I have been contemplating ditching our 2nd car for several years but have been reluctant for various reasons. While we have decent bus service near our home, many routes aren’t in service when I need to be at work. Additionally, while the base is only a 25 minute bike ride away, there are hills, a high school with inexperienced teenage drivers, and misty eye-glass obscuring conditions between here and there from time to time. Most days I’m fine riding into work but there are times where a “cumulative disincentive” builds up to the point where I just drive. Lastly, there are the memories of several heavy snow days where only our trusty Subaru could get me into work. Well, maybe a Salsa Mukluk could too. Or I could walk. And then there are those snowshoes gathering dust in the garage.
All that worrying aside, we’ve only driven our Subaru 2,000-3,000 miles per year since we bought our Prius. Additionally, many of those miles were for what I call “pity” drives – Times where I could have used another mode of transportation, or our Prius, but decided to take the Subaru to keep the fluids moving and the battery charged. But all in all, I really don’t need a car to get to work. My wife, on the other hand, does. Thankfully she is able to work from home many days which means I’ll still have access to a car at home from time to time. Additionally, I have 8 Zipcars within a 15 minute bus or bike ride as well. I’ve also been meaning to try out the many taxis I see in Bellevue as well.
I’m sure this decision will require some sacrifices such as getting up a little earlier to ride in every day or figuring out how to ride in sub-freezing temperatures – something I’ve been reluctant to do because of a combination of hills, ice, and knowing a fellow bus driver who broke his hip riding into work in icy conditions. But I’m excited to give it a shot and will keep you all up to date on the highs and lows of being car-lite in the suburbs.
I love my dad. Even though I don’t tell him that enough, I really do. Despite that, he drives me crazy repeating lessons that I learned from him long ago, probably just in case I didn’t really learn them. (Dad, are you reading this?) One lesson I have taken to heart is “Insure against the catastrophe, not the occurrence”. In short, when you buy insurance you want to be the kind of customer insurance companies love. You happily pay premiums for decades and, hopefully, never file a claim. The idea is to have high insurance coverage for the once-in-a-lifetime accident that costs enough to wipe you out financially. For smaller accidents, you share in the risk by carrying a higher deducible. In exchange, your insurance company will give you higher coverage for the same, or even a lower premium. This encourages you to be a safer driver and provides financial protection for a *really bad* crash.
According to Ron Leiber at the New York Times, ZipCar carries a $5 Million liability policy in case one of their cars gets into an accident. If, for example, ZipCar failed to maintain a car properly and as a result it crashes, ZipCar’s liability would be covered up to $5 Million. Sounds comforting, right? The trouble is, that coverage is for the ZipCar corporation, not the individual member. To keep member rates low, they only purchase a measly $300,000 liability policy for the member. I know $300,000 sounds like a lot, but it’s not. It’s barely above most State mandated *minimums*. What happens to your financial future if you crash into the side of a school bus and injure a bunch of kids or run over multiple pedestrians in a crosswalk? These are horrible and unthinkable accidents, right? You’re a safe driver and would never do this, right? But you never know what can happen. Maybe you’ll have a seizure and hit a bus or pass out at the wheel right as you’re heading into a school zone with kids everywhere. You just don’t know…
I purchase an “Umbrella” policy in addition to my auto insurance that covers my family up to $2 Million. That may sound excessive, but at $305 per year for the umbrella policy, it’s relatively cheap compared to the possibility of being wiped out financially. That’s a pretty standard policy and is easy to find from multiple companies. For the “car-free” out there, you may need to search a little harder. So, if you’re using ZipCar on a regular basis, you should talk to your insurance agent about supplemental coverage, because you never know what can happen when you’re behind the wheel.