We’re A One Car Family In A Two Car Household

With all the talk around minimalism and frugality these days, it’s no surprise that Mr. MMM and I have been racking our brains lately trying to figure out how we can hit a major milestone by becoming a one-car family. Obviously, when you live outside of city limits, saying farewell to a second vehicle is a struggle, but not impossible. Throwing kids into the mix and it becomes a pipe dream for most families. Interestingly, we figured out a way to actually become a one-car family.

The Dilemma

driving - one car family

The open road

Ever since getting married, we have dreamed of becoming a one-car family. I mean just think about all the dough we could save if we only had one car sitting in our driveway! But how on earth was that going to be possible with two careers and a kid? That, was the obvious dilemma.

We had many a conversation around this topic and continued to loop back around to the same old answer. There was no way we could sustain our family with only one car. The cons outweighed the pros, even if the pros would’ve increased our bottom line.

Despite Mr. MMM working mostly from home, we still couldn’t figure it out. Mind you, I said mostly from home. When he isn’t working from home, he’s traveling. This could mean driving 1.5 hours to Baltimore or Philly, or driving to the airport to hop a plane to fly across the country.

Unfortunately, I still work full time outside of the home. That means, if Mr. MMM needs to get himself to Baltimore for the day, he needs to drive himself. True, we could probably figure out some sort of public transit system, as long as I can get him there, get our daughter on the bus, and get to work in time for my first meeting. Based on these evaluations, we decided that would be a Fat Chance. But we were desperate to make this happen. After all, I grew up hearing where there’s a will, there’s a way. And I truly believe that.

Related: Cars Drool / Cash Rules

Our Options

We dove into considering our options as if we had no other choice than to own only one car.

The options we came up with in the event we needed two cars were as follows:

 

  • Uber – If we desperately needed to get somewhere and the other person was using the car, we could use Uber. Unfortunately, since we live out in the suburbs, pricing was pretty steep from our house to some common places we might need to go.
  • My Mom’s CarMy mom is retired and doesn’t go too many places. She also has a nice, reliable car that is there for the taking (so to speak). Since she’s also only 10 minutes away from our house and only a short walk from my place of employment, this was an ideal option, albeit, still a hassle.
  • Buy A Beater – We could sell one of our current cars (both are paid off) and use the profit to buy a beater and invest the rest.
  • Remain A Two-Car Household – Since most of the time we only used one car and the other one sat in the garage, it wasn’t out of the question to just keep both cars and rotate their usage, kinda like we already did.

Related: Avoid Car Payments And Become A Millionaire

Deciding To Become A One-Car Family

Our decision was actually quite clear. We opted to become a one-car family, but still keep both cars.

Reasons we decided to remain a two-car family:

 

  • Pinterest pin - one car familyGas – Since we rarely ever used two cars at the same time, our gas usage wouldn’t decrease by eliminating a vehicle.
  • Maintenance – Same theory as gas usage applies here. Having two cars in our possession would not increase the amount of maintenance needed.
  • Convenience – On mornings when I have to be at work for a meeting and Mr. MMM has to drive down to Baltimore for a project, we are really thankful we don’t have to go through the hassle of figuring out public transit, doing a car shuffle with my mom, or using a beater that’s going to let someone sit on the side of the road.
  • Peace of Mind – It’s nice to know that, if I’m at work and there is an emergency with our daughter at school, my husband would be able to jump in his car and be on site within minutes. Sure beats calling an Uber or waiting for me to get the message at work. I realize this is a stretch and that emergencies rarely happen, but in the event something like that did occur, time is always of the essence.

Related: Why I Regret Buying My Inexpensive, Fuel-Efficient Car

Outcome

Juke - one car family

Our second vehicle

We made a pact to only use both cars at one time if it is absolutely necessary. Essentially, We have become a one-car family while remaining a two-car household. Not only does this decision provide us with what we need to operate safely and conveniently, it also isn’t costing us an enormous amount of money.

Because both of our vehicles are paid in full, the additional expense we incur by having two vehicles is quite small. By only driving one car at a time (except for emergency situations), both of our cars will last twice as long as they would if we were using both of them on a regular basis. Ultimately, we decided the cost of maintaining insurance, registration, and inspection for the second vehicle is worth keeping it in the family.

Have you considered becoming a one-car family but think it would be impossible? Or, did you figure out how to actually do it with two careers and kids? We’d love to hear your experience.

 

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Lisa is the creator and resident writer at Mad Money Monster. She's a mother, scientist, and financial guru on a mission to save Generation X from working until they die!

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15 comments… add one
  • Bella Apr 19, 2017, 11:06 pm

    I’m in Aus, and I rent my spare car out with ‘Car Next Door’. It covers its own insurance cost and rego with the money it makes. Ok, so it gets wear and tear, but it covers the cost of that easily as it is a newish car.

    We need two cars as distances are further here and the public transport is not great.

