03 Sep Living with Less – The Car Edition
I know a big theme in many of my blogs has been living with less. It’s something I truly believe in and live by. Living with less has allowed me to be free of my ‘stuff’ and I’m happier because of it. I shared with you how I lived in a small 474 square foot apartment in New York City, thanks to living with less. This blog will focus how it’s easy to live with less when you have a smaller, cleaner car.
In New York City I didn’t need a car since the transportation system was so fantastic. Even though the subway and buses were great, I often walked wherever I needed to go. But when I moved to LA, I definitely needed wheels. I really wanted a Mini-Cooper (how CA of me) but they weren’t into negotiating on the price. I ended up with a Honda Accord. It always felt too large for me, and I had a hell of a time parallel parking it! And if I’m being honest, I never loved it – or even liked it.
After almost three years, I knew I wanted something a bit smaller. At the time I was living in the East Bay and commuting on highway 680, which rivals the traffic nightmares of LA. After much consideration, I began looking into an electric option: the Fiat 500e. I had a lot of questions, especially since this was a fully electric car (read: no gas). But after speaking with two different dealerships and going out on a few test drives, I was excited to lease.
What I love about the car:
- The size is perfect! Even though it’s compact, it seems very spacious inside, even in the backseat.
Driving is like playing a video game! I’m constantly trying to conserve battery power when I can. The fun lights on the dash, as well as the mileage calculator and battery percentage, make me feel like I’m playing a game. It also means I’m paying attention to how fast I’m going and am more of a conscious driver.
- It has power! You put the pedal down and it goes, without hesitation. But I don’t do this often because it really eats up the battery.
- It’s super cute! Strangers on the street have stopped me to say this to me. It’s fun, modern and sporty. I love how I look and feel in the car. When I recently had to drive a rental, I realized how much I truly adore my Fiat 500e.
- It saves me money! I received a $2,500 rebate from the state of CA, and got HOV access stickers. This means I can drive solo in the carpool lane (instead of the required 2-3 people) and pay the discounted carpool tolls. The cost to charge (whether at a fast charging station or by plugging into a regular 120 volt outlet at the house) is WAY less than it would be for gas; especially at well over $4/gallon in CA. Could it get better? Yes, some of the charging stations are entirely free (yay Sonoma!) or free for the first hour. The most I’ve ever paid for a four hour charging session was $12 and I rarely use the charging stations.
- It comes with great perks! I get 12 free days a year of rental cars built into my lease, for those times when I do need a gas car that can go farther (road trips!). I also get a free year of Sirius Satellite Radio which has been awesome.
- Bye-bye gas stations! I never have to go to a gas station, or get an oil change. I really hate gas stations so this is huge for me.
What I wish was different:
- Sometimes I think it would be easier if it was a hybrid (meaning it had some gas in case I got very low on battery and couldn’t find a charging station). I have to plan everything in advance to make sure I can get where I need to go – and back!
- I wish the charging didn’t take as long, but my car charges faster than some of the other models. If the car is fully empty (which it never is) it would take 24 hours to fully charge on a 120 volt outlet, and 4 hours to fully charge on a 240 volt outlet (i.e. the fast chargers). Most of the time this isn’t a problem, or maybe I’ve just gotten used to it. But I also don’t travel very far from where I live.
- There aren’t enough public charging stations. Living in the Silicon Valley, I have access to many stations, but there are a lot of people with electric cars, so it’s hard to find an open station. Also, there’s a whole new set of etiquette when it comes to charging stations (not unplugging someone’s session, which sadly happened to me). For those stores that do have charging stations in their parking lots, you get pretty great parking spots, and can stay for as long as it takes you to charge (sometimes that’s longer than other cars get).
- I wish the mileage were a bit better. Depending on how you drive the car, you get about 90 miles to a full charge on surface streets or in stop-and-go traffic. If you drive on the highway, that goes down significantly. Similar electric options (Smart Car, Nissan Leaf) have lower mileage range, but the Tesla brand gets hundreds of miles to a charge, and only take 20 min to charge in a fast charger. The BMW version gets similar mileage to the 500e, but has a small reserve tank of gas for emergencies.
- While I do love my white interior (and am especially thankful for it in the summer heat) it is incredibly hard to keep clean. I can’t use seat covers because of the airbags built into the seat (which cannot be covered). Mr. Clean Magic Erasers and Purell wipes are my saving graces.
I love my car and wouldn’t trade it for a regular gas car. Yes, it limits where I can go, but so long as I plan in advance I can do whatever I need to do. I do not recommend getting an electric car if you are not a planner. As an organizer, I often haul off donations for my clients, and this car is big enough for me to do so (although clients are always a little skeptical; it’s all in how you pack a trunk).
Should you get an electric car? If you have a long commute on a highway, do not get this as your primary car. If you have a hellish commute that includes a lot of stop-and-go, this would be a great car for you. It will charge when you are breaking, and the stop-and-go will conserve battery. Plus you have the Sirius radio stations to keep you entertained. If you don’t think you can handle a fully electric car, I still recommend you test drive the regular gas Fiat 500. They are super fun and sporty cars, and a great alternative to the Mini-Cooper.
Having a smaller car means I cannot put so much in it, which stops me from buying big, bulky items. I also have to keep it super clean because of its size. I love my trunk organizer (a Christmas gift from a few years ago), which allows me to hold what I need in a small space. They’ve recently come out with a great trunk organizer for the golfer in your life (which I will be gifting a few people).
I love living with less, and having less in an electric car (smaller, sportier, better for the environment) has been very rewarding. Now if only I could live with less in my every-day handbag!
If you have any questions about owning an electric car, ask me.