Is it worth it to buy a car for dating purposes?
August 17, 2009 6:41 PM   Subscribe

Is it worth it to buy a car for dating purposes?

At the beginning of the year I got my PhD in electrical engineering from the University of Washington, and then took a job at Microsoft. I didn't have a car as a grad student but I set up my life so that I didn't need one. I moved into a nicer apartment, but in the same neighborhood, so it's pretty easy to see my existing friends. So all the money I would have spent on a car goes straight into my 401(k). I'm pretty happy to avoid the complications and expenses that come with being a car-owner, and also take some satisfaction in generating fewer of the negative externalities associated with cars (pollution, congestion, sprawl). And if I had one I'd only use it a few times a month.

I was pretty happy with things until a local columnist wrote this piece criticizing the general quality of available men in Seattle which in general I'm not taking that seriously, but it did contain the sentence "Who the fuck wants to date a guy who takes the bus everywhere?" which struck a nerve. Do many women really think that way?

I think dating without a car was fine when I was a grad student, and especially dating other female grad students, some of who did not have cars of their own. But now I am meeting new people mainly through Most of them seem to have cars, and this can make dating a bit awkward sometimes at the beginning. I don't want to plan a date that involves asking her to drive us somewhere so it limits me to things that are easier to get to by walking or busing than by car. It also limits me to people who live in easily accessible areas. There are a lot of women who live in those areas, and even with a car it would be better to date someone close by, but it's still a limitation. It also seems unseemly to accept occasional rides from my poor grad student friends (I never ask, by the way, but sometimes they are offered), but on the other hand I have co-workers who make what I do without having a car, so it's not like I'm the only guy around without one.

It's easy to dismiss anyone who would insist on only dating a guy with a car as superficial. And I wouldn't want to date anyone who made that a litmus test. But it might make me seem just a little bit less attractive, which is enough not to date me. I've been meeting a lot of people and then going on a couple of dates, and then nothing, so while I know this is a bit of a numbers game, as an engineer I am casting about to look for something about myself that I can fix.

Part of me wants to have a car, and if I lived somewhere more sprawly I would definitely have one. But then part of me thinks it's a ridiculous expense, given that I rarely need it, that it's about the most expensive status symbol I could buy, and there are a whole lot of other things I would rather do with that money.

So, should I buy a car or not? You can also write to
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (85 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Don't spend money to change your life to conform to the desires of an angry Seattle Weekly columnist.

She asks: "Who the fuck wants to date a guy who takes the bus everywhere?"

The answer is: Someone who you will like dating a lot more than you would like dating her. That's who.
posted by The World Famous at 6:45 PM on August 17, 2009 [22 favorites]

Maybe you should get Zipcar. Getting a car just for dating purposes seems ridiculous.
posted by jclovebrew at 6:46 PM on August 17, 2009 [15 favorites]

Seattle isn't San Francisco, but carlessness doesn't seem to be any sort of assumption or impediment to dating in SF. You just don't need one.

I personally don't date people who don't have a car, but it's because it tells me that their lifestyle and mine won't mesh, not for any status reason. If you aren't interested in dating people who live a car lifestyle I'm not sure you'd need a car.
posted by small_ruminant at 6:46 PM on August 17, 2009

You'll have to think about whether not having a car is in any way an essential part of your personality and how much you care about that sort of thing. I've lived in Seattle. I've had a car and not had a car. I've dated guys who have had cars and who have not had cars. I did notice that once cell phones became more popular [I lived there in the 90s] people would make more "I'll call you when I'm on the way" sort of plans that didn't really work for me if I was taking the bus. That said I've gone on a lot of "let's take the bus together" dates that were totally fine. I've also ridden a bike to dates in Seattle which was also fine.

All of this is to say that if you tend towards any of these [cycling especially] and are looking for someone who is also like that, that will be fine for dating. Would you mind dating a woman without a car? Would you consider it a plus, minus, neutral? So if you're okay personally not having a car [hey, they're expensive and you're saving mad amounts of money] then make it work for dating. Get a Zipcar for occasional dates if you feel that it's important, or you can even rent a car if you meet someone you like and you want to leave town or something.

I personally don't think that having a car is a foregone conclusion if you live in a city. You don't mention whether you live in Seattle or in the burbs. You might find a car more important if you're not in the city proper especially if the date-like things you want to do are city-based.
posted by jessamyn at 6:46 PM on August 17, 2009

Yeah, what? Unless you're looking to date really entitled chicks, don't buy a car. I'm sure you can find a nice girl who will ride the bus with you.

And if that columnist really wants a ride, she should probably get her own car.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:47 PM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

I can definitely see your side of things and I would actually think it was pretty awesome that you have worked things out for yourself so that you can not have a car. Having said that, it would probably get pretty irritating for me (if I were dating you) to either always be driving to you or having to always make our plans accommodating to the fact that you have to walk or take public transportation.

But really, my first thought when I finished your question was, have you considered getting a scooter? It seems like the perfect compromise -- they can be inexpensive to buy and maintain, but it will give you the mobility that you feel like you may need.
posted by kitty teeth at 6:47 PM on August 17, 2009

If you're making good money, you could always just rent a car for a while and see if it makes a difference.

The Eastside is generally pretty unfriendly to the vehicle-less, and there's a lot of great stuff to do around the greater Seattle region that isn't really feasible to travel to using our (horrid) public transportation system.

