Why We’re Becoming a One-Car Family

Why We're Becoming a One-Car Family - picture of family sticking heads out of white car

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Several years ago, we became entirely debt-free aside from a small mortgage on our home. And even though we didn’t have a ton of unsecured debt, it was still an amazing feeling. Thanks to our zero-sum budgeting skillz, we paid down the last of Greg’s student loans, a few small credit card balances, and the last of our car loans. Further, we vowed not to take on a penny more debt for the duration of our lives. Why? Because we learned that debt is a curse – a burden – and we knew that we were better off living a debt-free lifestyle where we call the shots.

It’s been several years since then, and I have to say, staying out of debt has been easy. I don’t miss owing people money, dealing with the monthly payments, or knowing that I had to keep working in order to pay it all back.

Unfortunately, being debt-free has made us somewhat complacent in terms of our vehicle situation. For the last few years, we have had two cars – one of which is rarely driven. Sadly, my periwinkle minivan – the one I wrote about in a post titled, “Reader Question: Should We Sell Our Second Car?in 2013 – is still taking up space in the driveway. I mean, it’s a 2007 Dodge Caravan and only has 55,000 miles for heaven’s sake! And since both Greg and I work at home on our online business, I drive it more out of duty than necessity.

Why We’re Becoming a One Car Family

Well, a situation came up where I can unload this van and give it to someone who could actually use it. And after some thought and consideration, we decided to try our luck as a one car family and see if we could make it work. Even though the car is paid off, we recognize some distinct advantages that come with only having one vehicle to care for. Here’s how we decided to share one car – and drop the second:

We’re going to save on insurance.

Although I have an affordable Allstate liability policy on my Dodge Caravan, it would be nice to avoid paying insurance on a car I rarely drive. Currently, the policy on my Dodge Caravan costs $164 every six months, or $328 per year. Since I only drive the van once per week, that’s mostly money down the drain.

We won’t have to pay for repairs or upkeep.

So far this year, I’ve had to purchase new tires and a new rim for the stupid van. Plus, I put on new brake pads and had the oil changed at least twice. In total, I probably spent $1,000 on the damn thing – and remember, it’s only worth around $5,000! Now that I made those repairs, it’s in extremely good shape. But if we get rid of it, we will no longer have to worry about oil changes or surprise upkeep. I like it.

We’re going to have extra room in our garage.

Even though I think it’s silly we humans park our cars in our houses, I do enjoy parking indoors. There’s something especially annoying about scraping ice-covered windshields during winter and getting in a blazing hot car during summer, isn’t there? Meanwhile, parking in the garage allows us all to avoid dealing with the elements. The problem is, fitting my van and Greg’s car in the garage at the same time is a chore. It can be done, but it means everything else in there needs to be stacked and organized so we can squeeze through the sides. With the van gone, we will have ample room to walk around the garage all winter long – and we’ll no longer have to squeeze around. Further, we should have room to set up our weight bench and get a few cold weather workouts in!

We’re happier with less.

You know how it is – the less stuff you have to take care of, the better off you are. That’s part of the reason we practice minimalist decor, have annual garage sales and donate to the thrift stores frequently, and don’t buy lots of new stuff. I don’t like taking care of things, dusting them, organizing them, or worrying about them. Having one less car means having less to worry about, and that’s alright with me.

The Bottom Line

Honestly, it’s nice to be at a point in our lives where we don’t really need a second car. Years ago, we wouldn’t have been able to make that choice due to our stressful and time-consuming 9-5 jobs and frantic lifestyle. Now that we’re self-employed and working out of our own homes, we have a lot more time and flexibility, which will be key for making this work.

Over the next five years, I would imagine we’ll be able to save more than $2,000 (and possibly a lot more) just by not having that extra vehicle. And I don’t know about you, but I can think of a lot better ways to spend that money!

Have you ever thought about becoming a one car family? Why or why not?

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  1. Congrats! We have *always* been a one car family and I can’t imagine how much financial stress a second vehicle would be. I am aware it will be much harder with kids and we might have to rethink that in the future.

    1. It hasn’t been a stress for us since it is paid off. It just feels wasteful to me to have something I only drive once a week!

