Why I’ll Never Buy a Car If I Can Help It

Painting of traffic jam

Cars move too fast; modern life is fast and hectic as it is — we need to slow down, not speed up. Cars get into traffic jams, reminding us how tediously unpleasant modern life can be at times — how annoying it is to find yourself in the midst of a cacophony of honking and shouting and cursing and boiling tempers and to see the pedestrian strolling at his leisure on the sidewalk.

Cars are noisy, with a bad kind of noise, the noise of hurry — just compare the graceful and dignified clip-clopping of a horse with the impersonal vroom-vrooming of cars. Cars drink gas greedily. Cars pollute the air we breathe. Cars crowd our streets and injure pedestrians, to say nothing of cyclists. Cars crash into each other or into other things and pucker up into ugly metal wrinkles and spray the ground with broken glass.

Cars kill people: 1.3 million every year, 3,287 every day. Cars injure or disable between 20 and 50 million people every year.*

People need cars, of course, for a hundred reasons which both of us know so well that I won’t even take the trouble to enumerate them. Although I dislike cars, I have to admit that they are indispensable, or at least have become so in our modern age. Without cars the world would be much more static, and there would be less progress, and we would not enjoy the comforts we have, and living in some places would be perhaps unsustainable. There’s nothing inherently wrong with cars.

But I think there is something wrong with the Buy-a-Car-If-You-Can-Afford-One Club. I don’t think that just because you can afford a car you should buy it. Cars are not harmless. They burn a fuel which is unsustainable, pollute the environment, come with high maintenance costs, damage property and people, and can kill others, even yourself.

I don’t know what the situation is in other countries, but in Romania, there this silent craze about cars — parents borrow money from banks to buy their children cars as soon as they turn 18 (when they can get their driver’s license), upstarts buy the most expensive cars they can buy to show off, well-to-do people change cars every few years, usually going for bigger and more expensive models each time, and families living in the city, near public transportation hubs still buy cars and keep them parked before their apartment building, taking up precious pavement space.

Neighbourhoods are crowded with cars, the traffic in Bucharest is painful, road rage is unavoidable, and streets which were never really designed for so many cars are filled up with cars which are parked wheel to wheel. For many people, cars are a symbol of their status. They think that if you own a car, you’re somebody. Hence, the bigger and more expensive, the better.

A sensible person who would like his children and grandchildren to have a planet to live on, and who moreover considers the inconveniences that cars cause their fellow citizens should think twice, even thrice before buying a car. “If I live in the city, do I really need a car?” “Is a car such a necessity for me?” “Would I and my family suffer without a car?”

If so, then may that person buy a car that is safe and environmentally friendly, and may he or she enjoy it. But if the true reason for buying a car is to keep up with the Joneses, or show off your wealth, or look cool, or try to make up for a small penis, or for just fooling yourself into thinking that your perfume is too good for the bus or your clothes too stylish for the subway, then may you suffer a mild car accident on your way to the car dealer’s and suffer no physical injuries but come out of it somewhat traumatized and consequently shun cars for the rest of your life.

For my part, although I can afford a car, I am resolved to live without one. I don’t really need a car and I see no reason why I should walk less and pollute the environment besides. For writers and artists, walking is a most excellent mode of transportation, which encourages ideas and reflections, and when more speed is required, or distances are long, the subway, the bus, the tram, or occasional taxis can help us reach our destination in due time while giving us the opportunity to be around people, to observe them, to be inspired by them, and perhaps even to interact with them.

Of course, I do not know what will happen in the future. A car may become necessary for me, just as it is for many people. Should that occur, however, I will politely ignore the beckoning of the Buy-a-Car-If-You-Can-Afford-One Club and head instead to those sensible drivers in the Buy-a-Car-If-You-Really-Need-One society. I hope you don’t think it presumptuous if I urge you to do the same:

Don’t buy a car if you don’t really need it! Being without a car in the 21st century is cool.


Do you own a car? Do you really need it?



21 thoughts on “Why I’ll Never Buy a Car If I Can Help It

  1. Amen Brother! No, I never had a car, and since I live and work in a (Dutch) city with plenty of other transportation methods I do not need one. In Holland its more or less the same: if kids turn 18, the first thing they want to have is a driver s license. I think that it also has to do with a kind of ritual: if you have your license and a car, you have proven to yourself and the world that you really are a grown-up.

    1. Indeed, and for some people, having a car equals freedom. It’s as if without a car they aren’t truly free.

      Still, I think that things are better in the Netherlands. After all, I keep hearing about the many bikes of Amsterdam.

  2. I own own a car really need it as well. I live in one state and work in another state in the US, plus being a single mom having a car is important to me to be able to reach my son ASAP whenever he needs me and also to take him for his various activities! But I’m so dependent on my car that sometimes I wonder if I can even survive without it and that’s not a good thing I guess! Interesting post!

  3. Cars are very useful, especially for those who need to travel 10+ miles to work/school. When you live in a desert, cars with A/C are a must when you travel even 2-3 miles. I hate driving because John Smith who is riding my bumper, may not see that traffic light up ahead, who will possibly hit me if I have to suddenly stop.

  4. I agree with you totally. I don’t plan on getting a car, and I am putting myself out of situations where I may need one.

  5. Yes!! I tell myself I will never buy a car. I just won’t. So much more satisfaction and beneficiary for our health, planet and the animals.. And of course, the perfect muse for writers..:)

  6. Interesting perspective. I’ve never experienced a “have no car” moment. Can’t imagine life without one. But I was raised in an area of wide open spaces, even now in the suburbs, one could only get by without a car by depending on someone who does have a car. But you did acknowledge a car is needed by some. I agree that there are many who just use cars as a lark or to show their status. Well written presentation you have made.

  7. I can’t afford a car. But I don’t need it. Driving a car in Phnom Penh is terrible (crazy traffic jam). I use public transportation (city bus) instead. Even though I have to wait long minutes (sometime up to 45 minutes), I’m okay with that. #SayNoToAirPollution

  8. If you must do it, get a small one! In my home situation, a car is essential: public transport exists, but goes in all the wrong directions, so I do own one. The bouts of supermarket shopping are crazy without one, especially at this range. But I agree, in any of my favorite cities a car would be more an encumbrance than an asset. I would be happy to bus, or train, or walk.

  9. Awesome post! I totally agree with everything. At my place the public transportation provided is more than enough for us to go anywhere we want. I still don’t see the need to use car, and the most important thing is I actually save a lot more time when using public transportation (I use lrt or train most of the time) instead of car. No traffic! 😉 I’m really not going to buy one in the nearest future, but tbh it could also probably be because I don’t have a family yet. If someday I decide to have kids, I might need to buy a car. Having said that, I’m totally putting myself in the buy-a-car-if-you-really-need-one society!

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