May 16, 2010

A One-Car Family (Carole)

I feel almost un-American mentioning the possibility of a normal, red-blooded family only owning one car. But as I've cruised around the internet lately, I'm amazed at how many presumably normal people are not only thinking about it, but actually ditching the second car.

I'm not saying this course is for everyone.  We currently own three cars (hubby's, mine and one with our daughter at college).  But in our former life, with very young children, we were one of those one-car families - for 12 years.  It wasn't that bad.  Really.  My husband and I were both flexible, and I tried to consolidate my errands and only take the car  when I really needed it.  I think a good attitude helps too.  My girls will remember many, many nights going to pick up Dad at his office while they read in the back seats already dressed in their PJs.   We'd often crank up That Thing You Do on the CD player and cruise down to his office on Flamingo Road  and occasionally stop for ice cream cones at McDonalds before picking him up.  If he was running late, we'd dash to the local book store that was open until 11:00 PM and wander around until he was ready to go.  It was actually kind of a cozy time.

Besides special, fun times in the car, however, there is one very compelling reason to own just one car:   Money.  Of course.  Your car, as you know, is the single largest guaranteed negative investment of cash you will ever make --  unless something really bad happens to you.  Almost no car appreciates -- you spend tens of thousands of your hard earned dollars on a beautiful, shiny car and within 5 years any car is nearly worthless.  You can hardly give it away.  Ouch.

In addition:
1.  Think of the tax you paid when you signed those papers.  7.35% is a lot on $20,000 - $60,000.
2.  Interest too, if you have a monthly payment.
3.  Then there's auto insurance every month.
4.  Gasoline.
5.  Maintenance (oil, tires, tune ups, repairs. . .)
6.  State licensing (several hundred dollars in most states).
7.  And remember you actually had to earn at least 25% more than the cost of the car just to pay the federal taxes on your income that paid for that car.  Happily Nevada has no state tax, but if your state does, then add in another 7% or so.

Even a $20,000 car, if kept for 5 years, will cost you approximately $50 per day to own and operate.  That's nearly $20,000 per year.   And that's if you paid cash.  It goes up if you have monthly payments.    Or bought a more expensive car.  Or both.  My goodness, you could have vacationed quite nicely for a couple of months in europe on that!  Or fully funded you 401k for the year.  And an IRA.  And then retire a multi-millionaire at age 50 -- if you started early enough.

Just like when buying a house, cars are big ticket items, so there is a lot of money to be saved by making wise choices.   I don't know about you, but I OFTEN wish I lived in a big city (preferably London :), right downtown so I could easily walk most places.  I'd happily give up my car.  I could rent a pretty nifty auto for the occasional trip out of town for a whole lot less than $20,000 per year.  Also, think how trim my calves would be from all that walking or biking!!   I'd also buy a lot fewer items knowing I had to carry them back to my home.  The benefits and savings just keep on comin'!!  Mostly, I'm writing this post because now that I only have one child at home, and my husband stays in one location all day while at work -- I'm thinking about it again.  What I could do with all that extra cash!  I'm really very tempted.  How about you??


Bart said...

We loved being a one-car family, and are probably selling our second car in about a month. Once J is no longer working, we'll be more than happy to save the money!

And I agree - there are all kinds of side benefits.

Jenna said...

one car is definately the way to go. it is a little tricky sometimes, but the benefits are worth it!

Carly Jane said...

We were actually just talking about the possibility of being a two car family... and it's tempting! Just yesterday my mother-in-law looked at me with real concern and asked, "Are you doing ok without a car?"

But I know I would spend too much money on the errands I can't easily run now (without a car), so I often curb that urge to keep the car we now have once we'll have to buy a bigger one. Just thinkign about what insurance would be to have both cars insured makes me not want to do it.

preethi said...

We seriously debated becoming a one-car family (instead of a zero-car family). However, while we live fairly close to the city, we're not right in it. We also tend to drive out of town at least once or twice a month, and unfortunately, our church building is not public transportation accessible. So we decided on one car. It is really quite the luxury coming from the perspective of no cars instead of two cars!

Ang said...

We were a no-car family for three years when we lived in the city. There were so many different city car share opportunities that we never even noticed the difference. The benefits were enormous though.

We are a one car family now that we live in Phoenix and I must admit it is pretty difficult. My husband has to have the car all day - he travels from his office to court at random hours. We invested in a great stroller and live in walking distance to a Target and a grocery store but you can't walk anywhere during the summer in Phoenix :) Two cars would be useful - but paying off our student loans would be even better.

