Surviving as a One Car Family

Guys like to talk about cars right?  Our love affair with the automobile is a part of the male identity, correct?  Well, not for me.  I never understood the fascination for cars as in my view they are just a method to get around and a necessary evil for the ultimate road-trip.  I don’t like spending money and for all the many options we have to get around, owning a car has to be the most expensive way (other than private jet I guess).  Sure it is convenient, especially for a family, and I am not saying that we do not own a car and use it every day, I just prefer to use it as little as possible.  We are certainly not going to own more than one.

For the past 13 years we have been a one car family.  There was a time when we each had our own car but when we got married we decided we would be best if we shared a car.  Of course it was mainly a financial decision and at the time we thought we would buy a second car as soon as we could afford it.  When that time came however, we never gave it second thought as there was no need for a second car.  In the view of many, sharing a car with your spouse would seem like a huge sacrifice, a loss of individual freedom, and something that they don’t even want to think about.  For us owning a second car has never seemed like it would be money well spent and I think if time was taken to analyse it many families would come to the same conclusion.  When you add up the cost of the vehicle, depreciation, insurance, and maintenance giving up the second car can save you thousands annually.

So how can a family survive with only one car?  I am not talking about giving up a child or going without food, its just a car.  Let’s get organized. A car is very handy to get to work, go shopping for food, make appointments, and to take us to leisure activities.   In our house if someone needs to go out the rest of the family either comes along or we stay home.  This is true for shopping, appointments or leisure.  We do not book any activity where both of us have to be in different places at the same time, unless one of those places is within walking distance.  Work can be challenging because if you are a two income family than you are probably going in different directions.  You have daycare or school for the kids and you may have different working hours.  This can be a challenge but if you think it is impossible to do with only one car than you probably live in the wrong neighbourhood.

When we were starting with our careers we made sure we were settled in our work before we bought a house.  We knew we wanted kids and we decided that my job was going to be the one that would be a longer term commitment.  I found a job I liked and was stable enough that it looked like I would stay there for a while and then we bought a home as close to this job as possible.  We did not buy in the closest neighbourhood as we preferred one a little further away but it was only 6 minutes away from work by car and 45 minutes away on foot.  With transit and cycling options as well I knew I could always get to and from work regardless if Lisa needed the car.  There were people in my office that were buying new homes over 30 minutes away by car in moderate traffic.  In the winter time the hours they spent in traffic on snowy roads were ridiculous.  Our decision to buy a home close to work saved thousands of dollars, month’s worth of wasted time, and a lot a sanity (I decided not to use the environmental angle as that may completely put you off, but that is better too).

I know most people will dismiss this post as nonsense as I do not know your own situation and in your case the sacrifice would be too great.    My suggestion, think it though, do the math, and let yourself dream of what you will do with all the extra money.  If you think it could work then try it out for a while.  Sell one of your cars and go with one car for a year.  If after a year you are dying to own a second car then go buy one, but you may just find, like we did, that you have forgotten all about needing that car and have found that the cost does not justify the tiny bit of convenience it will bring.

  1 comment for “Surviving as a One Car Family

  1. August 2, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    If you have enough money to buy a big car for famyly you should do that it’s gives you comfort

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