25 American Cities Where You Don’t Need A Car

Posted by , Updated on May 22, 2024

It is widely believed that America is a land teeming with highways, freeways, and expansive roads, some of which may have originated here. The idea that Americans are heavily dependent on cars is strongly held, and it is not entirely without basis. When needing to travel distances that their cars can’t cover, Americans usually opt for planes and typically rent another car upon arrival at their destination. Much of their lives seem to unfold on the road. Nonetheless, this doesn’t represent all of America. Many regions in Europe also tend to favor cars over public transport. Indeed, America is incredibly diverse, not just comprising suburbs and endless roads. For instance, the northeast shares numerous similarities with Europe, where, in some areas, government-owned vehicles are rare. High-speed trains link Washington DC to Boston daily, and regions like the Midwest (Chicago), Cascadia (Seattle, Portland), and California (San Francisco and LA) boast extensive public transport systems, although these don’t receive as much media coverage. It’s entirely possible to live in the US without ever needing to drive a car. Here are 25 American cities where a car isn’t necessary.

Featured Image: wikipedia


Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles, CaliforniaSource: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

Ok, hear us out. We know, it’s the epitomy of car culture, but depending on where you live in LA, you can actually make it work. Between car sharing, uber, metro, light rail, and busses, it is possible. Maybe not your preference, but it’s possible.


Hartford, Connecticut

Hartford, ConnecticutSource: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

While it’s not the first place you think of going without a car, between buses, walking, and biking, it is possible to make it work.


Cambridge, Massachusetts

Cambridge, MassachusettsSource: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

Thanks to being in the Boston metropolitan area, living here without a car is not a problem.


Arlington, Virginia

Arlington, VirginiaSource: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

Being so close to the nation’s capital, Arlington shares lively neighborhoods with great transport options. It’s an ideal place to live without a car.


Sacramento, California

Sacramento, CaliforniaSource: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

Thanks to being highly bikeable and walkable, along with decent light rail and bus systems, it is definitely possible to live in Sacramento without a car.


Oakland, California

Oakland, CaliforniaSource: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

Located in the Bay Area, the region is known for having above average walkability. And in spite of Oakland’s bad rep, it has cleaned up a lot. These days it is a vibrant city with arts, culture, and of course, sunshine. The best neighborhoods for going car free are Downtown and Laney College.


Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlottle, North CarolinaSource: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

It’s not the best place in the world to go carless, but it is certainly possible. You just have to make sure you are close to the public transport (bus, light rail). Neighborhoods like Plaza Midwood are the best.


Twin Cities, Minnesota

Twin Cities (Minnesota)Source: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

Between light rail, busses, and walking, there are many parts of this metropolis in which a car wouldn’t be necessary. The farther you get from the center though, the harder it will be.


Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Milwaukee, WisconsinSource: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

This will largely depend on where you live in the metro area. North Point, Murray Hill, and Juneau Town are some of the best when it comes to walkability.


Newark, New Jersey

Newark, New JerseySource: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

Although it’s not as well connected as some of the other New Jersey cities on this list, New Jersey is one of the densest states in the union, so it’s not a surprise that it would show up on this list so much. Pro-tip: the closer you get to NYC, the better the transport gets.


New Haven, Connecticut

New Haven, ConnecticutSource: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

Two things make New Haven navigable without a car – its compactness, and the fact that it is a university town (Yale). Bikes and busses would be the preferred alternative forms of transport here.

If you are enjoying this list, you may also enjoy these 25 most pedestrian friendly cities.


Hoboken, New Jersey

Hoboken, New JerseySource: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

This little city is right across from downtown NYC and as you may suspect, its neighborhoods are extremely well connected to public transport.


Jersey City, New Jersey

Jersey City, New JerseySource: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

Full of young professionals who commute to Manhattan everyday, Jersey City is a great place to get by without a car. And you’ve got a great view of downtown!


Buffalo, New York

Buffalo, New YorkSource: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

Although car used is dominant in the city, there are many areas where you won’t need a vehicle. Light rail and busses will do the trick.


Portland, Oregon

Portland, OregonSource: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

Unless you are living in the suburbs, many neighborhoods are very well connected. Downtown, the Pearl District, and Northwest Portland are three of the best.


Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore, MarylandSource: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

Depending on where you live, having a car might be more of a hassle in Baltimore than going car free. The bus and light rail are pretty good.


Miami, Florida

Miami, FloridaSource: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

As long as you live in Brickell, Downtown, or South Beach, your need for a car will be limited to visiting friends in the suburbs.


Boston, Massachusetts

Boston, MassachusettsSource: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

You’ll probably notice that many of the cities on our list can be found in the northeast corridor, and Boston is no exception. Living here without a car isn’t much of a problem.


Denver, Colorado

Denver, ColoradoSource: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

Although it’s not the first city that comes to mind when considering car-free living, Denver has a relatively well developed public transit system. You can even get into the nearby Rocky Mountains via train.


Seattle, Washington

Seattle, WashingtonSource: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

Seattle is an extremely compact and easy to navigate city. There are even some ways to get into the nearby mountains (like in Denver) using public transport. Europeans and others seem to have little trouble acclimating here.


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PennsylvaniaSource: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

Like most major cities, unless you plan on living in some distant suburbs, within the city itself you can easily get around. Philly has always ranked high for its walkability.


San Fransisco, California

San Fransisco, CaliforniaSource: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

Except for some outlying neighborhoods, public transport in the Bay Area is relatively good. Just remember, the closer you get to downtown San Fransisco, the less you will need a car.


Chicago, Illinois

Chicago, IllinoisSource: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

The New York City of the midwest, Chicago is proud of its transport (Chicago Transit Authority). Most neighborhoods can be accessed by metro, bus, or foot.


Washington DC

Washington DCSource: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

The nation’s capital is extremely well connected. The metro runs all the way to the airport and most of the suburbs can be accessed by by public transport.


New York City, New York

New York City, New YorkSource: wikipedia, Image: wikipedia

Of course, the Big Apple comes first. Here, owning a car is the exception and not the norm.