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Navigating Miami Without a Car: A Local's Guide to Car-Free Living in the Magic City

Navigating Miami without a car is a viable option, depending on your location and lifestyle preferences. Drawing from my experience as a downtown Miami resident and real estate agent, let me shed light on the nuances. To give some perspective, I'm from NY, not NYC, where people are used to not having a car because of their vast subway system; I'm from Rochester, NY, and live in Buffalo, NY, where you NEED a car to get around. Here's a quick article about living in Miami without a car.

Photo of downtown Miami, taken by Anthony Johnson.

Early days as a new Miami resident

When I first moved to Miami, I worked as a Co-Manager at True Religion on South Beach; a car was essential due to the lack of a convenient rail connection between downtown and the beach. However, car freedom becomes feasible if you live in the metro downtown or Brickell area and your job is in the same neighborhood or remote.


When I became a real estate agent

When I first became a real estate agent, I had a car. I would take any client I could get, working deals anywhere. I closed deals in Aventura, Miami Lakes, North Bay Village, North Miami Beach, and North Beach. I needed a car. When I worked with clients in my neighborhood, I would initially drive and realize it was more of a hassle to drive and park in the downtown and Brickell areas. I find a place to park, walk, or use the metro mover with my clients.


This not only helped me avoid missing or showing up late for appointments and racking up parking expenses, but it also helped me and my clients get familiar with the area.




When and where it may or may work not having a car

For those on the outskirts of Miami, owning a car may be more practical. In the metro downtown hustle, having a car is advantageous if your workplace extends beyond the immediate area. Midtown poses a slight challenge as it lacks metro rail or mover options, but if your work is remote, living car-free is plausible – though there have been talks about expanding the metro to Midtown and Wynwood, no concrete action has been taken yet.



My girlfriend also got rid of her car

Consider my girlfriend, a flight attendant who bid farewell to her car two years ago. Our apartment, located just steps from the metro rail, Brightline station, and metro mover, has made airport trips a breeze, taking less than 20 minutes on most days. So, after barely driving her car, she sold it to Carvana, which was a super easy experience.




If you like to leave the area a lot, you may need a car

However, a car might be necessary if your interests or social circles extend beyond your immediate surroundings. If you like to visit friends who don't live nearby, are on a metro rail line, or like to go to the beach often, you should have a car. Yet, for occasional excursions, services like Uber or a ZipCar subscription can offer flexibility and potential cost savings, especially for short trips.


Rent's high; sell your car.

While Miami's cost of living is higher, going car-free could mean avoiding parking fees and significant savings on insurance, gas, and maintenance. I'm not suggesting an immediate sale of your car – consider trying a month or two without it to gauge the experience. Surprisingly, many individuals in the metro Miami zone embrace the car-free lifestyle. No exaggeration.


If you live in the metro area you have access to (yes, I've used all of them):


Metro Mover (Free)

Not many cities have a free people mover through their downtown area!


Miami metromove map


Metro Rail

Goes from Dadeland to the Airport and a little further north.

Metrorail map


Tri-Rail

Which will be rolling into Miami Central "soon" which has stops between Hialeah Market all the way up to West Palm Beach.


Tri-Rail Map.

Brightline

Brightline can take you all the way up to Orlando with stops at Aventura right across from the mall, Boca Raton, and Fort Lauderdale. They also have plans to adding additional stops like at Midtown for instance.



Brightline station map.


Free Trolley

Although this is a bus, and I'm speaking for rail as buses are still in traffic, but this is a free option which can get you around from Coral Gables, Coconut Grove, Midtown Miami and even further.


Miami trolley stop map.


Wrapping up

I was tempted to talk about the cities plans to expand the metro mover and metro rail, but they're too busy "studying" so I won't get your hopes up. I will say if they carried out the SMART Plan, Miami would have a more sufficient rail system in comparison to other major cities. But overall Miami has a decent rail system if you live in the Downtown and Miami area and can definitely get away with not having a car in certain circumstances.

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