So, I realize I am personally very early asking this question, but it is an interesting one that I know I will have to deal with in the future.

Neither me or my girlfriend can drive, and neither of us wants to. Therefore, we also don't (won't) own a car.

The car being, to a degree, a status marker of modern households - and the eventuality that children should choose for themselves whether to drive - makes me wonder whether this will have any social or educational impact on the child? I've heard of children being bullied and being called 'poor' for less, but is there any generic research to show the influence of the presence or absence of a car on the development of a child?

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    Oh heck, when I lived in Toronto, I did not bother with a car. Transit was great. No one ever thought it was due to finances. Most assumed it was a pro-environment choice. I preferred to read for the hour each way than drive for 45 minutes. People makes choices for different reasons. It is no one's business but your own.
    – WRX
    May 8, 2017 at 22:53
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    In the future, I expect that attitudes toward cars will shift dramatically. What a study done 10 years ago might say will hardly be relevant 10 years in the future. May 8, 2017 at 23:05
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    This depends drastically on where you live -- I'm assuming an urban area with reasonable public transportation, or else you're quirky shut-ins in the middle of nowhere ;) But the perception of peers is going to be pretty different in the city than in the suburbs. It's even variable regionally: I used public transportation exclusively when in college in Boston, and my high school friends in Cincinnati were horrified at the idea.
    – Acire
    May 8, 2017 at 23:41
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    I guess I do not get why no car is a problem if you live near transportation and can bike. There are cities all over the world that are bike friendly and have great transit. On rare occasions, you can also ride in a cab. You will save thousands on cars, insurance and fuel. If your area is not great for bikes and transit, consider relocating for the things that are important to you. Kids ride in bike carriers and trailers, and as long as you think about safety, it's a great option.
    – WRX
    May 9, 2017 at 0:48
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    ... And I was so convinced, I gave the other kids “the talk” too, when they teased me again about not having a car. So as I see it, 2 things play a role here.. 1)peer pressure - If all(most) kids have a car, your kids would probably feel like the odd one. Otherwise, may be like in Holland, nobody would care. 2) Reasoning - It’ll help your child be ok with being the odd one, if it makes sense to them. Reasoning is where you come in and have some control on. (No sources or research to back me up here, so a comment seemed more appropriate.)
    – learner101
    May 9, 2017 at 5:08

3 Answers 3


There can be no generic, useful research on the social and educational impact growing up without a car has on children.

What makes generic research difficult is that there is no generic environment. The question about using a car is entirely different if asked in New York City or San Francisco, and different yet again in Los Angeles. Even within each of these cities it makes a difference where exactly you live (e.g. you don't drive in Manhattan). And that's just large cities in a single country.

The answer is, the generic question cannot be answered. It would need to be specific.

For one specific case: When and where I grew up, kids didn't even know if each other's parents owned a car, so it simply didn't matter.

PS: Children are teased if they are different from the "norm". If having a car is seen as the "norm" or not depends on the other kids. You can't avoid your kids being different from the "norm". Other kids will certainly find something else to tease your kids about (red hair, wearing glasses, being short, being tall, being bad at school, being good at school, having too many friends, etc). And your kids will do the same to others.

PPS: It's somewhat likely that society's take on cars will change in the next 20 years, in urban and suburban areas. There's a chance that extremely affordable self driving taxis, which will presumably be available by then, will make many people think twice about spending $15'000 every 5 years on a machine that spends most of it's lifetime sitting idle in an expensive parking space.

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    +1 There are so many possibilities for things children can be teased about. I was teased because our chauffeur drove me to school. I was teased because of my disability. I was teased for wearing glasses. I was teased because my lunches were fantastic. Not all the teasing was hurtful, but it seems to me that a parent cannot possibly remove all opportunities for their child being teased. Many kids feel included because they are teased. Boys in particular tease each other as a sign of acceptance. My husband teases and gets teased at work -- it shows he's part of the software team.
    – WRX
    May 9, 2017 at 12:28
  • I kind of love this answer, mostly because it is very reassuring. I'm going to leave this question open for a couple more days before I give out the green, but please know you've been very helpful.
    – Weckar E.
    May 10, 2017 at 11:12

We do not have a car with two young children. Your ability to live without a car is highly dependent on your local public transport and distances to transport stops. We live near a bus terminal and train station that has links into the city centre and many long distance trains depart. It would be very difficult if we didn't live near these.


