Photoshopped Brian waving bye to a car in the background

Pandemic for Good: How I Was Able to Sell My Car

Imagine a time in early 2020, before COVID-19 affected our lives… I was driving my Toyota Prius c to work 17 miles each way, every weekday. I sat in my car for a minimum of 70 minutes each work day. While I passed the time listening to podcasts or music, I would get home after rush-hour traffic and barely remember my drive home. I hated it, and felt disconnected from my city and neighborhood.

For context, I live in an apartment in Uptown. I moved here four and a half years ago due to the density, access to public transit, lakes, cycling paths, grocery stores, coffee shops, and other stores. Since moving here, I’ve walked to get groceries all but a couple of times.

Pandemic Times

In March 2020, I started working from home every day. COVID-19 lockdown and social isolation aside, I was somewhat excited. I didn’t touch my car for a month until mid-April when I drove it just to start it up and make sure it worked. This was when I started to neglect my car.

I developed a few new habits once I started working from home due to COVID-19.

  1. I replaced my commuting time with walking around Lake of the Isles, Bde Maka Ska, or through the streets in Uptown. I got way more exercise, and it took the same or less time than my old commute, a true win-win!
  2. I drove at most a few times a month.
  3. I drove as little as zero times a month.
  4. I started biking a lot more.
The sunset over Lake of the Isles
Sunset at Lake of the Isles, November 7, 2021. Credit: Brian Mitchell

To reduce the spread of COVID-19, I spent a lot of time with friends and family outdoors. This was often going on a walk, getting takeout and eating in a park, or sitting outdoors at a restaurant, brewery, or yard. This paired leaving my apartment with nice weather, perfect for walking or biking!

Seeding the Idea

In the summer and fall of 2020, I had two moderate car repairs. I did some rough math and found that from mid-March 2020 to the end of that year, between maintenance/repairs, gas, insurance, and the parking space at my apartment, I averaged about $3 spent on my car per mile driven (not including the price of the car itself either). How absurd, that’s more than a bus ticket, for every mile!

I started to seriously think about if I really needed my car or not. I kept my car through the winter to go downhill skiing and see how much I really needed it, especially in the winter. I spent the winter largely at home or out walking, so I didn’t really drive my car much beyond skiing and a few errands.

Once Spring 2021 rolled around, and I got the COVID-19 vaccine, I was a little more comfortable taking public transit, and being inside of a car with friends and family. I picked up biking to everything again with the warmer weather, and carpooled when I could if I needed to go further away. I started a new job where I also work from home, but the office is a more manageable 10 miles away instead of 17 miles, in the event that I need to go in.

I had five periods where I didn’t drive my car for a month, the longest time being 45 days.

I Finally Did It

In September 2021, I sold my car! 🥳🎊 I really lucked out that it was a great time to sell a car, the depreciation on my car after owning it for 4.5 years was quite low. From mid-March 2020 up to then, I had five periods where I didn’t drive my car for a month, the longest time being 45 days. I found myself trying to find a reason to drive it at all, even just aimlessly driving it for 20 minutes a couple of times to keep it in working order. I drove my car roughly 1,600 miles in that time, I biked more than that in 2021 alone!

By selling my car, I’m taking on a lot more planning on how to get places, but I find it to be a fun challenge, and I prefer it to the stress of trying to find somewhere to park a car, and the constant background anxiety I had by just owning and being responsible for maintaining it. I have a good chunk of change to spend on a new bike in the future, and am saving so much money each month without paying for parking, insurance, gas, or maintenance.

Brian's bicycle parked at a bike rack.
Biking to Memory Lanes with my bowling ball. Credit: Brian Mitchell

Last fall, I fixed up an old mountain bike and got studded tires for winter biking. Depending on the temperature and snow conditions, it was a challenge at times, but so freeing to be able to keep biking. With so many options like cycling, public transit, car shares (Hourcar/Evie), and kind friends and family with cars, I’ve been getting around just fine!

About Brian Mitchell

Pronouns: he/him/his

Brian is a car-free resident of Minneapolis, working as a frontend software engineer. He loves to bike and walk throughout the Twin Cities, dreaming of safer streets, fewer cars, better transit, and higher density. For other fun, he likes science-fiction, electronic music, and jigsaw puzzles.