If you sell your car, you’ll need to devise a method to carry heavy loads. Even minor loads can become troublesome when you’re not prepared. If you eat at home frequently, expect to carry at least 50lbs. of groceries each week. If you have children, you’ll need to shuttle your little ones to school, to church, and to sports practice. And when you buy furniture or appliances, you’ll need to transport them into your house. So how, exactly, do you haul a refrigerator into the kitchen if you don’t own a car?
I’ve been living without a car for about two years now. During that time, I’ve experimented with dozens of unconventional methods for carrying heavy loads over long distances. I hope this article inspires you to customize these set-ups to fit your own needs. Trust me: with a ingenuity and elbow-grease, you can move practically anything sans car (1).
Here’s a list of my favorite tactics:
Order it online
Many brick-and-mortar shops now offer online ordering and home-delivery. Take advantage of it! Walmart, Home Depot, Target, Sears, Macy’s, Kohl’s, Dell, and Apple now deliver directly to your home. Sam’s Club and Costco seem to only deliver to business districts, but perhaps you can negotiate with the local store manager. Here’s a massive compilation of online grocery chains that offer home delivery. You should consider Safeway, AmazonFresh, FreshDirect, and Peapod. Most chains only offer delivery in limited locations, so ask around. Sometimes, as with the case of Albertsons, home-delivery is offered only in select areas so it’s not widely advertised.
You can definitely get home-delivered organic food. There are large organic chains like Diamond Organics as well as small-scale, local farms. Local Harvest, Eat Wild, and the Eat Well Guide are have enormous listings of local farms that deliver. I used to be part of a CSA program that offered home delivery. Currently, I’m getting free-range chicken eggs delivered to my apartment from a farm in Miaoli.
Home delivery can be expensive (expect a 50-100% markup). However, it can save you a lot of time, which you can use for relaxation or for work (to earn more money). At one point, I even hired a personal assistant to shop for me (via Care.com). It was cheaper to hire a personal grocery shopper at $15/hr than it was to pay for insurance and gas. In the process, I freed up a lot of time.
Rent a car
Don’t own a car just to move large furniture; renting is much cheaper. You can even use frequent flyer miles or credit cards rewards points to pay for rentals.
For about a year, I was a member of ZipCar. I used it every other week for grocery shopping. It cost about $30 for 3 hours, which was enough time to round up all the groceries I needed for two weeks. I didn’t have to take out a car loan, nor did I have to pay for gas, insurance, or campus parking. I later experimented with renting a car for church on Sundays. This tactic is extremely convenient if you have kids.
Recently, I discovered I overpaid for car rentals. Experienced travelers can get full-day rentals for less than $30. With rewards points, you can rent a car for less than $15 per day.
Transform your bicycle into a workhorse
I upgraded my tandem and my road bike so each one can easily handle over 75lbs. of groceries. My favorite method is to attach a grocery basket
to the handlebars, then mount a rack
on the rear frame and attach baskets to the side. Here’s a photo of my set-up for the tandem bike.
Most of my groceries fit in the front and side baskets, but when I need extra capacity, I can tie boxes onto the bike rack using a bungee cord. Even when fully loaded, the bikes still give a comfortable ride. Bike shops are extremely helpful for installing these custom parts.
If you do a lot of shopping, you can invest in a grocery trailer. Trailers attach to the bike frame and let you haul over 200lbs. on a single trip. You might even be able to haul a refrigerator with just a single bicycle.
Carrying children is trickier. If you have an infant, you can carry him with a child seat attached to your bike frame. When he grows older, he can ride with you in tandem with a special bike trailer attachment. The tandem bolts onto your existing bike seat. The kids won’t be able to steer, but they’ll still get some exercise.
If you have a big family, you’ll definitely want to invest in a child’s trailer. The bonus of having a child’s trailer is that you can use it as a grocery cart when you go shopping.
Hsinya and I don’t have any kids (yet), so we’ve never tested this out ourselves. However, we have experimented with tandem bikes. I recommend either a collapsible tandem or a detachable trailer. Don’t buy a full-sized tandem: they’re too bulky to pack up into a van or a bus.
Get a Hand Truck
It’s better than
borrowing a grocery cart. Find one that can carry over 200lbs., but can collapse to the size of a textbook. Hand trucks/folding shopping carts can be combined with public transit to shorten walking distance. However, hand trucks can be difficult to use if sidewalks are in disrepair (or non-existent, like in Taiwan). In these cases, I just use my backpack and travel bags.
The particular solution doesn’t matter; just make sure you find one that works for you. It has to be cost-effective, simple, and convenient. If it’s not a solution you can live with on a weekly basis, you’ll find yourself wanting to own a car all over again.
Keep in mind that hauling heavy loads will always be a slight challenge without a car. Getting the perfect solution takes experimenting, so don’t give up quickly. Remind yourself of the millions of dollars you’re saving, as well as all the energy you’re conserving. You’re helping the environment and getting a good workout along the way.
With a little ingenuity and determination, you’d be surprised with what you can come up with.
- Michael Bluejay uses his bicycle to move to his new place. This article made me laugh.
- Photo attributions in order of photo appearance: Robert S. Donovan, CC BY; our own photo; tandemracer, CC BY; Howard N2GOT, CC BY;Mark Stosberg, CC BY-NC-SA; Hand Truck Sentry System, CC BY; ABMJG, CC BY-NC-ND; Foxtongue, CC BY.