The biggest downside is lack of flexibility and ability to travel far off transport routes. You'll quickly realise that a car offers alot of freedom and flexibility. This is a big stress reducer because you don't need to get out the house a specific time. Children being notorious difficult to get anywhere on time. We wait around often, which is boring for kids, and at the same time tiring because we're on the move for long periods. When kids get tired they'll need carrying, and potential for long distances if walking. We also have to think more about planning and packing. We can only take things we can carry, buggies, prams, etc are great for walking, but getting on a busy bus or train is a hassle. They take up a lot of space and need collapsing. Anything they carry needs taking out before collapsing and so you're carrying more stuff again. (I highly recommend slings for public transport). The cost is another factor, young children are free until four (depends on the transport company) then they cost a childs fare. And finally the weather. Everyone has to be prepared for rain or shine and everything in between. They don't usually mine, but we have had times when it lashed it down. it is not fun when we're all cold, wet and miserable.


Our kids walk/run alot because if mum and/or dad are carry stuff they have to. It's great for their health, and our's, and they easily get lots of exercise. We spend alot of time outside. Whilst out they are learning how to navigate either by walking or on public transport. Both are good skills to be independent. We talk alot, waiting around, on transport or whilst carrying because what better way to pass the time. For long distances public transport has space for kids to move around. We've done the same trip via hire car and public transport and we found the kids like being on the train more. It was also easier to get to the toilet and do activities like coloring and play games.


Living without a car is a challenge, with kids it's even more or a challenge. Planning and packing are the two most important issues. Tackle both and you should be fine. But that freedom and flexibility can be difficult to deal with.


Yes, I would say a car is important for a family with children, for the following reasons:

Midnight dashes to the hospital

I've lost count of the number of times we've ended up in A&E because one child or another has fallen off something, or swallowed something pointy, or just had a plain old asthma attack or allergic reaction. Kids hurt themselves all the time in ways you wouldn't expect. Our number three girl developed a bad cough once and spent three days in an oxygen box. Without a car, she might have died. Kids used to die all the time.

Imagine you are having a sleepover. The visiting child breaks their arm. What will you do? Call the parents and explain that you are very sorry, you couldn't take their child to the hospital because you don't drive? Most parents would not be OK with that.

Unexpectedly giving birth

Your partner will give birth at some point. Perhaps you're going for a home birth, but you can't guarantee that's going to be possible. Perhaps you're in the countryside and suddenly she goes into labour. With a car, you're prepared for the unpredictable.

Clubs and societies

What will your kid do? What will she be interested in? Having kids is a logistical challenge. Last Sunday, one kid had a Ninjitsu grading, another had chess, and a third had a dance party. They all started within 20 minutes of each other. It would not have been possible to do it with public transport.

Kids get tired

Kids are not like adults. They go and go, and suddenly they are tired and fractious. It is so useful to be able to dump them in the car and let them chill with an audio CD. Trying to get the train with a handful of fractious children is a horrid time.

  • An enlightening answer :) Please, if you would care to sate my curiosity a little further, what alternatives can you suggest? I personally can't drive for medical reasons, and my partner - though thus far unconfirmed - is likely in the same situation.
    – Weckar E.
    May 10, 2017 at 11:11
  • Oh, that's a tricky time for you @WeckarE. Sorry to hear about your health problems. I don't have a good alternative for you, I suppose it depends on where you live. Best of luck with it all. May 10, 2017 at 11:34
  • Yeah, lack of depth perception is a ----...
    – Weckar E.
    May 10, 2017 at 11:41
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    You can take a taxi to the hospital if it's no life threatening emergency., otherwise use an ambulance. Same for giving birth. And children can often take care of their own transportation by the time they need to go to clubs and societies. This doesn't apply if you live somewhere where bikes are suicide and public transport doesn't exist.
    – Peter
    May 10, 2017 at 15:52
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    @Willow Rate-limited micro-electric car. Basically a motorised cart.
    – Weckar E.
    May 11, 2017 at 1:55

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