Your lifestyle sounds more conducive to a somewhat classy newer rental, rather than outright ownership and the millstones that come with it.
posted by Aquaman at 6:52 PM on August 17, 2009

What about a carshare? ZipCar's in Seattle. You get the convenience of a car (including for non-dating-related things), there's far less obligation and cost than actually owning one, and it makes you look environmentally conscious. Win!
posted by you're a kitty! at 6:53 PM on August 17, 2009

No, you don't need a car, and nor should you get one, until you actually need one. I'm a city dwelling single female and most people I know don't own cars. It is in no way a turnoff, dating-wise. And if it is a turn-off for a girl, well, you probably don't want to be dating her anyways, so you can consider your lack of a car a quality control filter.
posted by emd3737 at 6:57 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

As long as the guy I was dating was fine with somehow getting over to my side of the city on bike/mass trans/jet pack/whatever just about as frequently as I'd make it over to his in my car, I could care less. I have also found that hanging out with anyone who lives a car-free lifestyle for any length of time tends to make me think twice about getting in my car all the time. I will tend to walk or bike to more places, since that's what we do together. But I'm suggestible like that.
posted by medeine at 7:00 PM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

Please note: I don't date and I live in the suburbs, so ymmv.

It looks like this issue/article is the only thing keeping you car-free. In that case, I'd say stick with the car-lessness until it becomes a huge problem. (Some examples: moving, job further away, parents/friends moving further away, etc.)

I've dated guys with and without cars. The car guy made things much easier for me (considering at that time I didn't have a car), but I felt pressured into doing things that I didn't care for since he had to come get me from the bumblefuck suburbs to the city he lived in. It also meant that I had to rely on his schedule to do things (which was a problem since the bastard liked to sleep until 1pm).

The non-car dude was a bigger pain in my ass. (Note: I'm not saying you will be like this, but it came up often enough to be a problem.) I felt constantly put out that I had to go find wherever he wound up (since he was staying with friends while "in between jobs") and drive him back to wherever he was staying. He would volunteer my driving services to other people who were carless without asking.

For me, a lack of any vehicle would plant you firmly into the 'do not date' pile. But I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who would love to go places served by public transit. (And of course, there's always Zipcar/other flavors of rentals, should the need arise.)
posted by sperose at 7:02 PM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you've hit a point in your life where having access to a car could make your life easier. No shame in that. Sounds like a Zipcar membership could be a good start in testing that theory.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:04 PM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

A good proportion of the guys I dated (before Ralph) had no cars. Ralph didn't have a car when I met him, either. I jokingly say he married me for my Volkswagen! (the car I had at the time...oh do I miss it...)

I'm thinking your lack of car-ness is a great screening tool. You won't get stuck dating shallow women who don't share your values. Nothing wrong with that!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:07 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I agree that you should lay out the $75 and try Zipcar or another car share service (unless you live in NYC or SF or an equivalently dense urban center, blah blah blah). Buying a car just to date seems like a bit much, but dating without a car can also be a big pain.

Reasons a car is a good idea for dating:

* As you mention, your ideal date may well not be within the 4-8 mile range of easy public transportation. Dating someone 25 miles away when you have to take the bus can be a real pain and a real waste of time. Driving to see that person wouldn't be a problem.

* You don't want to always end dates by saying "Oh, it's 10:30pm, I have to go catch the last bus!" I mean, seriously.

* If one partner has a car and the other doesn't, the obligation of always being the designated driver can really grate on that person and erode the fun of dating.

* The romance of a weekend day trip to a nearby rural community can be severely hindered by the realities of Greyhound.

and finally...

* You can't have an impromptu romantic interlude on a city bus. Or, well, you could, but you could also get arrested.
posted by eschatfische at 7:08 PM on August 17, 2009 [10 favorites]

I don't have a car, and neither does the lovely man I've just started dating. I've got a motorcycle, and he's got a bicycle, and that'd be all fine and dandy if he didn't also have a broken leg. As it currently stands, the broken leg makes getting around together a royal pain in the ass, but honestly, he's more than worth it.

Before this guy, I was involved with someone who was really attached to his truck, to the point where he'd drive 5 blocks to get breakfast, rather than walk. It was a basic incompatibility in our lifestyles, and kind of drove (haha) me crazy.
posted by mollymayhem at 7:09 PM on August 17, 2009

I hate cars, don't own one, and would have no problem dating someone without a car. That said, not having a car does limit your dating and activity options. And I find that my boyfriend does a far amount a driving when we can't take the bus somewhere. I'm really looking forward to the fall (I'm in Austin) when it's cool enough to bike places.
posted by lunalaguna at 7:10 PM on August 17, 2009

Bluntly, having access to a car can make a big difference in your dating life. If you just want to stick your toe in the water,

Step 1) As people are suggesting, yeah, Zipcar.

If you like the flexibility that having a car gives you, and you decide that you want to go further and own a car, then

Step 2) Craigslist.

You can find perfectly viable cars for $2K-- just decide that you are not buying a status symbol, but an appropriate tool. If you like, you can, for dating purposes, even prepare a little speech about how your Not a Status Symbol car saves you money and allows you to do interesting things, such as A, B, and C.
posted by darth_tedious at 7:12 PM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

Zipcar, Autoshare, etc. This has been pointed out already. Buying an entire car, which comes with a whole host of extra costs you really don't want/need, seems excessive if your goal is to just take a woman out to a restaurant. That said, I'd probably want to date a woman who is cool with the fact I don't drive. If you live in the city, I can't imagine it's hard to meet other people who don't drive.

Anyways, I'm married and don't have a drivers license. I don't live in Seattle, though.
posted by chunking express at 7:12 PM on August 17, 2009

Would it occassionally be mildly annoying that you don't have a car? Of course. Has anyone ever dated anyone where there wasn't at least one thing about them or their life/lifestyle that was occassionally mildly annoying? Probably not if they were being honest... don't worry about it -- girls who care as a status symbol thing aren't worth it, and most girls will be accommodating if they like you.
posted by brainmouse at 7:13 PM on August 17, 2009

My wife says, "don't listen to anything this guy says."
posted by chunking express at 7:14 PM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

Buy a cheap and cheaply insurable car with cash, drive it infrequently.
posted by kathrineg at 7:20 PM on August 17, 2009

I definitely live in sprawlville, but as a dating woman, no car is a deal breaker. Especially now that I'm out of grad school. For all the reasons pointed out, especially the resentment that can come from always being responsible for driving. And, it's silly, but I think there's something really nice/sweet/romantic about being picked up for a date and taken out. In my mind the differentiation between a hangout/get to know you and a "date" is being picked up at home.

