Should Our Family Drop From Two Cars To One?

As Mrs. Root of Good’s retirement date comes closer, we have to revisit the question of whether we should get rid of one of our cars and become a single vehicle family.

First, let’s ponder the significance of the auto.  Cars are an oxymoron.  They are an incredibly convenient way to travel from point A to point B very quickly.  However, owning and maintaining a car isn’t convenient at all.  I’m approaching the question of whether we should drop to one car from this vantage point: convenience versus inconvenience and cost.

 

The Ultimate in Convenience…

This is America.  Cars are cheap, gas is cheap, the open road beckons.  Land use planning leaves much of America spread out and poorly accessible by foot or by bike, at least where I choose to live a few miles from downtown Raleigh.  The car is the default choice of transportation for anyone who can afford one, and many who can’t.

In five to ten minutes I can traverse most of the city, reaching major shopping centers, parks, libraries, hospitals, and downtown cultural attractions.  Parking is almost universally free and plentiful.  Twenty two hours per day the traffic is bearable.  The car is a wonderful modern tool, truly a luxurious way to get around town.

For us, having a second car means Mrs. Root of Good and I can independently go anywhere we want regardless of what the other person is up to.  I might have a volunteering obligation on the other side of town while Mrs. RoG wants to run errands, visit family, or pick the kids up from school.

 

…Comes with Inconvenience…

Cars are stuff.  And stuff always makes demands on your time.  Throughout the year I spend a good bit of time maintaining my car.  I complete most of the routine maintenance and repairs myself or with the help of a shade tree mechanic friend.  It takes time to figure out a repair procedure, procure the right parts and equipment, and complete the actual repair and follow up testing.  Even if I outsource one hundred percent of car maintenance, I’m still on the hook for many hours each year of dropping the car off, waiting at the auto shop, and then driving back home.

 

…And Expenses

Cars cost money.  With two cars, we split our annual mileage across two vehicles.  If we drop to one car, all of our driving will be concentrated on one vehicle.  This means we’ll have to do slightly more maintenance on our only car but won’t have to maintain a second car at all.  As a result, annual maintenance costs will drop.

 

jan-aug-2015-auto-expenses

2015 auto expenses through August. $534 for insurance, $60 for inspections, and $464 for repairs and maintenance.  Incredibly simple way to track auto expenses and all other household expenses: Personal Capital (it’s free!).

 

The annual fixed costs of car ownership should drop roughly in half if we drop to one car.  We would only owe property taxes, registration, and inspection fees for one vehicle.  We currently spend around $1,000 per year on maintenance, taxes, registration, and inspections, or around $500 per vehicle.  Dropping to one vehicle means saving $500 per year on those annual maintenance and operation costs.

Insurance costs might drop, though perhaps not that much since we would still have two licensed drivers on the policy.  I’ll assume insurance will stay the same at around $500 per year.

Depreciation is the biggest car ownership expense for us.  The Honda Civic and Accord we bought fifteen years ago depreciated by $800 to $1,000 per year.  Owning only one car would save us around $1,000 per year in depreciation costs.

Adding the maintenance and depreciation costs together, I find that dropping to one car would save us $1,500 per year.  That’s a pretty steep cost to pay for the added convenience of a second car.

 

Do We NEED a Second Car?  Or WANT one?

We have to face the facts.  We are homebodies by nature.  We really enjoy staying at home and doing fun stuff around the house.  Sometimes we don’t leave the house for multiple days in a row.  When we do, it’s often to destinations not far from home and we walk to get there.

We don’t eat out in restaurants very often.  At night you’ll find us enjoying dinner and a drink at home, sometimes by the lake on our back patio or sometimes in front of the TV engrossed in a thriller on Netflix.  We rarely go to bars or concerts.

Most driving trips are either grocery shopping or seeking fun at local parks, swimming pools, museums, or visiting family and friends.  We are homebodies.

And much of our shopping and recreating doesn’t involve driving at all.  Within a mile of our house we can walk to:

  • parks
  • library
  • community center
  • elementary school
  • major grocery store
  • Asian and Hispanic grocery stores
  • dozens of restaurants (chains and local eateries)
  • dollar store
  • big box discount store

In other words, we can walk to almost everything we need on a routine basis, and sometimes walk for miles just for fun.

I checked out our Walk Score from walkscore.com and our house received a 37 out of 100 which translates to a “car-dependent neighborhood”.  They offer a breakout for different categories of nearby destinations and we actually scored around a 50 (“somewhat walkable”) for groceries, general shopping, dining, drinking, and schools, a 75 for parks “very walkable”), and much lower for errands, culture, and entertainment.  That seems about right.  We lack culture but almost everything else is somewhat walkable.