  2. Sounds like a great way to save money and stress! We’ve always had two cars since we each had one when we met. But if we ever got to the point that we were not using one of them much, we would definitely consider getting rid of one. Have you decided what you are going to do with the money you get from selling it?

  3. One car wouldn’t work with our lifestyle right now but I would surely do it if we worked from home. Someday it would be nice to not have a car at all!

    1. I think working at home is the difference. When you have two people driving to work, sharing a car is much more difficult!

  4. Great post!! We have one “main” car and my husband has a work truck which is a necessity. So, I guess technically we’re not a one-car family, but I would absolutely be willing to do it if we could!!

  5. We are one car family by choice as well. Car is an expense and not an asset, and that is our main reason. I think it also depends your circumstances. It works great for us, because we live 10 min walking distance from my son’s preschool and I am working from home. Also, my husband works in sales, so his schedule is super flexible.

    1. Yeah, I think those things make a difference. I’m not sure we could have done the one-car thing in our former careers, but it works fine now.

  6. Good for you guys – especially to reap that money savings. We’ve seriously debated it ourselves since we’re in a very similar situation to you, though our second car isn’t worth a whole lot. The last I checked the Blue Book value I believe it was around $2,000-$2,500 so keeping it isn’t costing us that much in comparison to what we may be able to get for it once we’re ready to upgrade cars.

  7. Love it! We’re very happy as a one car family. Neither of us commutes to work, so we do a lot of letting our car sit as it is.

    We don’t even use our car for road trips, we usually rent a car since we prefer something bigger.

  8. We’ve considered something like this ever since moving up to a bigger car, the 2nd car has worse gas mileage and we use it very infrequently.

  9. We’re hoping to become a one car family when my husband retires (7 more years). There is no way we could do only one car now though. I currently drive a 2007 Honda Accord with 185,000 miles on it. We hope to basically drive it into the ground and keep it going as long as it doesn’t have any costly repairs. I doubt it will last 7 years though!

  10. We were a one car family for awhile, ended up both needing a car for work, and just a few months ago went back to having just one car. I love it and don’t want to ever go back if we can help it!

  11. I I’ve always been a one car family. 🙂 I’ve been thinking about doing a one week without using my car challenge and documenting it in a video. This is one tough town to live without a car, even working from home! It’s not so much that it can’t be done or that it’s expensive, but it takes TIME!

    1. Yeah, we live really close to stuff but it’s not convenient without at least one car. My grocery store, for example, is less than a mile away. But since it’s across a major highway, it’s not ideal to haul groceries on my bike or anything!

  12. Worst case you could always buy a nicely used car with cash if the need arises. I have considered it, but it would be difficult for us for many reasons, mass transit were we live it not friendly, wife works off hours in retail. and with two soon to be teenage drivers we are considering adding a third car.

    1. That’s the plan. I would probably buy an old Honda or something for a few thousand bucks if we found this didn’t work.

  13. We’re a one car family but thats changing. We’ll be buying a second car in late spring/early summer. We just cant do ot anymore and we’re only getting busier. Maybe we’ll get back to a one car family but fot now we need 2.

  14. We’re a one-car family. I think it makes extra sense for you now that you’re both working from home. Tim and I are always here, so we just avoid scheduling two things at once. Voila, no second car necessary!

    1. Exactly. I think it will work fine for now – might get trickier once the kids get older and are more involved.

  15. Nice! We went down to one vehicle but then we got the RV. Technically the RV is our home though? Haha!

  16. Good for you. If it works within your lifestyle then you save money and increase free space. I am on the opposite side of the issue. I love cars and when they are paid for with cash and are good cars then I keep them forever. The minimal insurance cost isn’t enough to give up the joy they bring when driven for their purpose. I do a lot of the maintenance myself so as long as I can do that I will be a multi-car freak. My automotive hobby is part of what I retired early to. Counting my winter beater car we have 5 total. I consider letting the beater go once it starts falling apart (340,000 miles) but it won’t die. The others are our main vacation car, off road/deep snow small 4X4 SUV, Track/Show sports car, and my daily driver custom convert Toy PU which is fun for soaking in the sun and hauling stuff. My kids love knowing that when their car is in the shop they can call dad and borrow one when they need to. At some point though I may join you in auto reduction and get down to just 2 cars. I don’t see myself being a one car household because my wife and I split the errands and get them done in half the time when we have to run around to take care of things.

