Angela asked an interesting question the other day.
"When Grandma (Angela's mom) moved here from Florida 6 months ago, would it have been better for us (from a purely selfish perspective) if she had kept her car?"
Keep in mind, we're talking from a purely selfish perspective, i.e. pretend she completely funds the car/insurance, deals with the parking and maintenance, and we have access to a car for occasional outings or big shopping trips. Maybe we would "generously" put in for gas.
Even with this hypothetical most lazy and cheap possible version of a car, we came to the conclusion that we are happy she became car free when she moved here. At first blush, this seems silly, after all, wouldn't such a situation mean we could have the perks of car-ownership without the costs? Our trip to Drumlin Farm would have been much easier if we hadn't had to worry about train schedules, and we could easily get to more fun weekend outings if Grandma had a car. We need to get some lumber at Home Depot this weekend, and we wouldn't have to get a zipcar. But would Grandma have an apartment in the middle of Davis Square, a mere 15 minute walk from our house, if she had a car? Nope. Parking there is awful. She would more likely be out in Arlington, and we'd have to hop the 77 bus to see her...which would mean she'd either need to come to us more or we'd see her less often. We wouldn't be able to easily drop by each other's houses or make last minute dinner or babysitting plans as easily. Also, as our hypothetical use of Grandma's car increased, which it would inevitably, we'd start to feel guilty, and ultimately probably end up splitting the cost and hassles. I mean, we're not total jerks, and if we were using the car eventually we'd put in, so it wouldn't be so free anymore. And there would be that awful car tension, over finances, parking tickets, needed repairs, even if it was vicariously. So even selfishly, we're glad Grandma doesn't have a car.
Less selfishly, we're glad to have a car-free Grandma because we like Grandma to save money (she claims she spends much less in Boston than Florida, who would have thought it possible?), we like watching her feel joyfully smug about being extra-environmental (she works in land conservation, so this is a nice perk), and we get to talk pros and cons of the lifestyle with one of "our own." I suppose we also like that we get to take a little bit of credit for bringing someone into the car-free fold...do we get a toaster?