FWIW, my friend in Seattle has declared moped + zipcar to be the perfect transportation solution for him.
posted by LolaCola at 7:26 PM on August 17, 2009

The Seattle Weekly is kind of stupid anyway. There are plenty of women worth dating who would be more than happy to date a guy without a car. Don't listen to this ranty, stupid woman. And don't read The Seattle Weekly.
posted by Neofelis at 7:36 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Nthing the Zipcar. I love it!
posted by avex at 7:40 PM on August 17, 2009

I was in the same boat as you, same city, and sought advice on the same subject, the consensus of this advice being to not worry about it - that people who hold carlessness against you are people you're better off not knowing. I consider that advice to be wrong.

But the problem is, most of the time, it's not because someone is shallow, it's something they learned the hard way, because most everyone else they've met who has chosen to live without a car has been someone to avoid. Perhaps they couldn't get their license for some reason, or lack of motivation, or were perpetually asking people to drive them places, or were rabid activists, or whatever. But my impression is that an awful lot of people - good, intelligent, kind, deep people included - have been trained without even realising it that carlessness is a red flag. And this works against you at a level that you can't even address, because it's often not even conscious.

Red flags, even potential red flags, are the last thing you need when dating. And I think finding that special someone is important enough that the cost of owning a car is less than the cost to relationship opportunities of not owning one.

So I bought a car.

It made a big difference.

It sucks, but we romance in the world we have, not the world we want.

(I looked into zipcar. Their service in my area had recently changed greatly for the worse and seemed so crappy that it was worst of both worlds.)
posted by -harlequin- at 7:42 PM on August 17, 2009 [11 favorites]

I would definitely use ZipCar if I were in your position, because there's likely one nearby and its contained costs and spur-of-the-moment-typical-availability would work perfectly for something like a date.

Clearly, it helps expand your search radius by a good chunk, because most internet first dates for me were "let's meet someone mid-way, and in public".

But don't buy a car JUST for dating. ZipCar is $50 a year and something like $8 an hour. Really, that's all you need. Set aside a budget of $500 a year, and you'll save thousands and still be able to keep some mobility.
posted by disillusioned at 7:42 PM on August 17, 2009

But now I am meeting new people mainly through

I know what you mean about I noticed that about half the women on there say you MUST have a car. So I was like, eh, whatever. I just added to my profile, "I don't have a car -- sorry to the half of you on here who say you must have a car." Did this hurt my chances? I have no idea. But I hope it did, because that would mean it increased my chances with the person who's now my girlfriend (who also doesn't have a car). (BTW, I met her through OKCupid, where you're probably more likely to meet people who are more open-minded.)

Don't conform your life to what you think the majority of the population wants. Organize your life the way you like. If it works well for you, you can bet other people (eligible women) will pick up on that and have a positive attitude about it.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:55 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

A person not owning a car is not a deal breaker for me, but a person who doesn't have his/her transportation shit together (be it renting a car or zipcar or taking a cab or whatever) is a deal breaker. I have a friend who doesn't have a car who always expects to get a ride everywhere, even though he lives in the complete opposite direction of me and everyone else I know. I've noticed that he ends up not getting invited to a lot of stuff now because of the whole He-Needs-A-Ride thing going on.
posted by gt2 at 7:56 PM on August 17, 2009

My sister stopped seeing a pretty nice guy, and started seeing another not-as-nice guy, because guy #2 had a car.

My sister is an idiot*.

(*My sister is actually pretty smart otherwise, just not so much when it comes to the opposite sex... but seriously, you want someone who looks for more than that in a companion.)
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 7:58 PM on August 17, 2009

I honestly don't give a shit whether the guys I date have cars or not.

Mind you, I live in New York City, so it's almost weird to meet someone who does have a car. But if the kind of person you are just doesn't need a car right now, you want someone who can complement who you are,'re better off just being that guy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:14 PM on August 17, 2009

Only if your first name is Ferris and people consistently refer to you as "that moron". In other words, no. Why can't she be the one with the car? Get a tandem bicycle.
posted by turgid dahlia at 8:22 PM on August 17, 2009

Nthing the don't-get-a-car-just-to-get-a-date crowd.

You've got a PhD in EE, and you work for Microsoft, for Christsakes.
1) You're Smart
2) You've got a good job.
3) You have friends and a personality.

Stand up and be proud of yourself, you qualify as an eligible bachelor. Dating material. Women have dated you before, women will date you in the future.

Take this with a grain of salt - I'm a guy, which means I don't know anything about women, but I'll say this: women will happy adjust to any number of challenges/quirks if they're really into the guy. Don't make excuses for your lack of car, own it as a part of who you are. Men throughout history have gotten dates with fantastic women while wrestling with far greater challenges (though I dispute it's a challenge) than yours here.

Besides, you're looking for someone that you're really into as well - how into her would you really be if she started complaining about your lack of car?

And if it's really an issue? Take an MSF class and buy a motorcycle. Far more fun. ;)
posted by swngnmonk at 8:23 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


women will happily adjust ....
posted by swngnmonk at 8:24 PM on August 17, 2009

I don't think it's necessary to own a car, but try not to be that person who is always insistent that everything must happen directly on a transit line or is always subtly angling for a ride home at the end of the night. That might mean joining a car share program so you have a car available occasionally, or just being willing to suck up the expense of an occasional cab fare to get home at the end of the night.

If you do end up dating a driver, try arrange things so she's not always forced to drive anyway. Speaking as someone who drives and has a lot of non-driving friends, I really miss wine with dinner.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:25 PM on August 17, 2009 [5 favorites]

I can't understand why in hell the columnist thinks you should be assumed to be bringing the car into the relationship, and not the woman.

