Unique Small Towns Where You Don’t Need a Car

Rose Morrison

Mar 8, 2021

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There are many reasons you might want to ditch the car. Aging Americans may worry about their ability to operate a vehicle safely. Others simply don’t want the expense of owning transportation, which includes a vehicle payment, maintenance and insurance costs. And for other people, the idea of reducing emissions is more appealing than anything else.

There are some places in the United States where it’s much easier to live without access to your own vehicle. If you live in a rural area without public transportation or nearby stores, you might have a hard time getting the supplies you need or going to appointments. However, you don’t need to live in a major metro center to find a walkable community.

Check out what life looks like in these small towns where you don’t need a car at all.

1. Mackinac Island, Michigan

This small island town on Lake Huron seems almost frozen in time. No automobiles are allowed on the 3.8 square miles filled with horse-drawn carriages and 1800s structures. The island is known as a tourist destination and is a National Historic Landmark to boot, making it a place full of historic character.

If you wish to work and live there, you’ll find ample opportunities in the hospitality industry. You will soon get to know everyone — as under 600 people live there permanently. 

2. Fire Island, New York

If you prefer an east coast setting, Fire Island is another option for carless living. The island is a thin strip of about 8.742 miles total just off the southern part of Long Island. Less than 500 people live on Fire Island, but visitors take a ferry ride to get away from the city’s hustle and bustle.

You’ll find beautiful beaches and a lighthouse. Plus, there are plenty of restaurants and islanders often bike to and from places. 

3. St. Petersburg, Florida

While not wholly vehicle-free, St. Pete is known for great walking and biking paths throughout the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods. It’s laid out, so it’s easy to get from place to place without much effort. The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) also runs public transportation in the area should you need to get further than a few miles from your home. 

4. Bald Head Island, North Carolina

Formerly known as Smith Island, the small village is on the eastern side of the Cape Fear River in North Carolina. It’s close to Wilmington. You must take a ferry to get to the island. Residents use bikes or golf carts to get around from place to place.

This island has about 10,000 acres reserved for nature to protect the sea turtle population. It’s about 5.8 square miles total with a population of under 200 people. 

5. Greenfield, Indiana

If living in Hoosier country is more your style, the birthplace of poet James Whitcomb Riley is an excellent choice for those without a vehicle. The small location boasts everything from an annual festival to restaurants and stores. Most things are within a leisurely bike ride or walk with country backroads at the perfect location for a short jaunt. The town has a population of about 20,000 people. 

6. Santa Barbara, California 

This place on our list of small towns where you don’t need a car is located on the central coast of the state. The town features Ynez Mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. While this is a bit bigger than some of the other tiny places on the list, it still has a small-town feel with more amenities than some other places.

If you live in the downtown area, you can easily walk to nearly anything you need, such as shops and restaurants. Within a short distance, you’ll also find parks and museums. The city is known for its bike paths, bus service and local rail. 

7. Peachtree City, Georgia

Just south of Atlanta, the small town has a population of about 35,766. They are known for using golf carts to get from place to place. While things aren’t always within walking distance and there is no public transportation, you can take your golf cart almost anywhere you’d like in this small town. Expect to see perks for golf cart owners everywhere, such as parking spaces at the local high school and restaurants. 

What to Look for

If you’d like to move to one of the small towns where you don’t need a car, there are hundreds of different towns scattered throughout the United States. Look for a town where most shops and entertainment are within walking distance. Seek out carpool sharing options for the rare times you do need to go a bit further. Think about the atmosphere you most want in the place you live and choose the option working best for your personality.

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