We also live within easy walking distance of three transit routes (one of which we caught for the five minute ride to the Greyhound bus station to start our seven week vacation in Mexico).  Easy access to transit means we can get to tons of other destinations without a car for about a buck each way.  Walkscore.com gave us a Transit Score of 32 (“some transit”).

Currently neither one of us adults owns a bicycle, but that’s another easy solution to get us past the current mile or two walking radius.  A traditional bike in the $150-300 price range or an electric bike in the $600-1,000 price range would extend our car-less theater of operations to three to ten miles (if we dare brave the busy city streets!).  A pair of e-bikes would set us back about the same $1,500 we spend on car maintenance and depreciation in one year.

Looking at all the angles, we probably don’t need a second car.  Right now, the main reason we want one is because that’s the status quo.  We currently own two cars and it’s easy to keep doing what you’ve been doing for the last 15 years without introducing change.

 

Can We Do It?

With change comes fear of the unknown.  What if one of us is stuck at home when we want to go somewhere?  What if I’m out having fun with our only car while Mrs. RoG unexpectedly needs to pick a kid up from school?  What if our only car breaks down?

Between walking, biking, transit, and the very infrequent Uber ride or rental car, we could probably make do with only one car and save close to $1,500 per year.  It might not always be the most convenient set up.  However, maintaining only one car eliminates some of the auto maintenance tasks (which is convenient).

In general, retiring early gives us a great deal of flexibility in our schedule so that with a little planning we can make sure the car is generally available to whoever needs it for kid-hauling duties, shopping, or recreating around town.

We just enjoyed a thirteen week test run of both of us not working when Mrs. RoG took her sabbatical.  We were on vacation for seven weeks of her sabbatical and didn’t need any cars.  The other six weeks we spent at home and never needed a second car the entire time.  In my routine early retired life, I don’t drive very often, so I feel like the need for a second car is very low.

One way to approach the dilemma of ditching the second car is to simply do it and then evaluate for three to six months to see if we really miss it.

 

Looking Into the Future

Although cars are easy to buy and sell without ridiculous transaction costs, I like to look ahead into the future to forecast our needs.

Our oldest child is going to middle school in one year.  It won’t be walkable and we don’t know for sure whether the school bus will come to our street or whether we will drive our kid to school.  Our transportation needs might be different at that point.  Transit routes take us within a half mile or mile of likely middle schools, so that’s a decent plan B for the occasional ride to school.

Long term I would like to upgrade to a minivan or SUV that holds around seven people for family road trips and for carrying our family of five plus a couple other family or friends.

Five and a half years from now, our oldest child will be able to drive on her own.  We still don’t know what we’ll do about providing a car (hand me down? buy one for her? split the cost?) and auto insurance.  Part of me says keep one of our well-maintained fifteen year old Hondas.  The Civic only has 98,000 miles on it after all!

Even the Governor pimps it in an affordable car

My beautiful green 2000 Honda Civic when it was still nearly new and I still had hair.  I parked in the Governor’s spot just because I could back before he was indicted.

 

Then I realize in five and a half more years it will be a 21 year old Honda Civic that lacks modern safety features and the reliability of a newer car when our oldest would start driving it.

 

The Bigger Picture – Owning and Consuming What’s Optimal

I like to think and analyze what we own and whether it’s the best use of our financial resources.  We can “afford” a second car, but is it the best use of $1,500 per year?  Do we get $1,500 worth of convenience out of a second car?  Could we spend those funds on something more awesome?

I think all of us should view our large expense categories with the same critical eye.

Are we using all of the house we currently own?  Do we need all this space?  How are we using it?  Could we downsize?

Do we get the most value out of our restaurant and grocery purchases?  Can we make small incremental changes to get even better value out of food expenditures without sacrificing nutrition and taste?

Are we getting bang for our buck on vacations?  Should we focus on slow travel more?  Can I stretch my travel dollar by getting free travel from credit card hacking?

For us, housing, transportation, food, and vacations are two thirds of our entire $32,400 per year retirement budget, which is why I emphasize the importance of critically examining those expenses.

 

 

If you didn’t have to work, could you go to a one car family?  Completely car-less? 

 

 

68 comments

  • We’ve been retired 3 years now and struggled with the same question. We currently have 2 cars (both fully paid off). We’ve found that we drive my wife’s car mostly. In fact, my Jeep Wrangler is a 2010 model and only has 40,000 miles on it. I think we could definitely do without the extra car but because the Jeep barely depreciates each year (it happens to keep good resell value), my only expense is insurance, registration and maintenance, which is not much.

    So for now I am keeping both cars but may change that in the future. Let us know what you ultimately decide!

    • Thanks for your first hand experience.

      We may keep both simply because most of the depreciation is over. 15 year old hondas that run aren’t worth much more than 17, 18, or 20 year old hondas that run. A few thousand dollars.