(assuming that being able to drive places is even that important in the first place)

That's in keeping with a general principle that anybody who expects you to do or have X, when they themselves don't do or have that exact same thing, is prone to self-centred hypocrisy & should probably be avoided.

(maybe you end up with a tiny bit more flexibility with two cars, but since it's unimportant to you, but potentially important to the woman, then the onus is on her to provide the car. this is all very fine & reasonable, as long as you have a licence & can share the driving duties, as well as pitching in for petrol, and maybe some maintenance)
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:31 PM on August 17, 2009

Commute by bus, get Flexcar for when you need to impress the ladies.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:34 PM on August 17, 2009

Date a girl with a bicycle.
posted by apetpsychic at 8:39 PM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

I'm on the side of "there's a big divide between 'must have car' and 'annoyed by having to arrange every date around the vagaries of public transit/bicycle or always having to be the one who drives.'"

The "sometimes car," whether it's Zipcar or the local Enterprise office, is a great boon.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:45 PM on August 17, 2009

Disclaimer: female, Californian, nondriver who has dated those with and without cars.

I'd say to Zipcar it for the first few dates if you're worried, but in general, I think people with cars (especially females given our ah, socialization) are probably not going to go for you so much. Chicks without cars know what it's like and aren't necessarily going to be so annoyed with your not being able to get to places faster, go to farther places without public transport, not being able to toddle off to that little bed n' breakfast that's located in East Bumfuck. Chicks without cars may enjoy riding Amtrak with you and snuggling on the train, not mind bus rides, etc.

Chicks with cars will be annoyed at your methods of travel being slower and more limited, and to some degree they are going to think that you are a slacker who wants rides all the time, suspect you are not an adult, etc. a la sperose's example. Let's face it, that stuff applies to me as well, but as a chick I am not going to be judged quite as harshly as you are about it because no guy is expecting me to come off as In Charge Behind The Wheel.

But let's face it: no car does limit your options on women, period, and harlequin is right. Sorry. If that's your #1 priority is to get more tail, then get the car. If you can deal with a smaller selection of women, stay car-free and find a girl who is also cool with not driving in the city. I tend to think that the woman who's cool with your not driving is a better match than getting a car just to chase tail, but there's no denying that the car will make the tail chase easier.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:47 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

What is the dating pool like in Seattle? If there are more MSW then eligible women then yeah, getting a car IS going to improve your chances. I live in an area with sucky public transit and not having a car (or shelling out for rentals or zipcar) would be a complete dealbreaker. I wouldn't even bother with a first date if you mentioned you were riding a bus and needed a meeting place on a transit route (this was okay when I was in school though). So unless Seattle has awesome 24h transit the lack of a car is a reason NOT to date you for some women (not necessarily because I am shallow but because as someone with a car I have known a LOT of carless friends that impose a little bit too much - a dependant man is not an attractive quality for a lot of women and for a lot of us past experience has taught us no car=dependance).
posted by saucysault at 8:57 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't have a car and do just fine with the ladies. As long as you carry yourself the right way and appear self-sufficient, I think it can be an asset. I get around primarily by bike, and this is in Minneapolis--girls are generally pretty impressed when you ride five miles in the snow to come see them, even though it's no big deal for me at this point.

Zipcar and the like are decent options, but you should definitely have a driver's license and be willing to drive occasionally unless you're specifically targetting the anti-car crowd for dating purposes.
posted by substars at 9:09 PM on August 17, 2009

My fiancé doesn't have a car, nor do I. We do have a membership to the various car-sharing schemes in our city. It wasn't a consideration when we met, and isn't now. Riding the bus together was quite a romantic thing to do when we were dating, and still proves to be an adventure.

Have a bike, use it. Also know when to be chivalrous and use a taxi or carshare service. Once in a while, rent a car and go out of town with your various quarries. Know how to drive, do it well, but don't think that it takes car ownership to land a girl or keep one.

For us, it just isn't a concern. In many cases, it's a point of pride. The money we would have spent on a car purchased a sailboat, took us to the Grenadines for sailing trips, took us to the UK, Canada, posh trips in the US. We have a beautiful home and a very happy life. I don't miss the car at all.
posted by cior at 9:40 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

There are some people (my partner's sister-in-law is one) who just can't fathom not owning an automobile. It's an identifier, to some, of Adult Status. Some of us think that people who tick off the milestones by rote instead of necessity are a bit touched in the head.

I once dated a boy briefly who was so suburban-sprawl-minded that he and his friends INSISTED on driving from one bar to the next. Fewer than five blocks. He and I didn't last long.

Don't get a car if you don't want one. Unless you're dating that columnist.
posted by desuetude at 9:42 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Perhaps there's America-specific stuff going on that I don't get here (eg 'past experience has taught us no car=dependance'), but if you live in an actual city, what's wrong with taxis?

I largely bought my car for that ability to leave town. Within the city, if I just directed the maintenance budget (including rego, including insurance, including petrol etc etc) to taxis I could get around as well (probably better, probably cheaper) than any car driver.

(That said, if a woman doesn't fancy dating you because of your transport situation, why would you bother? Is she waiting for some bloke on a white charger? She could always grow up, or transport herself, or whatever... but I know that isn't an answer to your question.)
posted by pompomtom at 9:44 PM on August 17, 2009

Rent a car for dates.
posted by luckypozzo at 10:00 PM on August 17, 2009

I have nothing to back this up but a hunch but I suspect there are more single women with cars simply because even one instance of harassment on public transport would put a lot of women off the bus and into a vehicle they can control and feel safe in. So that may also be a factor in how many single women have cars that are Seattle.

