Saturday, January 14, 2012

Do Good, Have Faith, Be Strong: Sell Your Car

Decision time regarding the car

I had doubts about selling my car. Sure, I almost never use it, and my family would still have one, but so many what-ifs went through my mind. What if I need a car for work for some reason? What if I need to drive somewhere out of the city? What if something changes which prevents me from commuting to work by bicycle? Several dire or semi-dire scenarios come to mind related to the last. Worries. Concerns. Uncertainties. What-ifs, weighing me down.

We had three vehicles until recently, since we did not trade in the two we had when we acquired the latest one. The plan at the time was to sell at least one of the older ones, which we did, leaving us with two. But then, to take the next step? Sell mine? What if, what if something?

In purely rational terms, I should definitely sell my car. I practically never use it, sometimes weeks go by with it just sitting there getting dusty and slowly rotting away as the months pass. So, sure, selling it would result in no more insurance or license fees, no more taking up space, no more regular upkeep, which I have kept up with, knowing that I would end up selling it some day. 

But, I will tell you that there's something about willingly giving up your car that feels like something could come up that would cause regret about the sale. What would that be? What something outweighs the obvious logic of converting a car I almost never drive into cold, hard cash? 

The imagination offers several possibilities, but on reflection, they are just that, possibilities. So the question becomes, do any of those possibilities that something could happen outweigh the obvious conclusion that I should sell it? How to deal with something, the unknowns that tomorrow may bring? And how much of the hesitation is actually just the weight of the cultural baggage that has taught me, berated me, for decades that I need a car?

I went for a long bicycle ride to think it over, and was able to make the decision and deal with that unknowable something by giving myself a direct and relatively simple imperative: do good, have faith, be strong, sell your car. That may not seem to make sense at first, so allow me to unpack it a bit to show how I arrived at a antidote for something.

"Do good," that refers to both morality and achievement. Morality: follow the principle of acting toward others as you would have them act toward you, and also do the best that you can to adhere to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, be patient, kind, tolerant, forgiving, loyal, true, and so on. Achievement: seek success while attempting challenging endeavors. Sometimes we think of this as "doing our best."

For me, holding on to car I do not need, for reasons I cannot articulate, does not feel like doing good. It doesn't feel like I am doing my best. And on the other hand, sometimes, riding a bicycle to work every day, as I did in 2011, can seem like a challenge, but it also feels like I'm doing good.

"Have faith," this refers not to religious faith in this usage, but rather to the belief that tomorrow will be positive, fulfilling, fun, good, educational, non-lonely, overall worth looking forward to, life-affirming. If you think about it, we have no good reason for thinking so. Religious faith may support this belief for some, so be it, that works for this purpose, as long as it doesn't also involve supernatural voices in the head telling the believer to kill or something like that. All we actually know for sure about tomorrow, specifically, or rather tomorrows in general, is that there will come a point in life for each of us when there won't be any more. That's a certain, sound conclusion. Anything more upbeat than that is a belief, a shaky inference, and not a sound conclusion, so why hold this belief? For one thing, when it comes to specific tomorrows, for most of us in typical situations I mean, there's no way to know either way about the next one coming up. It might be excellent, it might be mediocre, it might be horrific, or it might not actually come up at all and turn out to be instead a dark abyss of infinite nothingness, we don't know. We don't know. Which means, again for most of us in typical life situations, it might be any of the above, or something else. Since we don't know, I say: have faith that it will be excellent. Things generally seem to turn out better when you look at it that anyway, and if there's no reason to think otherwise, go for it.

Also, there is a certain level of faith in thinking that when the sun comes up tomorrow, I will again get on my bicycle and ride it to work, no matter what. Thinking so has a lot to do with making it happen, for me (assuming tomorrow is a work day).

But what about when something does happen, what then? For it always does, for all of us, and to think otherwise is to ignore the stark reality that life happens every moment, everywhere, and some of those events are bad, some are crushing, some are merely dreadfully difficult. What then? Be strong, I say. While doing good and having faith, bend with the wind and snap right back up. Flex. Seek alternatives. Try things, fail, try again. Talk it over. Think it over. Some things you try will be terrible failures, some things you think up will be ridiculous, but keep trying, keep thinking. Be strong. Yes, like a steel bicycle frame, but also like the aged farmer who still gets up early every morning to do chores and fix the roof before the rest of us roll over to hit the snooze button, strong like the third grade kid in the electric wheel chair riding the lift up to board the school bus all through the year.