  • OneThousandThousands

    Justin, your family can surely afford a 2nd vehicle going forward. It seems like a matter of convenience and happiness going forward. I always try to boil purchases down to happiness. Will the convenience of having a 2nd vehicle make you $1,500 happier per year? If I were in your shoes, I would do exactly what your doing. Keep an economical sedan or hatchback as a 2nd vehicle. It’s worth the convenience in my mind.

    • It’s a pretty small sum of money in the grand scheme of things, that’s for sure.

      But do I really want to have to worry about a second car if it gets used only once per month? Or a few times per year? There’s a few car rental places literally just around the corner. They maintain the car, wash it, store it, insure it, etc. All I have to do is fork over $30-40 to borrow it for the day. 🙂

      • Great point about the convenience of rental cars. At $40/month, that’s only $480/year if you rent a car once a month. Is there ever a situation where you need access to a car quickly? Maybe you are home with the kids and need to make an ER visit. Not trying to fear monger, just thinking about situations where timeliness is important.

        • 911 for true emergencies. Uber or calling the away-from-home spouse, family or a friend for urgent but not quite an emergency.

          Of course our single car would probably sit in our driveway 90% of the time anyway and therefore be generally available for these true emergencies.

          Looking back at the past year, I think there may have been 2-3 times where having a car came in really handy. That call that says “your kid just threw up in the nurse’s office. Come collect them.” We could technically make the sick kid walk 10 minutes home, but I have a car and that’s a great reason to use it. I guess I could uber up a ride to/from school for $8-10 if I really absolutely didn’t have a car nearby!

  • What kind of insurance coverage do you have? Liability or full coverage? Thinking of dropping down to liability to lower our insurance costs and save money.

    I think I would still keep two cars. As a kid, we grew up in a one car family due to financial constraints and it sucked most of the time. Then again we lived in a rural area where there was no public transportation.

    • We have liability only plus under/uninsured motorist. Our cars aren’t worth more than $2500-3000 according to blue book, which after deductible wouldn’t be much of a payment at all. I’m not sure I would get comp/collision even with a new(er) $10-12k car or minivan just because we don’t drive that much. A $10k loss of the vehicle would be bad but not the end of the world.

      I think if we were in a rural area, we would definitely keep 2 cars. As for our location here in Raleigh, there’s really a ton we can do on foot and even more stuff we can get to on the city bus. So if the car isn’t at home, I can still get groceries, take the kids to the park, go to a pharmacy, or grab take out. There’s even an Urgent Care clinic at the edge of the neighborhood (though I couldn’t carry a kid over there!).

  • Mrs C. and I keep two vehicles, and I can’t see ever dropping to just one. 90% of the driving is in her vehicle, and this summer so far I have only used 1 tank of gas (I do get 30 MPG in my 2000 Corolla). Most of the time we don’t NEED two vehicles, but it comes in handy at times when our schedules overlap. I’d rather pay the $40 a month in insurance and have my $1,000 car sitting there than miss out on doing something because I didn’t have that asset available.

    Although having an already depreciated car adds to time needed for repairs, those repairs can prove to be great teachable moments for the kids to get them involved while they are young in basic car repair and maintenance.

    • I just filled up my Civic for the first time since May. We just don’t drive it that much. Mrs. RoG’s car is used nearly exclusively for commuting, and that need will go away soon. I guess once she’d done with work we can keep a log of how many times we actually use both cars at once to make sure we’re not missing something.

      We’re at that stage of the really old car not worth a lot, so the depreciation isn’t that great any more. So not a huge monetary cost but still something between taxes, maintenance, registration, etc.

  • Repairing or maintaining a car does take time! Thank you for saying this! I read way too often online about how simple it is to repair a car. I’ll be on a car forum and someone will say, “Oh, that’s a 20-minute job.” Yeah… right. Maybe 20 minutes if you’ve done it before and rush the process.

    For instance, I took the carpet out of my car to clean it over the weekend. I HIGHLY recommend anyone with an older car to this. My car is 16-years-old. Although the carpet looked good, things had been spilled on it. There was some mold on the floorboards. Barf. Anyway. The guys on the Mitsubishi Eclipse forums were like, “Oh, just take out the front seats and put up the carpet. Should be a 30-minute job.

    All told, it took me 11 hours. It involved taking out the front seats, back seats, center console, shift knob, radio bezel, door sills, kick panels under dash, kick panels on side of dash, seat belts, stomp pad, lots of clips.

    Anywho, yeah, maintaining a car takes time. It shouldn’t be underestimated.