Having a car is probably not held against you by women that have a car or don't have a car; but NOT having a car might be held against you by women with cars and don't want to be a chauffeur, as well as by some women that don't have their own cars but don't always want to ride the bus either. Betting on numbers means a car owner would probably come out on top.

pompomtom - my personal past experience with dating is that if one person has a car and the other person arrives via public transit/taxi and the end of the date there is (not so) subtle pressure to provide a free ride home to the car-less person even if it is out of the way (and offering to pay creates a whole other level of awkwardness so there is no way to win). Or else there is that awkward wait together for the taxi that doesn't show up for 45 mins when the date has been long enough and I just want to go home. This pressure is multiplied if the dating becomes a relationship and creates a real burden on the only car-owner. THAT is the dependance many car drivers have dealt with in the past, despite the availability of alternative modes of transport that the car-less person may deem too expensive or inconvenient. That baggage is brought to any potential partner without a car (that and smug people railing against cars for whatever reason - personal expense, environment, status - WHILE I am driving them around for free).
posted by saucysault at 10:18 PM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

aaaand on non-preview I meant in the first line "more single women with cars versus single men".
posted by saucysault at 10:19 PM on August 17, 2009

If you're willing to do what it takes to get where you need to go, then no, you don't need a car. If you're going to take 4 types of public transportation/bike and end up an hour late and sweaty, then yes, it's going to hurt your prospects. I highly recommend zip car if you want to expand your radius - but, that being said, I find a man that can hail a cab with aplomb very sexy.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:45 PM on August 17, 2009

New Yorker who doesn't drive dating another New Yorker who doesn't drive. Most previous boyfriends also did not drive. It's not a deterrent unless you let it be. I'd have to agree with the Zipcar-devotees. I do enjoy snuggling on the train on the way back from dates. Couldn't do that in a car.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:09 PM on August 17, 2009

I really don't know how practical it is to not have a car in Seattle. I would probably not date a guy in LA who didn't have a car, because it is pretty ridiculous to not have a car in LA. I just can't imagine it. However, a guy in NYC or DC? Sure and in fact I have. Yeah it could get annoying to always be carting him to the supermarket to pick up heavy things he didn't want to haul on the subway home, but overall it was fine. However, if I was always expected to pick him up, go to his house, be the designated driver, etc I would definitely give the relationship a second thought.

Maybe go half way and get a vespa?

I also think harlequin makes a really good point. It's sort of like meeting a guy at the bar and finding out he lives with his mother. He may be supporting her because she's sick and can't support herself and your dad left her and you are the best human being in the world, but chances are unless you meet the person in a purely platonic setting you'll never get much past "I live with my mother." I really don't know what kind of city Seattle is but if it was in LA yeah it would be quite the red flag, but once again not in DC/NYC (which are my only frames of reference).

Whatever you decide you should definitely have a valid license and be able to drive a stick so you can drive her car if she wants you to.
posted by whoaali at 11:38 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

When I lived in San Francisco during my '20s, i had no car--but neither did many of my friends. So, I'd rent a car on weekends when going out of town. This was pre-dotcom-boom, so money and material objects mattered much less. I bought a new car at 30. It's been my 2nd biggest expense ever since. Don't buy a car. Zip or rent.
posted by doncoyote at 12:12 AM on August 18, 2009

Saucysault nailed it. I participated in a hiking group that ran for a few years where half the participants were carless and half had cars. Some of the carless got zipcars once in a while and offered to drive. Resentment grew towards the carless over time, rightly or wrongly, since there was no feeling of quid pro quo. Eventually the car drivers and zipcar drivers dumped the terminally carless members. It wasn't really about driving -- they were breaking unwritten social rules about reciprocity between adults.

Being terminally carless in a car-owning area carries the same stigma as being the person who always brings a shitty dish to a potluck dinner. Get on zipcar, always offer to drive and pay for gas on roadtrips, and never let the other person feel obligated to drive you anywhere.
posted by benzenedream at 12:26 AM on August 18, 2009

SF-living, non-car-owning female here: I'm honestly surprised by the number of women (and men, apparently) who are saying it will hurt your prospects if you don't have a car. I am just not in that camp at all. I lived in Seattle for a few years in the mid-90s, and even then, there were plenty of things to do for date-type reasons that were easily accessible via public transportation. I would not have given (and still don't) a thought at all to whether or not someone had a car. In fact, I think it's weird that people are seeming to expect that it's your (read: the man's) responsibility to have the car. That just does not resonate with me. If either of the people owns a car -- bonus! If not, well, you're in the same boat as me and it's just not an issue.

I will say, however, that I have a CityCarShare membership -- and it is the perfect solution for when you want a car once or twice a month. Far, far cheaper and more convenient than dealing with your own car (and this coming from a person who owned a car from age 18-40. I LOVE not having a car! YMMV, no pun intended.)
posted by hapax_legomenon at 12:42 AM on August 18, 2009

There's nothing I can say in favor of bicycling that hasn't already been mentioned.

So instead I would like to say to all you wonderful, splendid heroes who are ahead of the times and using zipcars and tandems and biking 5 miles in the snow and riding trains and buses and living the lifestyles that make such things possible: you kick ass.

Speaking of ass, bicyclists are known for theirs. This is something that makes them especially dateable.
posted by aniola at 1:20 AM on August 18, 2009

I'm thinking your lack of car-ness is a great screening tool. You won't get stuck dating shallow women who don't share your values. Nothing wrong with that!

There's a red letter day, I agree 100% with St Alia on something. Seriously, this is a filter. If someone is so hung up on "man must have car!" views, I really think you'd quickly find they'd be a piss-poor match in all sorts of other areas of life, especially if it's a view driven less by rational issues ("I like doing stuff that is grossly impractical without a car and get sick of being the driver all the time") and more on weird internalised ye olde sexism ("Why yes, you're the man, of course you have to have the car and ferry me everywhere, that's what men do.")
posted by rodgerd at 1:20 AM on August 18, 2009

I think your main issue might be's cliental, not the car. Try meeting people through activities.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:26 AM on August 18, 2009

It will increase your dating pool. Whether you're interested in the type of women that you gain access to by having a car is a different story.

