Cost of Living in Cambridge vs. the Cost of a Car

One interesting tradeoff that we’ve used to make our lives car-free is to trade housing costs for automobile costs. The only reason that we can afford to live in a condo in Cambridge, MA, is that we don’t have to make any car payments or pay the high costs of maintenance and gasoline. Now, that is not to say that we don’t have any transportations costs at all. We pay to ride the subway and the bus, we pay occasionally for the use of a zipcar, and we spend a significant amount of money on our bicycles. But those costs pale in comparison to the cost of car ownership.

Lowering our transportation costs allows us to tolerate an increase in housing costs, hence we can afford to live in an expensive city. We’ve kept our housing costs as low as possible by living in a 2-bedroom , 660 square foot condominium. We don’t have a yard, but we do have many parks nearby (and we live on a private way which sort of functions as a paved yard for kids in the neighborhood). Personally, I like to think of our closest park as a yard that’s maintained by the nice people at the Department of Public Works. We’re willing to live in a small place in order to be able to live without our car, and we see it as a choice we are making, rather than as a constraint that we are forced to live with.

About Angela

Angela is an associate professor of mathematics and enjoys writing, reading, and talking to people about her bike. She's the proud mother of two cute kids, H and R.
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3 Responses to Cost of Living in Cambridge vs. the Cost of a Car

  1. Dave says:

    There are alot of architects and land planners who have figured this out. But it is a tough sell in the U.S.

    An European – unamed and random, just some guy here on business – made that observation once. He said Americans always want to own everything. Having a beach house instead of a rental. Having a big yard instead of a public park.

    It’s not particularly efficient, this owning stuff.

    So then. We can wander down the path of consumerism or the disappearance of public squares or what have you.

    I don’t know. Where I live I see all of these guys out every weekend mowing their two or ten or forty acres of grass and I think – What a waste of time. Or I’m just in need of medication because I really don’t get it.

  2. Angela V-C says:

    I agree. I don’t want the yard — who wants to mow it? I love it that the city comes and takes care of “our” park. I also love that I can clean up my small house in an hour or so (even if it’s really messy). I have to take care of everything I own, and I’d prefer to own very little than to have to take care of a lot.

  3. Charlotte says:

    I agree completely on the mowing of a lawn, but what I miss most in the city is the connection to the earth that I get while gardening. For me it is not work, it’s something closer to church.
    I have a community garden plot, which is better than nothing, but it’s so disheartening when malicious passer-by sabotage my garden just for the pleasure of hurting me.
    Living in Europe was nice because I had a small veranda outside enormous doors on which I could grow flowers and herbs. This was enough for me. New England architecture tends to be better insulated, so no herb garden for me.

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