    • I take those time estimates and double or triple them. Same for the shop’s time quotes. A 3 hour job = 9 hours for me. I never have the absolute best tools or everything I need. There will always be a tool or a small part I have to run to the hardware store or the auto parts store to grab. Then there’s the mess ups. DIY car repairs are definitely a time suck. Though I’m not sure if sitting in the mechanic’s waiting room is any better. At least if you’re under the hood you’re doing something!

  • We’re contemplating dropping to a one car household as well next year if Mr. Budgets is able to work from home.

  • I tend to think in your situation having kids still young that the 2nd car will come in handy more times then it wouldnt. Maybe later on when your kids are older it would be wise to come down to one car but what do I know. I don’t have kids yet.

    I do have a motorcycle though and its much cheaper to have a motorcycle then a car but of course having one is not for all.

    I really like the bicycle idea though.

    • That’s what I really wonder about – will I really really really find out I want a 2nd car when the kids’ school situation changes next year, or in another few years when the oldest is in high school, the middle one in middle school and the youngest in elementary school? It could become a real operation to get everyone to and fro with just 1 car.

  • When we retire we are going to one car. We live in a walkable area and I would love to be more eco friendly. The only thing that would stop us is the kids schedules. If they are going two different directions at the same time it may be difficult. Gl with your decision! It would be fun to see your expenses go even lower.

    • Kids are the main consideration for us right now, too. I can definitely see in another 10 or 15 years once some or all of the kids are on their own that we won’t need two cars as much as we do now.

  • One benefit of living in NYC is that public transportation is generally very convenient…even though we don’t live in Manhattan, we can take a subway there in about 20 to 25 minutes. There are also plenty of buses as well. My wife doesn’t like driving either. However, since you have 3 kids and your cars are pretty much fully depreciated, based on a cost-benefit analysis…I might just keep the extra car. I guess once your wife retires, you can see how your schedules are before you make the decision.

    • NYC is pretty great for public transit. I checked out NYC on the Walkscore.com website and it was #1 in the country (not too surprised about that!). The cost can certainly add up though, especially when you have a few kids (can’t recall if MTA gives discounts for kids??).

      And you’re right – we’re at that point where depreciation is lower than $800-1000/month like it was in the earlier days of car ownership. So the cost of “wait and see” isn’t very high at this point. I just did the annual vehicle safety/smog inspection, license, registration, and property tax payments for both cars so we have a full year to think about it and sell if we don’t want to keep both.

  • We have been a one-car family off and on for nearly 5 years. Granted we did not have three kids at home!

    I wrote about our experience as a one-car family in a June post at our site. I would highly recommend you check out the book called How to Life Well Without Owning a Car by Chris Balish. He discusses many of the concerns you have today. We had many of the same.

    What is interesting is that not once did I need a taxi or rental car in the years we went without two cars. We tended to walk and ride our bikes for more of our errands. As creative as you are this is very doable for your family!

    • Thanks, Bryan. I just checked out your June article out for some tips!

      I think it’s very doable to never need a rental car or a taxi. Other than kid emergencies, I can’t really think of many scenarios where we would need a car urgently and unexpectedly that we couldn’t solve by biking, walking, or taking transit. It would require a little bit of cleverness and creativity, but I think we could do it!

  • Since the options are between 2 Honda’s from one of the best eras I would say to keep them. The costs are minimal and the odds of replacing them with something as reliable and efficient will be difficult.

    I understand the desire to upgrade to a larger passenger capacity because of your families size and road trips. I’d say get rid of one of the cars whenever that time comes. But I wouldn’t be surprised if your daughter can still drive the Civic if you keep maintaining it properly.

    • Yeah, I think the Civic will last for another 6 years. Just replaced the cracked exhaust manifold/cat combo for a few hundred $$ and that’s the only major repair likely to come for a while. It’ll need a timing belt change eventually based on passage of time (though not miles) however I’ll probably skip that since it’s getting so old.

      These have been two remarkably reliable cars. 🙂 Your idea about ditching one of the smaller cars once we get a larger capacity vehicle is certainly one of the paths we are likely to follow. I know we don’t need 3 (!!) cars, so we’ll have to get rid of one.

  • I also meant to add that my wife and I have been a one car family for the past few years just because it happened to work out for us. Now the needs have changed and we need a 2nd car again. I’ve been only looking for 1992-2000 Honda Civic’s. 🙂 (for what its worth)

  • We sold our 2nd vehicle last month after car sharing since January to test the waters. We figured that it was costing us $3,400 per year in maintenance, insurance, taxes, and gas commuting separately in a gas guzzling truck. And this was on a paid for vehicle! Deprecation is not included either.

  • Only looking at the cost is only one aspect and is not getting the big picture. There are environmental and health benefits to not owning a car. The $1500 a year you mention does not include fuel, the health cost of walking/biking less, and the long term cost that future generations will pay.