Something will happen. Bring it. You can handle it. Until that last tomorrow until you can't, but that is probably a long way off, and even if it isn't, I won't go gentle. Something got nothin. I can live without owning a car. I may even enjoy it. It is an idea worth trying. It is an option worth exploring. 

There was a kind of fear stopping me from taking the step, but once my wife pointed this out to me, which was the crucial understanding I needed, I realized that without the kind of faith I talked about above, and without the strength to overcome this fear, freedom is not possible, because a choice freighted with fear is no kind of choice at all. Only a decision made with strength and the belief that tomorrow will be great, which overcomes that fear, is a free choice. Anything less means that the baggage, and the decades of being berated that owning a car is key, win, and is not a free choice. I make this choice freely.

Me, my expression, upon making the decision

I decided that whatever happens, happens, and I'll figure it out, together with my family, of course. The reasons in favor are greater than the doubts and fears against, and besides, who can't use a little cold, hard cash? Some of which could be set aside just in case of something, I suppose. Also some of which could be used to purchase bike related items like consumables, or a bike rack for the house. For example.

I decided to do good, to have faith, and to be strong. I have found a buyer for my car, and we've agreed on a price, so all that's left is to complete the transaction. I'm selling my car. I'm free, and now I better understand what that means.


  1. Wow. That was a huge decision for you. I'm happy that you could do it.

  2. I especially like your point about failing. It is okay to fail. I believe we learn more through failure than we do through success (the majority of the time). This is a hard lesson to learn and to accept as being okay.

  3. Change is scary, and voluntary change is so loaded with (possible) baggage that it's very scary. Great post and great blog!

  4. Chapeau!
    Being a worse case scenario kind of guy, ridding myself of my vehicle would be impossible.
    I have a freakish and sometimes morbid imagination.
    One the other hand, if you never use it?

  5. I take my hat off to you...!
    Getting rid of the car is something I am not ready to do yet.

    I have stepped down to a very small eco car that is very cheap to run and insure and only used it for about 2,000miles last year....

    But with our pretty poor public transport system and a family spread across the country I am loath to dispense with it entirely.


  6. Two options now. Fill that garage slot with a collectible Jaguar or gobs of bike junk!

  7. wow dude!! i've never owned a car - never had my license actually - but i can imagine not having access to a car would be super hard!! good for you to wrestle this one down. steven

  8. Congrats!

    I sold my car two years ago this January, and haven't had any regrets.

    I almost never drove my car for about a year before I sold it- I was only waiting for my husband to replace his decrepit pickup with a car that could carry more than 2 people before I got rid of it. So I had a chance to "live without it" before it was really gone.

  9. *sigh*

    Too much stuff to tote around too often for me to give up my CR-V.

    But I'll root for you and your success with this decision, JRA! And, therefore, I'll delude myself into believing I've been instrumental in promoting bikes as transportation! ;)

  10. Thank you for your responses. There's always a plan B, I guess, and like many who live car-free or car-lite, I could always rent one if necessary. Luckily in the current marketplace, the most fuel-efficient rentals are usually on the low end of the price scale.

  11. Very awesome! Congratulations. I was amazed by the number of what ifs my friends came up with when I was going through this same process. Glad we didn’t listen to them. Ride and be free!

  12. Congrats on selling your Car! I wish more people would do this.

    You might like, especially his post on the cost of commuting. It puts a financial reason to ditch the car and pick up a bike.

    Our family sold both our cars in October and bought an older used minivan. Although not the most fuel efficient, it suits our family well. I was tired of people telling me it was impossible to have a family with one car.

    Hopefully moving closer to work soon! Which well cut my bike commute from 43 miles round trip to about 4!


  13. Thanks mindful mule! I'm riding, and the what-ifs are sublimating into vaporous unimportance.

    Tanner, I will check that site out. People come up with the most interesting reasons for why a family can't possible survive with only ONE (1) vehicle. Based on what they've told me, we're probably going to freeze up and turn into petrified non-entities due to limitations of gas-powered transport. I guess the nine bicycles in our house just won't help at all.


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