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How to Get Around without a Car and Save Money as Gas Prices Rise

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According to AAA, the average cost of car ownership is nearly $10,000 per year. Transportation is often the largest household budget item for a Vermont family when factoring in the car payment, insurance, repairs, and fuel—especially with gas prices on the rise.

It seems like there are new transportation technologies and services coming out almost every month: all-electric vehicles, plug-in electric vehicles, hybrid vehicles, electric-assist bicycles, and more.

Many of these seem like interesting options, but our reality of Vermont life means we have to be practical. How are we going to really get around in the winter, or during mud season? What about those of us who live in a rural location and commute a long way to work? Can you really make use of an electric bike every day on your commute? What about the cost of an alternative?

While these are all good and relevant questions, maybe the most important question to ask ourselves is, “Can I do something, big or small, to change how I get around?” Most of us would like to explore car alternatives or ways to improve our commute, save money, and have a positive climate impact, but how do we know where to start?

 

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When looking for ways to reduce our reliance on a car, small changes are easier to try and see if they work for us before considering bigger changes. Here are some ideas, small and large, that can help to guide our commuting choices:

  • Save a trip by combining errands with your regular commute.
  • Investigate public transportation options in your commuting range.
  • Find a co-worker or friend who will pilot a carpooling arrangement, even once a week or twice a month.
  • Seasonal options include walking or biking to work, appointments, or the store, assuming it’s safe and practical. I’ve even seen some cross-country skiers capitalizing on the snowfall for their commute!
  • Learn about electric vehicle options. There are more models available every year, including trucks and motorcycles, and there’s a growing used electric vehicle market. They are proven to be reliable and cost less in fuel and maintenance than standard combustion engine vehicles. Many EV owners report they perform better in snow than any AW vehicle they have owned. There are also federal and utility rebates and incentives available to bring down the purchase price.
  • Consider leasing an electric vehicle for commuting purposes to see if this option works for you.
  • Try an e-bike! Yes, that’s a bike that offers electric assistance to help power you up those Vermont hills and cruise to your destination with minimal effort.

There are days when public transportation or the carpool won’t work because of a mid-day doctor’s appointment, or school events right after work, but let’s not allow these days to prevent us from breaking the solo commuting habit. Look at your commute from a different perspective and think creatively. Change can be hard, and sometimes when we try something new that takes us away from our usual routine, it can feel challenging. But think of the benefits—and the savings.

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About Laurie Fielder

Laurie directs VSECU’s statewide VGreen energy savings loan program. Previously, she worked for the weatherization program at the Central Vermont Community Action Council (now Capstone), and for a successful residential solar installer. She enjoys helping Vermonters learn about efficiency and renewable financing options that maximize the savings of these smart investments. She lives in Woodbury with her family and enjoys the outdoors, walking the dog, and tackling home improvement projects.
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