Living In Chicago: Do I Need A Car?

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

A question that we, as both Chicagoans as well as realtors, are often asked by those moving to or even just around the city, is whether or not we feel that we need a car in Chicago. Having a car can be incredibly helpful, but it can also be a nuisance. Here are some pros and cons to keeping wheels within city limits.

The Pros of Keeping a Car in Downtown Chicago


  • Freedom:
    • Access to anywhere in the city (provided you allow yourself plenty of time)
    • You can live in the city and work in the suburbs without relying on Metra.
    • No need to rely on expensive Ubers/cabs or public transit unless you choose to do so.
    • The opportunity to take impromptu road trips to many of the fabulous places around the city and into the country and other states. Apple picking in Michigan? Beer and Cheese in Wisconsin? Pack up a lunch and the car and get going! You can even take your pets along for the ride.
  • Transport and shopping
    • Trips to big box stores like Target, Walmart, and Costco are easy, as are epic grocery shopping trips, and you don’t have to pay for shipping or worry about coordinating the shipping back to your place.
    • Got lots of friends? Take them with you!
  • Storage
    • When you do leave the house, you can keep your things in your car, rather than carrying everything with you!
    • Keep things that you don’t need in your trunk

The Cons of Keeping a Car in Downtown Chicago

Busy street in downtown chicago on a very hot day

  • Expenses:
    • Parking: monthly ($150-350 per month downtown), daily ($12-30 or more), or hourly (parking meters in some areas start at $2 or $4 an hour, and some garages charge $15+ for a half hour)
    • Parking and traffic tickets
    • The cost of keeping a car in the city, in and of itself, is expensive. There is the Illinois tax, city tax, registration, and emissions to be kept up with
    • Upkeep and repairs. You know someone is going to hit you!
    • Gas. Another expense!
  • Time:
    • Parking can be difficult to come by. Let’s be honest, sometimes, you can spend half an hour looking for a parking space, only to then be quite a ways from your destination.
  • Navigation:
    • Thank goodness for Google Earth, but even that isn’t perfect!
  • Wear, tear, and maintenance
    • Salt corrosion is a real concern after our icy and snowy winters!
    • Your car will always be coated in dust, even if you keep it in a garage!

Alternative Transportation in Downtown Chicago

Divvy Bikes

Divvy Bikes

  • CTA Rail Public Transportation and Metra. Get to the airports, major sports venues, and many suburbs with relative ease
  • CTA Bus Lines crisscross the city and provide a veritable web of transportation. Now integrated with Google Maps as well as with Bus finders, you can find your way across the city.
  • Taxis/Ubers. Chicago is rife with people willing to pick you up!
  • Divvy Bikes. Enjoy the fresh air while you can! Explore the city! Go to work or just up and down the path! Pick up a bike at one station and drop it off at another. Just don’t forget your helmet!
  • Your own two feet–Chicago is a very walkable city. Discover your next favorite neighborhood and make the time to enjoy the beauty around you. And take advantage of the Pedway.
  • Hourly Car rentals and car shares. Rent a car for a few hours or a day. Many of the buildings that we show to our clients have these car rental programs available in their garages.

So there you have it. Having a car of your own in Chicago is largely a question of convenience, preference, and the means to afford it. Can’t decide if having a car is right for you? Try going without one for a month, check out your options, and then decide.

Want to go without one? Find buildings with great walkscores like The StreeterAqua, or 73 E Lake so that you can walk wherever you might like. Need public transportation? Look for high transit scores such as at Jones Chicago (another great walking option). But remember, it gets cold during the winter, so don’t rely on walking for everything!

Still have questions? Let us help you find the perfect home, whether you have a car or not! Get in touch!


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