Life Without A Car…For Now

Warning: This post contains images of car damage that may cause distress to some. Please be aware that no serious injury or fatality resulted from these accidents.

The Mister and I live just 9 kilometres south of the Melbourne CBD. When we were looking for a new place four years ago, adequate transport connections within walking distance of our house was paramount. We found a place that fit the bill just nicely: the tram is ~300m, the bus is ~500m, and the train is 800m. For the second time in 2.5 years, The Mister and I are currently without a private mode of transport after our car was written off just two days after our wedding. Needless to say, we are incredibly thankful for these public transport connections yet again as we face life without a car.

Life Without A Car: The First Time

In March 2013, just 500m from home, an oncoming vehicle did not give way to The Mister as he was trying to cross the intersection on his way home from work one Sunday evening. As the collision was head-on and at a major intersection, emergency services were called. The passenger of the other vehicle was treated for minor injuries (cuts, bruises, et cetera) while The Mister and the driver of the other vehicle were mostly in shock.

The first time we became carless

Our 2001 Toyota Corolla didn’t survive this head-on collision

Living where we live certainly made our lives a little easier when it came to getting around the general area serviced by Melbourne trains and trams for the six weeks in 2013 we didn’t have a car. Trips to Geelong to see my family and friends required a little more planning however, especially seeing as how my parents live on the Bellarine Peninsula, a good 20 – 30 minute drive from the main train station.  The other thing to be thankful was that for the most part, the weather was lovely as we were only just a few weeks into autumn, and not yet out of daylight savings.

Life without a car: the second time

Two days after we married, we were heading back from putting some of the flowers from our wedding reception on the graves of The Mister’s grandfathers’ and great aunts’ graves. As we were approaching a very busy intersection, a car pulled out from the right-hand lane right in front of us. Although we were a safe braking distance from them, we still had to hit the brakes as that car went from stationary to swerving out in front of us very quickly. The car behind us was travelling a little too close unfortunately, and hit us with quite an impact.

The blocked intersection that caused our accident.

It wasn’t that white car that the Ford Focus is swerving to miss who was blocking the intersection, but this is why our accident happened: cars that were too impatient to wait at the traffic light to the left of the frame blocked the right-hand lane of a very busy arterial road. Where the car is to my right is where the car who cut us off pulled out from. They were originally stationary behind a truck who was turning right (so you can imagine how sharply and quickly they would have pulled out).

Our little Brum, badly hurt

The external damage

Cars these days are designed to crumple on impact. We were hit by a ute with a big bull bar so, so although he swerved to try and miss us, we never really stood much of a chance. The damage you see here is not representative of the damage incurred to the car’s structure. Our insurance company determined our car to be a write-off (total loss), but we are not sure if that is because the car could not be repaired and remain safe, or if the cost of repairs was more than the sum the car was insured for.

Life without a car: then versus now

Cars are a luxury for most people. Some may even call them an essential luxury in that they need a car to do everyday things. I’m sure a lot of you are wondering why we have a car to begin with if we try to lead a sustainable life. Believe me, I’ve had the argument several times over with myself, and also with The Mister. Let me assure you that just after the accident, we had this argument more times than I’d like to admit. That’s the other thing about severe collisions: they take away something valuable to you unexpectedly (and yes, I am also referring to loved ones here) and losing something unexpected evokes all sorts of emotions.

For us, the car is a necessity. I’d love to be able to do without it but unfortunately it’s just not the case, and that is mostly due to my physical incapacities. We have one car between the two of us, it’s been like that for about four years now, and we get by just fine. Of course, in 2013 it was a little more difficult as The Mister had to catch the bus to work whilst we were without a car and if I was in a bad way I just had to stay in, or dose up on medication to get to physiotherapy/destination wherever by train. This time round, I work from home or I work close to home for GoGet, and The Mister is finishing off his postgraduate diploma plus he also works close to home for GoGet. Losing a car is always an inconvenience, but this time it was a particularly ill-timed inconvenience for us as two days after the crash, I was booked in for a photo shoot with Derrière by JLP in Pakenham, and later that same day we had dinner plans on the Bellarine Peninsula. But hey, at least it wasn’t the day before our amazing wedding when the boot of our car looked like this:

At least our car wasn't filled with wedding stuff!

Cakes and flowers for days

Thankfully, my loving dad arranged a hire car for us after the accident. In accordance with living in our means we chose not to incorporate the cost of a hire car into our insurance premium, and at the time of needing to organise the hire car, the third party’s claim hadn’t been accepted. That meant we were able to continue living ‘normally’ in the week after our wedding. Thanks, dad!

For those times when we have to go out of town and don’t want to travel by train, we have GoGet. We’re so very thankful for that. The day we found out the car’s fate, I was in Pakenham having my photo shoot with the hire car and The Mister was able to get our neighbour to run him to the nearest GoGet car (it was belting down rain, the kind that umbrellas do nothing to shield you from, otherwise he would have walked) and go and empty our car of all our personal effects.

LIFE WITHOUT A CAR: The burning qUESTION

Although we could probably get through life without a car in the immediate future, we have decided to find one. For us, it really is a necessity for a number of reasons.
Over the last twelve months we’d already been throwing around ideas of what we’d be looking at when the time came to upgrade our car, and perhaps become a two car family if The Mister needed a car for work purposes while I would stay at home and run the business and raise our one day child/ren. In light of these discussions and the fact that we had unexpectedly lost our car, we have decided to search for a family car. Although we’re not quite ready to start a family, the desire for a family is there, and it would be silly to buy something small to only have to upgrade in a year or so’s time. We have narrowed our sights specifically to a Toyota RAV4 with a pull-open rear door as opposed to a lift-up rear door. The height of the SUV will mean I don’t have to bend to get any future child/ren out of the car, and the pull-open rear door will mean I am not faced with needing to reach up and pull down a heavy door.
Of course, the car will not be brand new, it will be affordable to our circumstances, and it will be suitable for our current and future needs. We’re happily using public transport and GoGet until we do find the unicorn RAV4 (my goodness, the particular specs we’re chasing are rare!), and when we do find our unicorn, we will be a happily blended private/public/sharing transport family!

How do you get from A to B? I’d love to know how you traverse your world?

  • Kelly-Anne

    Oh that intersection is super annoying! I lived just a block up from there.

    • It’s just awful, isn’t it!? I don’t understand why drivers are so impatient.

  • This is one of the few downfalls about being a one-car couple: when that one car is damaged, it leaves you a bit lost! We’ve just moved to a place where a car is pretty much necessary and we’re using the next few weeks to decide whether we need another car. I wish we could do without cars entirely, but unfortunately, we live in a country with a government that’s determined to promote needless car travel at the expense of less damaging options such as public transport or safer options for bike riders.

    Luckily, the bus ride is quite OK, if not terribly frequent, and there’s a well-maintained rail trail for accessing nearby towns, so I have some options.

    Good luck with your search for a new car.