  17. We’re a one car family as well. Having only one car definitely has its challenges but we found by proper planning we only need one car. There are just too much extra cost with owning two cars. Great move!

    1. I can’t wait to get the savings! My January auto insurance bill is coming up and I won’t have to pay around half of it!

  18. Christine says:

    Cudos to you! I have always lived debt free except for Rent or Mortgage. We recently became a 1 car family because we sold everything to travel full time in a RV. I really do miss my Jeep but I rarely drove it. It was paid for, but there was still maintenance, DMV and insurance and gas. It adds up. When you think about it, what do you really need in life? Shelter, food and clothes. Keep it simple, keep it easy, keep it stress free!

  19. Good call.

    No need to keep that money sucking boat anchor of a vehicle sleeping rent-free in your driveway!

    ( i lol’d at myself typing that) 😉

  20. Congrats! We\’ve considered the one car lifestyle since Mrs. E is at home at the moment. But once she\’s back in the workforce, one car wouldn\’t work.

    We also debated leaving one car as nonoperational and stop the registration and insurance until she\’s back at work. But that would be even more of a hassle.

    Convenience is addictive.

  21. Sounds like a challenge! I don’t think I could do it. Having one car on the family. I can definitely see the advantages of having one car though. Good luck! 🙂

  22. We are not a one car family. We both work outside the home in different directions with different hours.

    One thing we were looking for with a new house was a large enough garage we could fit everything in and still move around (since we came from an older home where this was not an issue). I have plenty of room for both cars, the lawnmower, the overly large air compressor and my tool box and bench. Even with everything in the garage, I still have space to work my side hobby of repairing hurleys for my club. If it wasn’t so labor and time intensive I would probably sell this service to others, but at this point I am too slow to really make a profit at it.

    1. Before we decided to go down to one car, we thought about getting a big storage shed instead. We don’t have a ton of stuff or anything, but the lawnmower and yard equipment, Christmas tree, totes of storage, take up space! Plus the kids bikes and scooters and everything else.

  23. We’re already a one-car family…since we’re in the NYC area. Parking is tough and is expensive if you pay for a spot. Public transportation is great so it’s works well. If we ever move to the suburbs though, we would have a tough time having only one car since we work in different directions.

  24. Seeing as my husband and I have each had our own car since the age of 16, we never seriously thought of becoming a 1 car family. When we started our journey to becoming debt free, I sold my 2 year old SUV for a 7 year old Honda Accord. My hubby had a brand new Mini Cooper and everyone thought I was the crazy one. While the Mini was fun to drive, that damn car cost so much money in repairs and maintenance. And to top it all off, the nearest Mini dealership was 2 hours away! On at least 3 occasions DH went without a car for a week and I was left shuffling us around in my now 9 year old Honda. Well…fast forward a few years when hubby declares that he wants to sell his car and use the money to pay off his student loans. I didn’t believe it at first, but it’s actually been pretty easy transitioning into a 1 car family. We both have bicycles that we can ride and that’s how my husband gets to work most days. We’ll see how this winter goes as I’m teacher and I get delays and he doesn’t. ?

  25. We were a one car family for about two years when we lived within walking distance for the train which I took to work everyday, and I REALLY miss that lifestyle. Not just the cost savings, but it really does mean less overall clutter in your life. It was a sad day when we moved and took on another car.

  26. I rarely drive my car. I tend to do a lot of things online so that eliminated the need to drive everywhere.

  27. Catherine Anderson says:

    We have been a one car family for almost three years. We have kids. We just downsized and moved to within a half mile of my husband’s work. Due to the recent move we save on gas, insurance, AND rent. That really helps living on one income here in Los Angeles. I’ve missed having a second vehicle a lot in the last 2+ years, but now with him walking to work and occasionally driving, we’re doing well.

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