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 20, 2017, 10:53 am

      Wow! I LOVE that idea. I think things like that are starting to catch on in the states…I’ve heard whispers in dark corners here and there 🙂

  • FinancePatriot Apr 7, 2017, 1:17 pm

    We have seriously considered becoming a one car family. I have even less excuses than you do, I bike commute most days, and my spouse stays at home. We even have public school bus service nearly at our front door. We still have two cars for the following reasons:
    1. Our cars are both long paid off.
    2. Insurance savings on second car is minimal, about $140/year to drop liability only coverage.
    3. Registration fees are dirt cheap in TN, about $63 per car, all in (emission test is $9, already included in said amount).
    4. There are very rare occasions it’s nice and luxurious to have two cars, such as when both of our kids have different events going on at the same time. it’s very rare this happens, but it’s luxurious to have this option.
    5. While uber and lyft serve our suburb quite nicely, and most places aren’t a far ride, I am not comfortable putting my kids in such a service alone. So we keep a second car idle.
    6. If we sell our second car, we would get 2-3k at most. if we decided we want to buy a second car later on (I have seen this happen in the PF blogger world), we would pay more for said car, than the one we sold that we KNOW is in excellent running condition (due to lack of driving).

    So we dredge on with two cars, one that is hardly ever driven. My wife has started to use both cars more often, as we want to spread the miles over the two vehicles and not put all the miles on one. When we have kids with us, we use the four door Altima. When we don’t have kids with us (or only one), we drive my 2001 Acura CL Coupe (by the way luxury cars are still fast at 16 years old, if you want to drive a luxury car that’s fast but not pay luxury prices, I highly recommend buying a very old one. Ours runs almost like new, it’s 16 years old!)

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 7, 2017, 4:45 pm

      This is almost exactly where we sit. I definitely think it’s worth the slightly higher expense of having the convenience of two cars – as long as neither one is dragging a payment along with it. Thanks for sharing!

  • Daniel Palmer Apr 6, 2017, 8:03 pm

    Definitely have thought a lot about losing a vehicle! Even if we keep the miles off, the second vehicle still costs depreciation!

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 6, 2017, 8:51 pm

      This is true. We are giving up the money we would net from the sale of a car. But, we plan to drive both of them until the wheels fall off. That means, we’ll probably have them for at least the next 10 years. 🙂

  • Max Your Freedom Apr 6, 2017, 6:05 pm

    I fantasize about this all the time. Mrs. Max just got a new job downtown, which means we could pull off a one-car household if we wanted to, but that would mean she would have to take public transportation, and lose the ability to take unexpected trips during the day for client meetings, etc…

    I think the approach you guys took is a good compromise, since our second car is leased, I’ll need to figure out what to do at the end of this year. I don’t think we’ll be able to transition to a one-car household until I reach full FI in 5 years.

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 6, 2017, 6:11 pm

      Yeah, we have also fantasized about such an existence. But, we are happy with the compromise. For now, it enables us to have the flexibility and peace of mind, in the event of an emergency. And, since both of our cars are paid off, the amount we might spend on public transit or Uber in any given month could equal that of what we pay to maintain our second car. That, was the tipping point in our decision. I’ll be interested to hear what you guys do after the lease is up!

  • Mike Apr 5, 2017, 8:04 pm

    I would like to cut out one of our cars, or really, just go to what you’re doing. But there is just no way. In order to take the bus, my commute would be 2.5 hours each way and I would have to get TO the bus stop some way. We used to have more extensive bus service to the suburbs, but was eliminated several years ago.

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 5, 2017, 8:25 pm

      Yeah, we found it’s a nice compromise for our family. We could definitely muddle through the hassle, but we don’t need to put that unnecessary strain on ourselves. Although, I do give mad props to people who are able to do it! We decided that, since both cars are paid off, it only costs us about $150-200/mo to maintain the second vehicle. That amount could easily be eaten by public transportation or Uber rides if we didn’t have it. Plus, there is also the convenience and peace of mind we chose to take into consideration. 🙂

  • Ty Roberts Apr 5, 2017, 10:36 am

    I live ~20 miles from downtown Seattle, have 4 kids and only one car. It’s a big part of the reason we’re able to thrive on a single income.

    It’s not always easy. I bus to/from work. There have been times when I’ve had to walk further than I wanted, when I’ve taken my bike, the kids have had to walk home from school and friends homes (the horror!). I’ve had to call an Uber more than once and even got straight up stranded once and had to get a hotel room because I couldn’t make it home.

    Despite all that we make it work and are saving and investing an extra $8,000 per year.

    • Mad Money Monster Apr 5, 2017, 11:39 am

      Ha! I remember you being stranded in the snowstorm! I do applaud you guys for being able to do that. Wow.

      If you don’t mind me asking, how do you save an extra 8k/yr by not having a second car. If we consider our car being paid off and only using one car at a time anyway, the second car sitting in our garage isn’t costing us nearly that much to maintain. Unless I’m missing something huge. Any insight would be awesome 🙂

  • Erik @ The Mastermind Within Apr 5, 2017, 9:58 am

    I’ve thought about becoming a 0 car family… haha (I’m single).

    In all seriousness, I have a lot of the same thoughts as you. I only drive about 4k miles per year and really don’t need the thing unless I’m going on a trip or going to my parents.

    I’m fine if it just sits in the garage. I’ll have it for 20 years and it will still be running strong 🙂

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