On owning a vehicle: postpone if possible
Sunday, May 8, 2005 at 12:51PM
Political Mammal in My personal history

One of the many ways that I asserted my difference with other teenagers was to avoid the rush to learn how to drive a car. Instead, I bicycled, got rides to soccer games, and found other ways to get around. In fact, I did not get a driver’s license until I was twenty-five.

I realized at a young age that I could save a fortune by not owning a vehicle—and therefore not paying for the car itself, for gas, for insurance, for parking, for brakes or alternator replacement. Not owning a car also felt true to the environmentally-conscious anti-materialist in me.

So I took steps so that I would not covet a car. I permitted myself to take a taxi whenever it was convenient, to rent a car if I felt like touring rural Massachusetts; doing so, I calculated, could never add up even to the costs of car insurance. I also chose to live close to my places of employment. My guess is that every dollar I saved for more than a decade (money that I used to bootstrap a business and put a down payment on a house) could be attributed to not owning an automobile. And when I finally bought a vehicle—at thirty-two—it was an inexpensive one—a used (and unfortunately plum-colored) Nissan pickup. Time and life changes have unfortunately pulled me back into the mainstream for a while. I confess that I bought my first new vehicle at age thirty-eight, a silver version of my original truck. I had multiple excuses: an electrician friend was willing to trade the plum-colored one for rewiring my basement; it was time to have airbags; and, I needed an extended cab model to fit a baby seat,

I am growing more comfortable with the purchase as the truck gets banged up a little; I still wish it got better gas mileage. But I am a little disappointed to have relinquished the virtuous feeling I had before car ownership.

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