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Q. Dear Umbra,
I’m trying to go car-free. The problem is getting rid of my (admittedly old and not worth much) vehicle. When you buy a new car, it’s so easy just to trade it in, but I don’t want a new one! Is there a place where I can just drive up and they will buy my car? Craigslist is turning out to be a hassle!
Photo: Checkered and aMUSEdA. Dearest Lisa,
So you’ve made the plunge and decided to go carless? Congrats! I tip my hat to you. To complement your (almost) newfound taste of automotive freedom, may I recommend a dollop of “Bus Chick” Carla Saulter’s public transit posts or a scoop of Elly Blue’s bike writings? Ah. Delicious.
How frustrating, then, to be hung up on the final step: actually ditching the car itself. It sounds like you’d like to get some money back out of it, if possible. It might be worth paying to list your car on a site like AutoTrader, which may attract a more serious car-buying crowd than Craigslist. Or Edmunds.com suggests selling it to CarMax, which says, “Not only do we sell used cars, but we’ll also buy yours, regardless of its age, mileage, or condition” — and you don’t have to buy one of theirs. For added feel-good factor (and since, like you said, it’s old and not worth a whole lot), consider donating it to a legit charity for a tax write-off. Sites like 800charitycars.com and donateacar.com claim they’ll come pick up your car and leave you with the info you need for a tax deduction come 2012.
Then get ready to enjoy the perks of being car-free. Saving an estimated $7,000 to $11,000 every year, for starters. Then there are the health benefits. Since you live in lovely, walkable, bus-abundant Seattle, you’ll likely get more exercise by doing more walking (and running to catch the bus). Writes Blue, “[T]he health benefits of bicycling are nine times greater than the safety gains from driving instead.” Then there are those bonuses that are less easily quantified. No more circling the block for parking, or yelping that a stranger dinged your door. Gone are your days of scrubbing dried avian fecal matter off a windshield. Say goodbye to parallel parking, hours in the DMV line, and running out of gas. The word “carpocalypse” can slide right past you, meaningless.
And if you find yourself needing to haul a Christmas tree, Hanukkah bush (hey, it might be big), bookcase, or piano, there are always car-sharing programs like Zipcar (or Zip-truck, in that case). Papa Fisk, lord love ‘im, just can’t let go of his circa-1970 Ford pickup in case he needs to haul something. The Green Titanic, as I like to call it, has given him nothing but trouble in recent years, all while being used approximately twice annually. I may sic you on him, Lisa. Consider yourself warned …
And for others who can’t quite bring themselves to join the ranks of the car-free, well. I do not judge. But, as always, I exhort you to carpool, drive less, and bundle your trips whenever possible. Altering your transportation is one of the most effective personal actions you can take to keep our planet livable for the next generation. If something like Relay Rides exists in your area, consider renting out your car for an hour or day. Chances are you won’t be using it. Consider it your foray into the uber-hipness that is collaborative consumption.