    We proactively decided to not own a car (which meant choosing a Walkable neighborhood) and this has been one of the best decisions we’ve made this year, not only from a financial aspect.

    We’re a family of 4 with 0 car. I’m sure downsizing to 1 is doable and benefitial for lost of people out there (granted, with a walkability score of 37, you’re probably in the worst possible place though. Our place is rated 92)

    Details on my own experience: http://howtoretireearly.net/not-owning-a-car-is-one-of-the-best-things-you-can-do-for-yourself/

    • I’m pretty sure we are saving money versus living in a much higher cost of living area and going car free completely. Just the increase in property taxes by moving to an area of town with a high Walk Score would exceed $1500/yr. And those parts of town tend to have more expensive, well, everything. Grocery stores and restaurants all tend to be a little higher end, and more expensive. We would also lose convenient access to a wide variety of ethnic grocery stores by moving to the more trendy walkable areas around Raleigh.

      It would be nice to be car free but we’re at a nice comfortable compromise of inexpensive real estate and “somewhat walkable” for most of the destinations we routinely visit. And we use the car for road trips at least annually, sometimes 2-3x per year, so any savings of not owning a car would likely be offset by the occasional rental car for road trips (unless we spent even more and flew!).

      Environmentally speaking, you have a point. We’re down to something like 100 miles per month of routine driving other than vacationing. I walk 2 to 5 miles per day to run errands, drop kids off at school, visit the park, etc. So I’m doing my very small part to keep a few pounds of pollution out of the air (and the Honda Civic sips gas anyway).

  • Would love to drop down to one vehicle for the missus and I now that we are both retired, but I can’t see it happening. We are 8 miles outside of the nearest town, which is pretty small and barren of public transportation. And while I would bicycle for some things, there are no shoulders on the roads for the first four miles or so, and you would take your life in your own hands doing so with the way people drive down here.

    While most costs can be lower by not living in larger cities, the drawbacks are the lack of options. If we lived in a city we would absolutely be able to go to one vehicle. Good luck no matter which way you decide.

    • We’re fortunate to live “in town” where lots of stuff is walkable, but not quite walkable enough to go car free completely. But like you say, you save on cost of living by living where you need a car. We’re still saving a small mint by living where we do versus a few miles closer to downtown that is more “walkable” according to its Walk Score (yet those areas mostly lack easy access to a walkable grocery store).

  • We’re a one car family, but I definitely think we spend more than $1500 per year on our car (2004 Camry). We don’t do any work ourselves, and even excluding depreciation, I would guess we are more around $2-$3K per year including gas.

    I would definitely figure out a second transit source before you give up the car. For us, bikes are fine, but it was tougher when we lived over by you. These days it feels perfectly safe to bike downtown with a kid in the seat (and eventually on his own bike), but I wouldn’t feel safe crossing capital with kids in tow.

    • We have conquered the crossing of Capital Boulevard. It’s not fun, but seems fairly safe at crosswalks when crossing with the pedestrian walk signal. But biking down Capital or other major roads around here isn’t something I’m willing to do very often. 🙂

  • We’ve considered going down to one car, and we could do it if we really needed too, but it involves the whole house getting up to drive me the 2+ miles to the nearest bus stop before they’d normally be up and ready. Then I’d ride the bus for 1.5 hours vs the 30 minutes it takes to drive. Dad’s considering a position at the University as well, if that happens, we may seriously consider the one car option because we can carpool and if there’s an emergency, we can rely on Grammy for a few more years – or one of us can leave campus and pick the other up at the bus stop later.
    The problem I have is that we live on a large hill, and it’s a PITA to walk up part of it, not sure I’d want to do that every day, but possible!

    • I’m not sure I would trade a 1.5 hour bus ride for a 30 minute drive! My bus ride to work was 10 minutes vs. 10 minutes driving, so transit was an easy choice (very easy when the employer used to pay for a monthly pass!).

      We also have on of those steep hills right in front of the house. Not fun, and definitely gets your heart pumping for the rest of your walking trip ha ha

  • We made the leap to being a one car household a little over a year ago and it’s been quite easy for us. Of course, we choose a house close to work and we don’t have any children.

    As a couple of people have pointed out, it’s really a question of how you think your children factor into the equation. If the car was newer/more expensive I’d say ditch it and save the money. But since, as you say, the depreciation is essentially over, you aren’t losing that much money by keeping it. Plus, there’s a world of difference between a 15 year old car you know is well-maintained and just a 15 year old car. The good news is you’re fine either way, but I can appreciate the thoughts towards optimization 🙂 Let us know if you pull the trigger and get rid of one.