Mary said...

We've been a one-car family ever since my husband's 1980's volkswagon died about 3 years ago. It was tough for a while. He had to get up SUPER early to take the bus most days and then I would have to drive over an hour round trip ride in rush hour with small children to pick him up every night. But, we made it through the tough time and now he has a company car to get him to and from work. I don't see us becoming a two-car family now until we have teenagers!

Jenae said...

Seth and I were just talking about this last night! We are a happy one car family and I imagine it will be a long time before we get a second. When we first got married Seth and I both had a car but it didn’t take us long to figure out that wasn’t necessary and sold it. Having one car does take a little more planning, but it is possible. Granted we’re fortunate that Seth can typically ride his bike to school but even when it rains it just takes a little more planning and flexibility to live with one car. Plus I felt VERY brave the first time I figured out the bus system!

And you are spot on with the savings. Because we pull in our budget in areas like tiny apartments and one car living we have been able to adventure to Europe twice!

Also, It’s always been important to me to have a reliable car that will last me a very long time. I had my first car for 9 years, then sold it when it was threatening to break down- but we sold it before it broke down completely. (: We then bought our new car that we expect to have until at least 2018. That’s the plan at least!


emily kate said...

We loooved not having a car when we were in NYC. It was so freeing not to worry about gas/maintenance/insurance etc. When we moved to Vegas we had to get one. All of my friends here are planning to buy a 2nd car if they don't already have one because our husbands will be driving to med school rotations everyday for 2 years starting in July and they think we're crazy to stay with one car. But we'd rather save the money and be economical. Like you said, I'll wisely choose the days I want the car and will drive him and pick him up and we will all survive!

Melinda said...

We are a one car family and don't see the need to add a second car for awhile. We have been blessed with a job for my husband that allows him to work from home when he isn't traveling. And now, we are about to move to Bellevue, WA which has a superb bus system for my husband to commute to downtown Seattle for work.

I, too, would love to live in a large city- Paris, s'il vous plait. ;)

Miriam said...

We went that way for quite a while too, in our early years. The only thing that really keeps me from ever wanting to do it again is when you have car trouble - majorly the pits when you only have one car!

Camille said...

Another thought to go along with this - Philip and I thought we were being soooo smart by buying cheap cars with plenty of miles on them (mine was 5k and philip's was 7k). But it seems like we are repairing them all the time. On our most recent repair, we were given a little advice by our mechanic - if you're going to buy a car, make sure it is less than three years old or has less than 30k miles on it. You will get the best value for your money and you won't have to set aside the extra hundred bucks a month (on average) to repair your car all the time.

I think we should have just bought a good car and made the sacrifices to be a one car family. Alas! Now we are stuck with these two sorry excuses for cars!

Packrat said...

Since my husband uses a car for his job (service calls), I have to have another car. Because there isn't any public transportation where we live, two cars are very necessary.

Stephanie T said...

I love the memories of being a one car family too! I cringe when I hear younger moms complaining about having ONLY one car. The experience made my husband and I extremely close to our two older children. I always packed a deck of cards in my purse for when we were waiting for Daddy to be finished working.

You didn't go into details of having a 2nd car but keeping it forever. If you have already bought and paid for your car the extra $$ on insurance and gas may not be very much. We have had one car for 13 years and it's insurance is now only $10 a month plus I receive a discount on the suburban that is worth $28 a month because I have multiple cars. You can't really beat keeping an extra $18 a month in my wallet while having another mode of transportation. (That being said we rarely ever drive it since my husband telecommutes)

aaron wilkinson said...

Britt and I did it for 3 years and loved it. Britt got the car and I got the bike and let me tell you I was always in shape. If job/life circumstances can accommodate I say go for it!

lacie tidwell said...

we're considering it now for sure- it would be easy (ish) to drop my husband off, just trickeir picking him up- so we're thinking about it and maybe when he is at a permanent location for work he can get a ride home- or take the car- he's not on board (yet) but I most certainly am- we would be debt free in six months if we had one car and that is looking pretty good to me right now as we're considering buying another house! we'll see!

Chelsea said...

Tom and I have been a one car family since we moved to Washington. The only times I really miss my car is on long road trips (mine had better gas mileage), or when Tom wants to do extensive work on the Land Cruiser. That kind of restricts what he can do to his car.