If it were me and you and I met for a first date and I found out you didn't have a car, that wouldn't be the end of the date but it would definitely be something that would get added into the minus column when considering my interest in a second date. So as long as you've got plenty of other great things about you, it really wouldn't matter. However, if I was on the fence, it might be something that made me figure it was going to be too much bother. But that's also because I'm older and people my age and demographic tend to more frequently have cars.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 1:35 AM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is a really interesting question. It depends on so many factors.

What kind of guy are you? Are you a rugged and traditional guy or more metrosexual? You're living in a good time not to have a car. Caring about the environment and not wanting urban sprawl also happens to be really trendy right now. So if you really don't want a car, you can say that.

It also depends on how important dating is to you right now. Having a car will increase your opportunities, so it may be worth it to you.

Having a zipcar doesn't have the same sex appeal that having your own car does. It does sound more practical though.

The car has long been the symbol of freedom, and a lot of our culture has historically romaticized cars. I buy into it to a certain extent, and I love being surprised, picked up, and driven away to a campfire on the beach or some other romantic adventure.

So for me, I think having a car is worth it for the freedom. With a car I still get excited at the thought that I could just take off, at 4am, and drive somewhere, wherever I wanted -- that I had that ability. I love the freedom that having a car brings.

I know it's not trendy or environmentally friendly or cool, but I still think cars are sexy. Not sure if that helps.

Don't misinterpret though - it is definitely not sexy to invest a lot of time, money, and effort into your car by getting subwoofers, lights, spoilers, and street racing. Ugh.
posted by Flying Squirrel at 1:36 AM on August 18, 2009

For about 10 years, I drove motorcycles, and didn't own a personal car (well, my wife had her car, which I used about 6 times in 8 years, but you get my point). I did, however, have a 1/10 interest in what amounted to a private car partnership, with 9 other guys. Together, we bought and fixed up a number of interesting foreign cars, paid for garage space for them, and enjoyed driving them. At its zenith, we had a GT6 Triumph, an MGA, a Jag XK120, a BMW Isetta (don't ask why), a couple of Alfas, and a couple of MGBs. It worked a lot like an aircraft partnership, and its value to us, beyond the camaraderie, was the kick of having some regular access to what were, even then, some classic cars.

I'm throwing this out, as a creative suggestion, in these cash-for-clunker days. If you only need a car a few days a month, why not figure out a way to make those few days some of the best times of your life, and save some good old hardware from the scrap heap, while making new friends?
posted by paulsc at 3:56 AM on August 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

But now I am meeting new people mainly through

Jaltcoh definitely has it: just be up-front about your car-less status in your profile (or in early emails) in a lighthearted kind of way, and this will silently make your problem go away. There's a chance that it will discourage some people from contacting you, but you should look at that as a feature, not a bug: this gives you the chance to assuage your concerns, AND will help you select for people who are down with your lifestyle. Win-win!

And honestly, I would be far more put-off by someone who wouldn't date a guy without a car, than I would be someone who didn't have a car. It's a fiscally and environmentally responsible way of living that you're very happy with; how dare someone judge you for it!
posted by Mayor West at 4:43 AM on August 18, 2009

um, can't you just take a Taxi to / from Dates?
posted by mary8nne at 4:45 AM on August 18, 2009

Is she a disciple of Thatcher? If so, it's not car use you want to be worried about there...

I know cars are more useful in the States, but I've never dated anyone with a car - only one boyfriend of mine could actually drive. It's not even on the list of things that I need to know about a prospective partner, unless I was planning on moving house soon. To be honest, if someone is that concerned about your having a car, that would raise huge red flags for me. What if the car doesn't turn out to be good enough?

Don't ever think that you need to add something to your life just to improve your chances of dating. There are many good reasons to get a car (and I second the idea of Zipcar) but this really isn't one of them.

(Oh, and I agree on the pimp your ride thing. My nephew does this and, as someone who not only can't drive but is exempt, it's hard as it's the only thing he likes to talk about.)
posted by mippy at 5:31 AM on August 18, 2009

In fact, I think it's weird that people are seeming to expect that it's your (read: the man's) responsibility to have the car.

Relatively few people in this thread have said that. At most five or six, and that's assuming a pretty ungenerous reading of some of their comments. In fact, far more people have said the equivalent "girls who think you should have a car are shallow people that you wouldn't want to know anyway", and almost as many have said "have a car, don't have a car, no one cares as long as you don't make it their problem that you have or don't have a car, be self-sufficient".
posted by jacquilynne at 5:56 AM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I went without a license for years, never mind a car. In hindsight, I'd definitely recommend the car as it allows you to meet more people and go to more social activities than taking public transit.

I know it's a lot of cash (the 2nd most expensive item most of us ever buy), but IMO, it will make a difference in how you are judged. I'd recommend getting one as it will also help you with you career options a bit. It doesn't have to be flashy or super fast or anything but it can't be a rust bucket on it's last legs so to speak.

Certainly not all women will turn you down if you don't have a car, but it often facilitates the getting to know each other process. It does appear to raise flags in some womens minds if you don't have a car.
posted by rooster416 at 5:58 AM on August 18, 2009

So, should I buy a car or not?

Buy a decent car that will last you for years. Why? Because right now, based solely on what you've written here, you sound a bit boring and weird and not the in a good way weird. After all, the reason you gave for not having a car is so that you can put more money in your 401K. While reasonable and admirable, it strikes me as a bad presentation when dating because it looks like you're self absorbed and not much fun. Had you presented as "yeah, not really into adding to pollution and sprawl, I got a sweet bike and hell, I've saving a ton of money" that sounds hot and I'm betting would immediately weed out the superficial people view a car as some token rather than a tool.

