,000.  

That's sounds like a lot for rental, but in fact when compared with the cost of ownership (maintenance, depreciation, insurance, and in my case parking) it is reasonable, and its no trouble; every Friday night the car I pick up is full of gas, clean and usually nearly new.  I go everywhere by cab or by foot (mostly the latter).   

In terms of adjustment; all my groceries are home delivered -- via an internet ordering system, there's a big grocery store less than 5 blocks away, and when I go to friends or restaurant I take a cab. The only irritant is that my friends often insisted (they've now stopped) on driving me home.  I've had to make it clear that this is a lifestyle choice and that I'm more than happy to "cab it home".  Finally, for most of the past 12 months I've walked to and from work (or used the BIXI bikes available here in Montreal).  

So this is the one year anniversary of my "car ownership free" existence, frankly I like it, I like it a lot!

What I've rented:
Passat -- Nice but lots of road noise
Fiat -- in France, it moved like a bat out of hell!
Ford Edge -- several times all kitted out but electronics tended to breakdown
Ford Explorer -- what a pig, and gas guzzler
Hyundai -- terrible car (my only Avis rental)
Jeep Grand Cherokee -- really nice car
Jetta -- also noisy, what's that all about with Volks and road noise
Ford escape -- a bit of a pig (compared to my old one)
Mazda 3 -- fine and bland
Dodge Charger -- what a terrible terrible car -- there's just no excuse for that pile of crap
Ford Fusion -- kind of forgettable
Altima -- also forgettable
Impala -- What were they thinking a real piece of junk

Overall, I prefer non American cars because they are more reliable.  To be honest all the cars I rented in Canada where low millage and in faire shape but several of the Americans had real issue with the electronics... Also why do no American sedan cars have pulldown seats, its a real pain in winter when I was shlepping my skis around.  Still the Jeep really stood out as a great SUV, it was a very nice (if thirsty) vehicle.  I've also learned to appreciate Sirius Radio -- the comedy channels are just brilliant...



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