  • I would like to just use 1 car in the family but the wife is not crazy about the idea. I am thinking of using less of my Nissan Rouge during the week. I can walk to/from work. This will help save some money on gasoline and wear and tear (tires, mechanical expenses) on the car. I am also considering walking to the library in the morning when the temperature is not that hot. I and my son usually go to the library on Saturdays. This is good exercise for both of us. You chose a topic that I have been thinking about lately. Thanks for that!

  • I don’t know . . . I’m torn on this one. As with most things, it depends completely on your personal situation, but for my family, I don’t think I could do it. I have a truck which has come in use on more than one occasion for moving, towing, and odd jobs and then we have our “family” car. I’m sure we could make it work, but it’s not worth the inconvenience for us right now. We may feel differently once we both reach our goal of early retirement and can plan trips around each other’s schedule.

    On the other hand, once I retire, I hope to take on some new endeavor, which may require my own vehicle. My vehicle is paid off, but I do see the maintenance costs beginning to add up. I also have to deal with depreciation as it is a 2010.

    Now buying a new one once one of ours breaks down? That could be a different story.

  • my wife and I both work, we have been on one car for a few years now in a city with decent though not exceptional public transportation. After I got sick of taking the Bus, I got a scooter, which has been a great compromise. It’s cheap to buy and maintain, very low fuel costs ($5 every two weeks, and I use Premium!) and insurance is around $200 WITH comprehensive on it, just to guard against theft. It’s also a lot of fun in the spring and fall, we take it out to dinner sometimes. Another perk: easy to park in busy areas.

    • Sounds like the scooter is working out well! I figured an e-bike would be a good compromise of cost and mobility, but never considered a scooter. I’d be afraid of the work required on a small engine versus an electric motor on a bike.

  • We are struggling with this same question. Neither of us are retired, but I work from home twice a week and usually bike the other 3 days. My husband just got a job closer to home, which realistically he won’t bike to every day but it’s an option if I need the car. We work in the same direction so it’s not too out of our way to just drop the other off at work, and then there is always Uber. We don’t have kids to take into consideration too.

    Right now I’m at the place where I’m just scared to sell off a reliable asset that I may miss (a 2005 Toyota Corolla). But, generally, I think Americans tend to overvalue owning a personal car. Cars spend most of their lives being parked and car sharing is an obvious way to address this inefficiency.

    Plus they are horrible for the environment and politically compromising (gas). We are with you in that one car is rarely driven, so it’s not really hurting anything, but I’d kind of like to take a stand and set a good example by downsizing to just one car.

    Plus I really hate dealing with maintaining two vehicles!

    • I’m with you on ditching a reliable asset. Our 15 year old cars are very well maintained (mechanically speaking; paint job and exterior – not so much). They could run another 15 with a few repairs along the way.

  • We’ve been single car for over a year now and I’m starting to hate it. Our wrinkle is that I’m at home with the kids, but DW takes the car with her to work. So we’re limited to foot/bike to get around, or we have to spend 2+ hours shuttling her to/from work total if there’s something we need the car for. Or I just defer those trips to the weekend, but then the destination is much busier than it would be during the week. Kids have an effective walking range of 3-4 miles RT and a biking range of 20+ miles, so we’re not super limited, but there’s still stuff that we miss out on (either too far away or no good way to safely bike as a family).

    We decided to experiment with it when our second car died and wasn’t worth fixing, but we’ll be saving up for a new to us car over the next year or two.

    If she was retired or had a non-car commute, I think we’d be just fine with a single car.

    • That’s how it’s been for me the last 2 years since I’ve been retired but Mrs. RoG is still working. I don’t use the car a whole lot during the week, but about once a week I’ll need the car for a doctor or dentist appointment for me or one of the kids. And making those runs to the grocery store or shopping center at 10 am on a Tuesday are so much more pleasant than waiting till the weekend when it’s packed!

      I wouldn’t be willing to drop to one car while Mrs. RoG was still working, since it would really place a lot of constraints on what I can do during the week (from running errands to fun stuff to volunteering gigs). But we use the second car almost exclusively for commuting to work, and once that need goes away, I’m not sure what role that second car would fulfill. Though maybe the two of us end up doing different things at the same time that require a car.

  • You know what I’d say – go to one car! 🙂
    You can save the extra money for a modern car for the kid. I wouldn’t want my kid to drive a 21 year old Civic.
    We share one car and it’s perfect for us. We mostly use it to drop the kid off to school and go grocery shopping on the weekend. It works well for us because we have a pretty good public transportation system here.
    I want to get an ebike too.

  • YEs it is smart to question the second car, as it will be a drain on finances. I think it will be sad to let go, but the fact that you barely used it during the wife’s sabbatical says a lot. In surrounding towns near me, they bus middle and high school kids who live far away, see if that’s an option.