Cars are awesome as tool, because they let you travel far and wide to just about any spot and on your schedule, which sounds fun as dating material. Think spontaneous road trips, going to an out of the way shop, restaurant or theatre etc. To have to give all that up, or make them complicated just so the other person can, woohoo, shovel money into their 401K just doesn't sound that sexy.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:07 AM on August 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

I did not have time to read all the answers, but I generally agree with the you don't need a car/carsharing is a good alternative crowd.

I just popped in to tell you this story: I had a work friend once who was trying to date. She definitely used not just car ownership, but type of car as a big part of her decision to date or not date a guy. She kept coming up with losers. She once asked me how I got such awesome guys, who were considerate to me and supportive, etc. I told her that I didn't give a shit about cars.

The moral of the story is that some girls care and some don't. I think its fair to say that there is probably a narrower set of personality/lifestyle types that you will get based on your own choices (any choices: if you have a car, you still might not get girls like my friend who are looking for particular types, and you also might not get girls who are really, really serious about lowering their carbon footprint or whatever). So I think the best strategy for dating (at least, what worked for me), is living your life in a way that is comfortable to you and finding others who are also comfortable with that lifestyle.
posted by carmen at 6:14 AM on August 18, 2009

Don't get a car, but do give yourself permission to take spring for a cab from time to time.
posted by dirtdirt at 6:26 AM on August 18, 2009

Don't get a car. The expenses of repairs and gas money will eat into your ability to save any money for retirement, housing, nice clothes etc.

And do you really want to date some stupid woman who would actually utter that question?
posted by the foreground at 7:05 AM on August 18, 2009

OK I'm kind of shocked by some of the initial answers implying that girls who want guys to have their own car are superficial bitches.

I live in NYC and love using cars even here. It's hard to get around on the subway from place to place within Brooklyn - all trains lead to Manhattan first (and the busses suck compared to Seattle - no bikes allowed on them, for example!). I'm from Seattle and cannot IMAGINE living there without a car.

But then, I'm a camper/hiker/kayaker type and am in withdrawal from that in the city right now. If I were in Seattle and couldn't drive myself out to the mountains or san juans once or twice a month my mind would numb out. It's one of the joys of the place. Someone who couldn't drive their own ass around would really strike me as odd or like they were missing a part of being an adult. I'd wonder why they didn't want the freedom to go wherever they wanted whenever they wanted. I wouldn't rule them out, but it would definitely impact my view of them and their desire for independence and adventure-on-a-whim. And honestly I'd kind of resent it if camping trips, etc., were all done using *my* car, which I pay for, take liability responsibility on, etc. - unless dude did a lot of the driving and paid gas and planned the trip.

I'll also echo Brandon Blatcher on this one, especially in viewing a car as a tool.

So anyway, for me it's not superficial/non, it's preference. You could as easily be living in a studio apartment with a roommate to save money and avoid sprawl, and you'd have no privacy. If you don't care about that, cool. But some girls are going to be put off by having you over to their place all the time to escape the roommate situation.

Whether it's car-valuing or privacy-valuing or whatever, if you wouldn't want to date a girl like that, that's totally fine and you'll weed them out early without a car. But if you're indifferent to it, then getting a car is going to improve your overall chances - just be prepared to always maintain a car in the home if you're going for a long term thing.
posted by lorrer at 7:10 AM on August 18, 2009

I'm a single (and car-free) woman living and dating in Seattle. I do not think you need a car to date. Many of the professional men and women I know do not own cars (and they do just fine with the dating). Seattle is just not as car-centric as cities like, say, LA.

Unless you're primarily dating around the Eastside, I really can't think of any reason having a car would be a deal-maker or -breaker.

Sign up for Zipcar (heck, use me as a reference and we'll both get driving credit!), use cabs to get you and your date home at the end of the night, walk, take the bus. Seattle is a great city to live in without a car. I think that's something to be taken advantage of.
posted by girlstyle at 7:30 AM on August 18, 2009

I don't think that not having a car is, in itself, a big deal. As others have said, if I girl won't go on first date because you don't have a car, then consider it a good screening tool.

That being said -- I think that there's a certain amount of compensatory cabbing and zipcar rental that need to happen. It's not that it matters if you have a car, but it does matter if all your plans have to be in your immediate neighborhood, or on your bus line. While it's ridiculous for women to judge you based on what car you own, it's not ridiculous for them to judge you if all the plans center around your transportation needs, or if you come off as a parsimonious.

Dating is about making the other person feel special, (from both parties) and so sometimes that needs to include you making an effort on the transportation front, like getting a cab to or from her favorite restaurant without dwelling on your transportation situation.

(I live in DC, where you can relatively easily get a cab. If you can't regularly hail a cab in the areas you live or go out, my answer veers slightly more towards getting a old, small, cheap car. Now girls who judge you on what type of car you have -- fck 'em,)
posted by mercredi at 7:52 AM on August 18, 2009

And if you do get a car, please don't take your picture with it and use that on your online dating profile. Having a car or not isn't a dealbreaker for me but taking a picture of yourself with your car most certainly is.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:12 AM on August 18, 2009 [5 favorites]

I'm a poor grad student without a car, and in a city with much worse public transit and weather than Seattle.

I'm sure a few of my acquaintances perceive me as sloppy, careless, and/or lazy because of it. Almost everyone I know has had their own car since they turned 16. It doesn't help that many of them have visceral hatred for bicyclists and slow-moving buses.

But, I just married the girl of my dreams (who has a car). So go figure.
posted by miyabo at 8:12 AM on August 18, 2009

Why is it that I've never read anything remotely interesting or useful in Seattle Weekly?

I'm a woman who lives in Seattle. I don't have a car because I don't need a car here. In fact, that's probably the #1 reason I moved to the city: so that I don't need to have a car.

