Half a year ago, I decided to retire my car I had for 22 years and not to buy a new one. As I live in Cologne in Germany, I don’t need a car to get around in the city, but suddenly not having a car was something quite unfamiliar. So how does the situation look like half a year later?
Let’s have a look at the positive sides first: In the first months after going car-less, I caught myself many times when walking down the streets in the neighborhood, thinking: “Gee, here’s a nice parking spot, perhaps I should move my car over here quickly”. It was a thought that deeply ingrained itself over the years as more often than not, I had to resort to park my car when coming home in the evening in a spot that was not available for residents for free and risk a parking fine. This thought was immediately followed by a wide grin and a “no longer my problem” thought. A liberating feeling! In other good news, not having a car obviously saves money. No annual car tax, no insurance, no expense for gas for convenience trips taken because the car is there anyway, and no longer any thoughts about potentially renting a private parking spot for 150 euros a month. Also, all worries are gone for how much longer the car would still hold out. In addition, being parked in the streets for 12+ years, the car has not been treated very kindly by the local population on several occasions, and it was showing it. Not very stately anymore. Instead, I have rediscovered the bike to get around in Cologne, and electric scooters have become an interesting option I use regularly to get to places quickly in unforeseen circumstances. For longer trips, I use a car rental app to get a car on short notice or pre-booked some days or weeks in advance, and this has worked very well so far.
But there are obviously some negative points as well: After half a year, I am entirely certain that if we still lived in pre-Corona times and I would have to commute to work every day, I would have another car by tomorrow. When I moved to Cologne 12 years ago, public transportation was still working properly and there were two trains an hour between Cologne and Bonn that would take me there and back pretty much on time. But those times are long gone. Frequent track works due to an aging infrastructure and a track extension over the next decade as well as the occasional broken train have made public transportation service utterly unreliable. I can’t remember a single trip I have taken between Bonn and Cologne in recent years that was on time and free of any complications. More often than not, trains are significantly delayed, so going to the train station to get a train at the advertised time has become utterly pointless. These days, I just go to the train station whenever convenient and see when the next train leaves. This sounds nice at first, but it unfortunately is a massive waste of time, which, combined with en-route delays significantly increases the commute. Also, one always has to be alert for track and train changes on short notice. This costs energy and reduces the time en-route I previously had to get other things done. But fortunately, I mostly work from home or directly ‘in the field’ in and around Cologne these days, so only having to deal with this once a week or so works for me.
So, there’s light and there’s shadow, but I haven’t regretted going car-less yet!