PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- When you're a teenager, your car can put you on the road to freedom. When you retire, it becomes an anchor.
A fixed retirement income can transform car payments, auto insurance and weekly gas fill-ups from costly necessities to huge drains on the finances. If your stores, medical services, entertainment and transit options aren't all withing walking distance, a change of scenery may be able to help cut costs a bit.
The average household paid $8,293, or 13% of its $63,985 pretax income, on transportation costs in 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That includes purchase costs and car payments of $2,669; gas and oil charges of $2,655; and $2,454 for other expenses including insurance, maintenance, repairs and registration. In contrast, the average household spent only $516 on public transportation.
Adjusting that retirement income doesn't exactly do wonders for those car costs. Transportation accounts for 23% of gross incomes for those who made $15,000 to $19,999, but just 10% for those making over $70,000.
Neighborhood ranking site Walk Score has kept track of neighborhood density and convenience for the past couple of years and has helped real estate firms such as Zillow and Trulia pair retirees and other homebuyers with neighborhoods that make the most sense for their budget and lifestyle.
If downsizing the empty nest, ditching the car and diving into vibrant, tightly packed city life are on a retiree's agenda, there's no time like the present to make that move. However, many of Walk Score's top cities -- New York, San Francisco, Boston, Washington and Chicago -- are also among the nation's most expensive. With an eye toward cutting costs, we took a look at some of the less expensive options listed. They're still near some of the costlier locales, but aren't quite as spendy.
5. Corvallis, Ore.
Walk score: 48
Transit Score: N/A
It's not as if Oregon towns such as Portland, Eugene and Hood river are bad options. All are incredibly walkable and have cheap or free public transportation for seniors.
But the AARP put this town among its 10 great cities for retirement largely because of its free public transportation system (11 bus routes), wealth of bike lanes and inexpensive real estate. Tack on the fact that Oregon residents pay no sales tax and you're looking at an incredibly inexpensive option. Granted, you'll be surrounded by Oregon State University students and a town that fills up considerably a few Sundays a year for Beavers football games -- the perils of living in a state three hours from the nearest National Football League team -- but college towns such as this one, Ann Arbor, Mich., Madison, Wis., and others tend to be great picks for retirees thanks to the amenities and cheap living coveted by students and seniors alike.