One Car, Many Freedoms

March 21, 2011 § 1 Comment

Like most couples, George and I owned two cars and never thought that much about it. But when we created the goal of paying off our mortgage, we started looking at our finances in a whole new light. We were forced to face the fact that two cars was one more than we actually needed.

Our two cars included my 2006 Prius for which I paid cash, which means I have no monthly car payment other than insurance. The other was the “bucket,” a cobalt blue Saturn that smelled like spoiled dairy because I once dumped a hot chocolate out in the front seat. It’s pretty obvious which one we decided to keep…

We live in a walkable town by choice, and we both work from home by the grace of the universe. We do pick up and drop the kids off at school (a new development – they used to take the bus, but our oldest switched schools last month), and we can combine that trip with grocery store stops when we need to. And if we go somewhere on the weekends we’re usually all together. So, after George spent a few weeks worrying about the loss of his personal freedom and the implications of not owning anything but our shared house, he manned up and took the initiative to dump the bucket.

We were worried at first. We really didn’t have any idea how inconvenient this might be.

You never know what life is going to throw you, and we are both types who like to be prepared. But after we got over the initial shock, we learned that living with one car actually helps us in immeasurable ways.

  • We instantly lifted $500 per month in car payments and insurance (for a car that was rapidly depreciating). It’s been two years, so that means so far we’ve saved about $12,000 in car costs ALONE, and that doesn’t include gas. The bucket probably would have been paid off by now, but it wouldn’t be worth what we paid for it, and we’d still have to pay for insurance and upkeep on what could best be described as a completely crappy car.
  • With gas prices going sky high, we’re thrilled not to have the extra expense (or to be lining the pockets of Big Oil any more than we have to).
  • We only have to get one car serviced and cleaned, saving us even more time and money all year long.
  • When George takes the kids for their monthly visit with their mom in Oregon, he rents a car.
  • When one of us has the car and the other has an errand to run, we walk or bike – which is a healthier and greener way to travel. For example, days when I have to go in to the corporate office are often days that coincide with the boys’ trip up north. When that happens, George rents a car at the airport five miles away and walks or takes his Citizen Bike to pick it up.
  • We’re more thoughtful about combining errands on trips, which frees up our time to do more things we enjoy.

Having one car has been an inconvenience a few times. Recently, I had to travel to the corporate office (it’s 60 miles away) on the same day when both kids needed to be picked up at weird times from school. We rented a car and returned it the same day for about $35. Not my favorite solution, but the problem was solved cheaply and with just a minor out-of-the-way stop.

Also, I ice skate on Tuesday mornings at 6:45. George wakes up with me, drops me off while the kids eat breakfast, drives home, gets the kids ready, takes them to school and picks me up at 8:15. Then, we hit the grocery store across from the ice rink to pick up all of our food for the week. It’s a lot of running around for George, but even he agrees that it’s been nice having all of the shopping for the week completed by 9 a.m. on Tuesday.

Nowadays we hardly ever think about it. It’s just one more little scheduling thing we have to work out, like what’s for dinner or who’s doing the next load of laundry. And as I send those extra checks to our mortgage company every month, I realize that NOT having the extra car is contributing to my family’s freedom in a much more authentic way.

Here are some other bloggers who have experienced the one-car lifestyle. See what they’ve learned!

Matt Jabs at fivecentnickel.com

Kelly Whalen at the centsiblelife.com

The Crunchy Wife’s Sister

Do you think your family could survive with one car by walking more, using public transportation or not going out as much? Is it possible for you to work from home? Does where you live support this choice or is it just too hard for you and your family to get around? Would you ever do something as drastic as relocating to a more walkable area to downsize your car count?

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