    • After reading your comment and seeing that our county school district just published 2015’s new school bus routes, I spent some time figuring out what the bus schedule might look like in one year when the oldest goes to one of a few different middle schools we can select from. Not as bad as I expected. The bus stops not too far from our house (maybe 4-5 doors away or right in front of our door) and the pick up time is 6:30-6:45 AM. If we drove the kids to school, we would have to leave around 6:45-6:50 AM. So not too much extra time spent waiting for the bus. And the elementary and middle schedules are staggered to the point where we could complete the middle school drop off an hour before we have to drop the second kid off at elementary school.

      In other words, I don’t think the school drop off / pick up would require a second car.

  • We went down to 1 car about a year and a half ago after I had been bike commuting to work solidly for about a year. We both still commute to work, I just use my bike to go the 9 miles between home and the office while Mr PoP takes the car 25 miles in the opposite direction. It’s totally doable. I did find that I prioritized finding medical providers that were nearer to home after the switch. Luckily the ones that happened to be the furthest out (ie by our old apartment) were those I was ambivalent towards, so I felt no reason to stay with them. It’s nice to be able to bike 5 minutes for a dr’s appt even if Mr PoP needs to get to work right away.

    Also playing a role in our decision was the availability of rental cars. There’s a rental place an easy 3 mile bike ride from our house and Home Depot has truck rentals that are just $20 to cover the trip to/from our house from the store, so we know we can always get another car/truck to fill the gaps when we need it. We’ve used the Home Depot trucks a lot this year with our renovations, but haven’t rented a regular car once so far.

    Personally, I find biking incredibly enjoyable. It’s a much more peaceful way to go wherever I want to and my stress levels drop dramatically when I bike – which has in turn led to a much more robust immune system and the number of common colds or other mild maladies I get has dropped off a cliff.

    For us, it’s not about the money. If it were, we wouldn’t have purchased a vintage car that is on currently blocks and still awaits restoration a few months after selling our Jeep. That’ll be just as expensive if not moreso in the long run.

    Keep your car or get rid of your car – neither will impact your balance sheet or cash flow all that much. But get some bikes even if just for leisure riding. I highly doubt you’ll regret that purchase. =)

    • Yeah, we’ve got the HD truck for $20 deal here too, and there are a few car rental places in easy walking distance, so we are covered for that contingency too.

      All that biking sounds awesome! I’m not sure it would be as fun for me if I had to strap a 3 year old behind me and push him up the ridiculously steep hill right in front of our house though. 🙂 Eventually I’ll make the move and get bikes for me and the Mrs. so we can join the kids and ride to the park or library or wherever. And get out on some local trails and greenways.

  • I would drop to one car, and try it for a year. If you need a second car for one day per month, it’s way, way cheaper to just rent it at that point (with multiple car renting shops nearby that should be no problem), or get a cab. If you definitely need the car during a specific day, you might even drive Mrs. RoG to work, and then use the car all day, and then pick her up in the evening?

    If someone really needs to go to the hospital RIGHT NOW, I can tell you that calling 911 is the better move, because medical help during the ride can be vital. If it’s less urgent, then you can even ask a neighbor to bring you.

  • With a walk score of 14 and an infant, we made the switch to one car. I live 14 miles from my workplace and enjoy the 50 minute bike ride. Obviously 2 extra kiddos would throw a wrench into the gears, but I haven’t once felt stifled by having only one car. I would say about 2x a month the wifey will drive me to an appointment or something – which might be a tiny inconvenience for her. We enjoy doing stuff together, though – she definitely passes the “traffic test” for me!

    If you don’t know what the traffic test is, check it out: http://waitbutwhy.com/2014/02/pick-life-partner-part-2.html

    • I think I fail the Traffic Test. That speaks more to how much I dislike traffic rather than the enjoyment of Mrs. RoG’s company! But I get the spirit of the test… 🙂

      I figure if we drop to 1 car, there will be the rare occasion where we have to plan carefully and one of us drop the other one off somewhere. Without work though, those instances should be pretty rare.

  • Oh man, you guys don’t own bicycles? Really committing to cycling when possible can change your life a lot. I know it depends on where you live (our apartment has a walk score of 95), but we get by with a single car which we almost never use.

    Looks like I’ve filled up about 6 times this year which is more than usual because of some unexpected driving.

    Cycling is such a great way to see more of your community and I find it much more entertaining than walking around.

    Get those bikes!

    • Sadly, we don’t own bikes. Our area is a lot more walking friendly than bike friendly. I wish it were more bike friendly, but, hey, that usually comes at a price. I wish I could live in our $150,000 single family house with a walk score of 95 in a bike-friendly area, but it ain’t happening!

      Once Mrs. RoG joins me in retirement, we’ll probably be down to a tank of gas every other month or so (currently driving around 80-100 miles/month other than her work commute of 50 miles/day). So we’re doing well in general in spite of our non-bike friendly location in the city.

