My $700 weekend car rental.

When you don’t own a car and you rent one for the weekend a portal opens to glorious lands. Places well beyond the six-mile radius you are willing to ride your bike. Places to which you can’t walk. Places Metro-North has never dared to travel. Places that others speak of with great fondness and familiarity. When I tell people that we don’t have a car, they wonder aloud how I will travel to their favorite places. People say things like, “but, but, how do you get to Target?”
No, I did not splurge and rent a luxury car. But I might as well have. I rented this one instead. The rate was $35/day, but I spent almost $600 driving around and buying stuff.
Last weekend I had to travel to a work event 45-minutes from home. Trains and buses would have made it a burdensome 90-minutes. Since, we were running low on toilet paper, my sniffly old cat was insisting on constant feeding of canned food and we were out of zero-car husband’s favorite spicy ramen, a weekend car rental was in the stars. For what it cost me, I probably could have rented a space ship to the actual stars. The car itself cost only $116 for two days (that included rental, basic insurance, and $11 in gas). However, I spent $590 driving it to places that sell things.

When people wonder how we can possibly get by without a car, they seem to mostly wonder how we will spend our disposable income.
One motive for selling the car was to eliminate the expense of owning it: car payments, insurance, registration, the occasional parking ticket, gas, and maintenance. That savings (for us) came to $25,000 for the remaining four years of our loan plus those pesky operating expenses. Once the car was paid off we estimated saving $2000 each year.
When it was time to return the car, I put my bike in the backseat so I could get myself home. The car rental place was eight miles from our house. It was a nice day for a ride.
Since I was in the shopping mode, I stopped by a favorite place to drop cash when I am in Beacon: Barb’s Butchery.

I haven’t added it up, but I know we save serious money because we can’t ride our bikes to the many, many places that sell things.

It’s really no surprise that on the weekend when we had a car, I went a little crazy with the spending. I filled the trunk and emptied my wallet.
We simply do not drive to malls, restaurants, movie theaters, roller rinks, trampoline places, and discount liquor stores. Are you just dying to know what we have been doing instead? Well, for the last 14 months we have been rolling around in big piles of cash and staring out the window at the empty parking spot in front of our house. Actually, I’ve just been hanging out at home baking pies and playing Sorry with my kid and dreaming about retirement, just a little bit.


Picking cherries and baking pies.
Renting a car for two days cost me $700.
Car rental $67 for two full days
Basic insurance coverage $30
$11 gas
$550 BJs – groceries, lots of toilet paper, cat food, and ramen
$40  Beacon Market – peanut butter, bulk beans, popcorn, and raisins

If my calculations are correct, not having a car has saved us nearly $6250 in car expenses this year, plus at least a $200/month in buying things we probably didn’t need in the first place.

Author: zerocarmom

I am a 50-year-old mom with two kids (ages 7 and 24), a husband who works in our attic, a sneezy old cat, and a full-time job as the co-founder of a Brooklyn-based business. My family lives a mostly idyllic life in a small village in the Hudson Valley, sixty miles north of New York City.

2 thoughts on “My $700 weekend car rental.”

  1. That is fundamentally ridiculous, lady. You spent $590 on necessities you need anyone — or are you also living without TOILET PAPER? how do you get this stuff at other times? $590 is not a year’s worth of goods for a family. So you get to the store SOMEHOW — maybe someone drives you? surely you are not bringing home groceries on your BICYCLE? in the WINTER? with KIDS?

    And you are not breaking down “necessities” vs. “poorly judged impulse purchases”. I know shut-ins who spend ruinous amounts without driving an inch, because they can “click and spend” right on Amazon! Are you saying toilet paper, SOUP, cat food and peanut butter were crazy purchases you would NOT have made except for that nasty rental car?


    1. Hi Lola, Thanks for writing. I know that my story can be hard to believe, but it is actually true. After this blog post, I never again rented a car to go to BJs or any other big box stores. We get our groceries via bicycle and on foot. The store is less than a mile from my house, which of course made it much easier for us to make the decision to get rid of our car. While staying with my parents in Florida (yes we fly, and agreed that’s bad for the earth, we are not perfect) I also use a bike to ride to my beloved Publix which is about 2 miles away. The downside is you that you have to go the grocery store A LOT more often. The upside is you get lots of exercise without going to the gym. The other upside is you never buy more than you need and you have to be very thoughtful about your choices. You can read some details about how I grocery shop here:


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