7 reasons we became a single car family


I bummed a ride to the airport from a buddy that works in Indianapolis the other day.

He drives a shiny red sports car that makes me want to buy aviator glasses and gun it. He got a great deal on the car. The car barely had any miles when he bought it. The previous owner just drove it on weekends.

That’s right, the dude had a weekend car.

Contrast this with the reason I was bumming a ride: We recently downsized to one car.

A month ago we sold Annie’s Chevy Cavalier, which she bought in college. The average household has 2.28 cars and now we have 1. I thought I would share why we made this decision:

1) We outgrew our car. The Chevy Cavalier was a two-door car and with two kids, we are a four-door family. The car didn’t fit us any longer.

2) We don’t need it. Once we became a stay-at-home family we drove way less. Rarely were both cars out of the garage and when they were they didn’t really need to be.

3) We’d rather have $5.6 million than a car payment. Being a stay-at-home family living off the irregular income of a writer/speaker, we took a long hard look at our budget. It turns out that the $4,000 the Cavalier was worth would pay our newer four-door G6 off. No car payment! That’s nice on the budget, so is no car insurance.

According to AAA it costs $46,845 to own a car for five years. This figure includes, fuel, routine maintenance, tires, insurance, license and registration, loan finance charges, and depreciation costs. And if you invested the money over five years it would equal about $62,000.

According to Lloyd Alter at TreeHugger, the average American works 365 hours each year just to pay for one car! That’s 9 weeks of work!

Get this. The average car payment is $475. If you put that much in a mutual fund instead of paying the bank for your car every month, after 30 years it would be worth $1.6 million and after 40 years it would be worth $5.6 million!

4) Rentals are cheap. When we really need a car, like when I need to drive myself to the airport, I can rent one for less than $30/day. I’ll spend less on car rentals this year than I spent on parking at the airport last year.

5) Less cars = less driving. So often we go places we don’t need to just because we can. We plan our trips better and our days. We spend less on fuel for needless trips and we spend more time together. Who wants to run more errands anyhow? Instead of paying for gas to the airport I treated my buddy to lunch.

6) Things (especially Chevy Cavaliers) don’t give us joy or convenience. We give these to one another. In all of my travels I see people with so little who are so happy. They make me want to simplify my life. Having one car is a way of doing that.

7) Garage space! We have so many plastic-wheeled toys that are pushed, pedaled, and rolled that our garage was starting to overflow. Now we have one parking space for our car and one for all the kids’ toys and yard equipment.

There are times that not having a second car is inconvenient and I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I’ve walked out to the garage to go somewhere and the car was gone. But a month after the downsize and we’re happier than ever that we have only one car.

There are certain things we accept because everyone else accepts. Having a car per adult in our family was one of these things for us. But once we chose a different life, we started to look at things…well…differently.

I realize our circumstances – my commute to work is walking up the steps – are unique. But we chose for Annie not to work. I chose a career that I could do from home most days. We chose this life and we love it.

pam says:

We’ve always been a one car house. We don’t have kids, but we are two grown people who live just on the suburban edge and sometimes, we wish we had another set of wheels. But we:
+Really can’t afford it.
+Don’t NEED it, not at all, we’re two at home freelancers
+Would rather spend the $ on something else.

Also, check it out, I’m really smug about this: We paid cash for our car. CASH. We never had a car payment. The guy at the dealership was gobstruck.

In this, we are a shockingly unconventional American household. Some sit by us, Timmerman crew.

Kelsey says:

Pam, We are happy to be weird like you.

I think we often take the convenience thing too far. 85% of the time we don’t need two cars. Why go to all of the hassle for 15% of the time. Lately my snowblower has been getting nervous about the way I’m looking at him. If it wasn’t a gift, it would be gone!

Cathy Shouse says:

Good for you, Timmerman clan! I have often thought of scaling back on cars but my husband works 65 miles from home and it just isn’t workable.

However, the size car payment you describe has never happened in our household. We keep the cost low and we keep cars a long time. It isn’t easy when we are a society in which some people value us based on the wheels we drive. I don’t really like bumper stickers–putting out a message on a car– or I might get that one that says: Don’t laugh. It’s paid for.

Let your voice be heard!