  • We’ve always had just one car for the two of us, but that’s largely because we live in the city with easy access to public transit, a great walk score (I think we’re something ridiculously high like 95), and the option to commute by bike (which Mr. FW does everyday). We’re actually planning to get a second car once we’re on the homestead (which will probably have a walk score of zero 🙂 ).

    We don’t like the idea of being trapped in case one car breaks down or if one of us needs to go into the city, etc, we just like the comfort factor of having a back-up. And with Babywoods on the way, we’ll be fine with one car in the city, but her presence only doubles our interest in having a back-up vehicle in the future. So, I think I’d probably vote that you keep your second car since you have awesome Hondas that’ll hopefully run for many more years!

    • The rural perspective certainly adds a different set of considerations to the mix. I’d want 2 cars if we were out in the sticks somewhere like your desired homestead location. Having 1 break down and forcing a super long bike ride to the auto parts store would suck! I’m sure you could make friends with car’d neighbors to get you where you need to go in a pinch, but it would be pretty inconvenient for a while to rely on the generosity of others. And throw a baby into the mix, possibly in the middle of a snowy winter blizzard, and yeah, a second car would make a lot of sense.

      Where we are in the city, there are at least 3 auto parts stores within a 0.5-0.75 mile walk so I can hoof it to get a new battery or spark plugs or whatever if something easily fixable dies on me (otherwise the tow truck can tow it wherever if it really won’t start 🙂 ). And I can probably bum a ride from a friend/neighbor pretty easy since there are thousands of humans living within a few blocks.

  • I think you could definitely go down to one car family once your wife leaves the 9-5. Then when the kids start driving you can re-evaluate and maybe purchase a somewhat newer civic (new to you) and become a two car family again at that point.

    • Thanks for your advice. That approach makes a lot of sense and keeps a virtually unused asset from sitting on my balance sheet (and in my drive way) for the next ~6 years. I’d have no problem ramping back up to 2 cars when the kids are of driving age, although there might be some form of cost sharing involved.

  • I don’t understand why people drive their kids to school. Driving is less safe(https://imgur.com/Y6Fu7O1), less polluting, less healthy, & more costly than biking. Ride bikes to school, or walk. I rode about 4 miles each way with my kids to one school before we switched schools. Good opportunity to teach biking & traffic skills – & independence.

    FWIW, I have been carless for 10+ years now. Cycling & walking get me everywhere. I do live in a city. I have a bike trailer for big/heavy goods, but I can carry a 70-lb can of malt extract (for making beer) on my rear carrier. If you have to live with hills, like SF, get a bike with an electric boost.

    If you do need a car now & then, use Uber, a taxi, Vrtucar, Zip car, or an ambulance if necessary. Then you might save $2,500/year.

    • Thanks for your comment, Tom.

      I’d ride to our kids’ elementary school for sure if it wasn’t so easy to walk. In fact, they ride to school occasionally and it’s an easy 2-3 minute ride. I am shocked by some of the folks that don’t walk/bike to our school when they live even closer than we do, although not everyone has the luxury of time that I do.

      But for almost any other school around us, I’d probably have to drive. Most major roads here are fairly bike unfriendly, so a car becomes a safety choice. Car crashes at low-ish traffic speeds (35-45 mph in the city) are much more survivable than for a bicyclist in a bike-car crash at that speed.

      Way to go on going car free though! That takes a lot of discipline to skip the easy/lazy choice of a car and go for non-motorized transport.

  • Emily and I live in between Mcgregor and Waco Texas, sometimes I wish it was easier to get to things. My wife doesn’t work and if we HAD to I think we could go with one car, but it would mainly just be a huge inconvenience. We are homebodies also. On the weekends my car just sits in the driveway because we use her car. I guess if we switched to one car my only concern would be if she needed to go somewhere during the day and I took the car to work. I think after FI, we’ll drop down to 1 car. On the nights / weekends we rarely are away from each other. do y’all still have both cars?

    • No, we are down to the one car. I’m loving it!

      It’s working perfectly so far, and I don’t think there’s more than a time or two per month where we have to stop and think about who needs the car so the other person can postpone a trip. It might get trickier now that our oldest starts middle school and our middle kid is in elementary, and we might but the 4 year old in a part time preschool at some point.

  • I just got rid of my second car (a 2000 Honda). I feel so relieved. I don’t have to deal with filling the tank with gasoline, car maintenance (just making the mechanic wealthy), car inspection, sticker (for the tax), washing the car, and new tires. One less car to pollute the Earth. I now use my bike to get around or my wife’s car. Thank the Heavens that I did this!

    • Very cool. So far we are doing fine with one car and I’m enjoying only needing to maintain one set of tires, check one oil dipstick, replace one set of windshield wipers, etc.

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