Almost one year ago we moved our family of four lifelong suburbanites to the city. We ditched our car, got rid of most of our stuff, and squeezed into a tiny apartment. Becoming carfree with kids and adopting an urban lifestyle has been one of the most adventurous and rewarding moves we have ever made. Each Monday I’ll be writing an article about different aspects of urban living with small kids that I hope you find interesting. Please contribute to the discussion in the comments, on Facebook, and on Twitter!

Today I want to write about our carfree lifestyle and how we have lived without a car for nearly two years now! That’s right: two kids, one commute, no car. But before I tell you that story, I have to tell you this story…

2012 in Phoenix, Arizona

Rewind to the end of 2012. We were living in the exurbs of Phoenix, Arizona. We owned a large house (4 beds, 3 baths) with a giant backyard. We owned one pretty old car that got us around just fine. My husband, Ben, worked remotely and I was a stay-at-home mom to our two kids, so all four of us were home basically all the time.

Our family of suburbanites turned carfree with kids. We ditched our car and our stuff in favor of an urban lifestyle we love. Read about our adventures!

In October 2012 Ben’s company downsized and he was unfortunately one of the casualties. He applied for jobs all over the country and ended up getting a job in Portland, Oregon. In February of 2013 we relocated to Beaverton, a suburb of Portland.

Right up until about two weeks before our move date, we had planned to drive our car up to Oregon. We knew it wasn’t in great shape and that it was leaking some fluids, but we didn’t know just how bad it was until we took it to our mechanic for a little pre-trip tuneup. He basically said that we should only attempt the drive if we really wanted to get stranded somewhere in the middle of the desert and subsequently get eaten by wild coyotes. That didn’t sound too fun, so we started considering alternatives.

Long story short, we decided to leave our car in Phoenix with some friends and sell it online. We flew up to Portland and had to decide what to do at that point. But before I tell you that story, I have to tell you this story…

The Financially Disastrous Trifecta

The year 2012 was a financially strenuous year for us. We were debt-free (besides the house) at the beginning of the year, but by the end we had incurred over $10,000 in medical debt because our then-baby got MRSA, underwent emergency surgery, and spent a couple of days in the hospital. Add onto that Ben’s job loss. Add onto that our car went caput. Add onto that the fact that when we moved to Oregon our house in Phoenix still hadn’t sold, so we were making our mortgage payments and paying for utilities in Phoenix while paying rent and utilities in Oregon. Needless to say, we were strapped financially and it was uncertain how long we would be making payments on two houses. And we didn’t have a car.

Unwilling to go into more debt, we decided to buy some bikes and try our hand at carfree living. Portland is well known for its public transit system and biking infrastructure, even in the suburbs. We kind of shrugged our shoulders, looked at each other, and said, “Why not? Let’s see how long we can go without a car. Let’s just see how long we can do it. Maybe it will be fun?” It was an experiment that wasn’t supposed to last more than a few weeks or months.

Carfree with Kids

We scoured Craigslist and found a couple of bikes and a trailer* for the kids. We learned to navigate the public transit system and found that we could basically get everywhere we needed to go via bus or bike. Ben commuted nearly an hour into Portland everyday on the MAX (Portland’s light rail), while I took the kids all over the place in the trailer or on the bus. We fell in love with our new lifestyle. We were getting exercise daily. We were saving hundreds of dollars every month. We found that our life was simpler and less stressful. We found that we were happier. So much happier.

Our family of suburbanites turned carfree with kids. We ditched our car and our stuff in favor of an urban lifestyle we love. Read about our adventures!In October 2013 we became 100% debt-free again, thanks, in large part, to our decision to forego buying a new car. It has been nearly two years since we owned a car and we are more convinced than ever that being carfree with kids is awesome. We hope to go many years more before buying a car again.

Next week I’ll tell you more about how we moved from Beaverton to a 750 sq ft apartment in inner Portland and how all our friends thought we had finally lost our minds for real.

What do you think? Have you ever lived carfree? Would you? What if you tried it?

*I get asked about bike trailers all the time now. We bought the Chariot Cougar 2. While pricey, it is the only trailer I recommend for families who are biking more than to the park and back. It’s a bike trailer/stroller for families who are serious about using it as a primary mode of transportation.

Our family of suburbanites turned carfree with kids. We ditched our car and our stuff in favor of an urban lifestyle we love. Read about our adventures!

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By | 2016-11-18T11:44:09+00:00 January 5th, 2015|Kids, Urban Living|8 Comments


  1. Dawn Rebekah January 5, 2015 at 12:19 pm - Reply

    We live in a city which is know to have very poor public transportation system. We have gone with only one car for a year that did not even fit our entire family. It was easier than we thought even with the poor public transportation. I look forward to following your journey.
    Blessings, Dawn

    • Crystal January 5, 2015 at 4:23 pm - Reply

      Wow, that’s amazing! How in the world do you get around with poor public transportation and a car that is too small for you family?! Incredible.

  2. shelah moss January 5, 2015 at 8:45 pm - Reply

    We did the opposite. We moved from the city to the suburbs and I really do miss city living with kids.

    • Crystal January 5, 2015 at 9:43 pm - Reply

      I understand that. There is so much to do in the city! But the suburbs have advantages, too… 🙂

  3. Megan Conser January 6, 2015 at 8:53 am - Reply

    Crystal, I am very envious of your lifestyle! I don’t feel like I could ever get rid of all my stuff to do what you are doing– I am looking forward to seeing how you did it!

    • Crystal January 7, 2015 at 11:25 pm - Reply

      Megan, thank you so much! It works well for us, but I know the way we live doesn’t work for everyone 🙂 I’m so glad to hear from you.

  4. Olivia November 13, 2016 at 7:01 am - Reply

    Hi Crystal, thanks for your inspiring blog on carfree living. It’s great to read about other carfree families out there! We are a very happy carfree family living in Perth, Australia with our 2 year old son. My husband and I have been carfree for 5 years. We went carfree while living in inner city Melbourne, a very cycle friendly city with a great public transport system. It was there I discovered the joy and liberation of commuting and adventuring by bike and rail! When our son came along, most of our friends and family assumed we would buy a car, because its such a strong perception that its impossible to have a baby without a car to transport it. We bought a fantastic pram, a baby carrier and a Chariot Cougar trailer and proved them wrong. Just because were having a baby didn’t mean we were about to give up all the benefits of a car free lifestyle which you have described so well! A year ago we relocated to Perth, my husband’s home city and into a 2 bedroom unit in a coastal suburb. Public transport isn’t as extensive here, but we live close to a high frequency bus service to the CBD and train line and a great bike path along the coast. My husband works from home so doesn’t have to commute anywhere. My son and I have great bus and train adventures to many parts of the city, attend playgroups, music classes, libraries, and ride to various beaches and local parks. We’re always out on the streets and have come to know our local neighbourhoods intimately. Aside from the benefits of fitness and simplicity that this lifestyle brings us, I also love that we have plan our activities around the weather, thus staying in tune with the world around us and that my son is constantly engaged with his social and natural environment as we get around. He greets bus drivers, counts street numbers and trees and is always seeing and learning new things. By not owning a car we not only save greatly financially, have a much lighter environmental impact and are richer in so many ways.

    • Crystal November 27, 2016 at 10:37 pm - Reply

      Inspiring! Thank you so much for visiting and for sharing your experience!

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