I'm honestly boggled by the idea that anyone would care if someone had a car or not: it's so far down on the list of things that I would even notice about another person that I had never considered that other people might actually lose interest in someone for something that petty.
posted by lemuria at 8:48 AM on August 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

I think having access to a car will help. I suspect even renting a car for a date just to take her somewhere special shows you care and could be quite attractive. It could be a talking point too. You like to be practical and don't believe in waste but not to the point of ideology. Yes it falls into the "spend to get the girl" trope but if you really like the lady it might be a good move on the 2nd or 3rd date.

Also motorcycles are good for dating purposes and much cheaper to buy/fuel/maintain/insure.
posted by captaincrouton at 9:31 AM on August 18, 2009

is it worth to buy a car for dating purposes? Probably depends on how much you want to CAN date without having a car, you can date a whole lot MORE while having one.....I think as a man you have already worked to have choices in life and choices in partners is probably as significant as the other choices you have already set yourself up with....get either a cheap car/zip car, try to meet people within your neighborhood/town that way you dont have to use it often (so probably less people from Match)
posted by The1andonly at 10:32 AM on August 18, 2009

Hot bikes are just as cool as cars, and guys that bike are hot. however, when I moved out of the city with my boyfriend, i wanted him to learn how to drive and get a car ASAP, because otherwise I was the one who had to do all the driving and then usually pay for it, and related expenses. So he got a car, but that was way after we'd begun dating and we were living in a place where having a car sometimes means having a job. I think at first it really makes no difference, but if it becomes serious, it may be one of those things... or it may not.

Also, if you meet someone that you can get to easily get to by public transportation, it probably will make almost no difference.
posted by Rocket26 at 11:07 AM on August 18, 2009

i wanted him to learn how to drive and get a car

Not evening knowing HOW to drive is a complete deal-breaker for me.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:56 AM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Motorcycles are super cheap to insure, generally cheap to buy, get excellent mileage, and will give you reliable transportation. As a bonus, many women like riding on them.

Whether you feel like braving the Seattle weather on one is the sticking point...
posted by coolguymichael at 12:25 PM on August 18, 2009

Here's an opinion from a middle-aged married lady in the Seattle area.

You are in the dating phase of your life. You finally have enough money to spend on entertainment, dining, weekend trips. You want to date the people who are most desirable to you. Don't let lack of transportation narrow your dating options.

Make sure you have a car available to you! Get a zip car, get a rental plan, or buy a car.

Enjoy this time of your life to the fullest.
posted by valannc at 4:20 PM on August 18, 2009

I think you should get a car. It certainly doesn't have to be a fancy car, but having a car will widen your dating pool both geographically and, judging from the answers you've had, in terms of the number of women who would be willing to go out with you (a not insignificant number in this thread have said that having a car would make a difference!).

The answers that resonate with me, as a single woman, are those that mention the fact that we have all known losers who didn't have cars (usually they don't have licences, either) and often this has been the tip of the iceberg in terms of them lacking independence and the ability to look after themselves. Having known a couple of guys like that, when I meet a man who doesn't have a car it's a red flag wondering whether he'll be one of those types. I wouldn't necessarily not date him, but I'd be far less likely to. And this is not at all a question of being materialistic - it doesn't matter a tiny bit what kind of car it is, just that it's a sign that a man has his act together enough to have one at all.

Don't get a fancy car (women who care about what kind of car you have are almost certainly not worth your time). But a car doesn't have to be a total money sink. Look up the reliability ratings of cars that are a few years old and get one with an excellent record - I did that and ended up with a Ford Focus although there are many other cars out there with good records too. Second hand cars are going cheap at the moment and may well end up being less expensive in the long run than a zip car, but this varies depending on how much you'll be using it.
posted by hazyjane at 11:14 PM on August 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

I worked at Microsoft straight out of undergrad, and they paid me plenty enough to have both a car AND completely contribute to my 401k, and that was many years ago. I would hazard to guess that most MS employees can afford both. Now, maybe you have other debts you aren't telling us about but as it stands I find your "saving for my future" argument a bit off, unless maybe you are unaware that there is a limit to how much you can put in your 401k every year?
Anyway, I'm with the get a car crew. The last time I lived in Seattle the guys I knew had to go so far and wide to find girlfriends that many of them ended up importing them from elsewhere (I wish that were a joke). Maybe the dating pool is different if you already have contacts from university, or if you're older, or whatever, but I wouldn't chance it. You might find a nice woman that happens to live on the eastside, and what a pain in the ass that would be without a car.
posted by ch1x0r at 4:05 PM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

i'm surprised that nobody suggested using a different dating website. i've never used, but i heard that they had checkboxes where you could choose interests as "money" or "power". i really, really hope that was a facetious comment. but sites like okcupid, the stranger personals, etc. are where the young, interesting people i know have profiles.

i can't remember having dated anyone who had a functional car for more than maybe 20% of the relationship in the last 7 years, and most have been carless. granted, i've spent most of my 20-30something years in capitol hill/the central district.

i could care less if anyone i date has a car. if someone who was considering dating me told me that they cared if i had a car, i'd laugh at them.

but i freely admit that i also have no interest in dating people who live outside of the city.
posted by groovinkim at 12:35 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

The line "who the fuck wants to date a guy that takes the bus everywhere" also, is a bit of contextual hyperbole. It's not saying that people that don't have cars are pointless losers. It's talking within the context of this batch of Seattle singles. The author is making a broad cultural point, and this is an element of the caricature.
posted by happysurge at 10:54 PM on August 26, 2009

there's also a double standard - i have several girlfriends here in DC who are carless but totally expect whoever they date to have a car. Its not fair, I know. I do have one gf who has never had a car, bikes everywhere and does not expect her date to have a car. so you may want to stick it out until you meet that kind of woman. it really is about lifestyle and values.
posted by dmbfan93 at 12:04 PM on August 31, 2009

« Older How to apply for a mycology phd?   |   Creative people - teach me how to make my wedding... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.