Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Downside of Being a One Car Family

The Conscious Shopper dreams of two cars...

"See you later," my husband says, leaning through the car window to kiss me goodbye.

"What time do I need to be back?" I ask.


I nod. "Okay, see you then."

My husband and I own one car between the two of us. We gave up our second car when we moved to the DC suburbs several years ago and got by easily on the metro system. Two years ago, we moved to Raleigh, NC where public transit consists of a very meager bus system and a whole lot of arguing between government officials about whether or not they should put in a commuter train. We chose a house near my husband's office and kids' school and stuck to one car, but some days I wish we'd decided to get that second vehicle.

Most days, my husband is able to walk to and from work, but for the past few weeks, he's been spending a lot of time at his company's data center, which means he has to drive. Or I should say - which means I have to drive him. And then I have to pick him up at the end of the day. So because we only have one car, we end up travelling twice as many miles on days like that.

Financially, being a one car family is definitely best. We only have one car payment, fewer car repairs, less to pay in insurance. In theory, we've saved the resources it would require to manufacture us a second car. Unless we're running down our car twice as fast...We still end up putting fewer miles on our one car than the average family puts on their two, but not half as much like I would have expected.

I still think sticking to one car was the right choice for us for now, but I'm also starting to admit to myself that becoming a two car family is our inevitable future. Or maybe one car and a motor scooter.

Any one car readers - what has been your experience?


Jess said...

We are a one-car family and like you, most of the time it is a source of pride for me. Other times, it is a source of inconvenience. My husband commutes to work by bicycle and he doesn't mind doing that year-round and in CA, it's no big deal usually. It was when he broke his hand last summer that driving him to and from work each day was really, really inconvenient. Sometimes on weekends, we want to do different things and it's a pain then too. Most of the time it's okay though.

Rosa said...

We're a one-car six-bike family. We actually usually plan to bus or bike and only have the car for backup.

The problem is when we plan on being car-dependent - we went with a far-away pediatrician for insurance reasons, and a far-away vet for cost reasons, so those appointments can't conflict. And my son has been having behavioral problems on the school bus, which leaves us car-dependent every single school day that's too snowy to bike, which have been a lot this year.

I kind of feel like we should ditch the car for a year and rearrange things to be really bus-centered, like we used to. We've had a car for going on 8 years now, nearly continuously, and I think car-dependence is sneaking up on us because of it. It's hard to make changes because of vague goals, easy to make them because of plain necessity.

Green Bean said...

I'm not sure we could do that. We toyed with the idea a couple of years ago when my husband's work was bike-able distance. He has a new job that is further away and requires frequent travel - some driven, some not. Plus, we opted for a charter school that is in driving distance instead of the neighborhood school in walking distance. It was the right decision for us but it required the environmental sacrifice of being a two car family. Hats off to those of you who can pull off the one car, though!!

Willo said...

We got to try out being a one car family when my car got hit a couple weeks ago...it was, ok. But once my husband's car bites the dust we plan on going back to it. It was nice to read some perspective.

Shona~ LALA dex press said...

We thought about getting rid of one car, but in the end, 2 cars completely paid for, in good condition, yearly license plate/ wheel tax very low, and insurance unbelievably low with me being considered a "pleasure driver" because I walk to work.
My thoughts go towards, what if one of us goes out of town (it happens), our one car goes in the shop + his job requires him to drive to various locals in our town, etc., etc. 2 cars won out.

Kate said...

We have one car. I just try to be strategic about when I run errands and plan 'car days' so I am not taking him to work every day (which defeats the purpose of having one car in many ways, since you are driving twice the distance each day). I get the car 1 or 2 days per week and the other days I just plan to stay home. When we got rid of our 2nd car and our microwave at the same time it was not even really for environmental reasons so much as not wanting to be rush-rush-rushing around all the time. We have appreciated having a (albeit somewhat forced) slower pace to our life.

swiggett said...

My husband and I have been a one-car family many times, and are currently going the one-car route. We used to live on a bus route that would take me to grad school, so having only one car was only a minor inconvenience. Now, though, we live in the county over from where we work, and there isn't much in the way of public transport home to/from work. We carpool with each other daily, and have to work to plan who will have the car when/if they need it during the day.

We are fairly certain that we will be purchasing a second car at some point in the relatively near future. Most likely, it will be a truck of some sort so we have hauling capabilities. (New to us house) Since we live 17 miles from work, and gas just keeps getting more expensive, we still fully intend to carpool after purchasing said second car, and using it mainly as needed.

Suzita @ Play. Fight. Repeat. said...

We've considered being a one-car family but aren't quite there yet. We do biking and bussing whenever we can, but we are so impressed with all of you who have taken the plunge. You are inspirational to the rest of us!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin