As I wrote last week, I would love to give up our car and get around as much as possible by bicycle, but at this point in our lives (with three young kids and living in a sprawling small city), it's not a practical plan. So for now, we are not car free, but we are what some are calling "car lite" - my husband and I share one car between the two of us. Over the next couple of posts, I'm going to share why my family made that decision and how we're able to do it.
Seven years ago, my husband and I moved to the DC suburbs. My husband was starting his first job after graduating from college, and I planned to stay home with our six-month-old baby. Those two factors combined to equal one very poor young family living in a very expensive city. As we brainstormed ways to keep our spending to a minimum, one obvious solution in a city with excellent public transportation was choosing an apartment near a subway station and getting rid of one of our cars.
When we moved to Raleigh three years ago, we stuck to our one-car decision by choosing a house within walking distance of my husband's office and my boys' school. Being a car-lite family is not always easy, but if you're able to do it, having one car has some definite advantages:
- Financial. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the average cost of owning and operating a vehicle was $8,487 in 2009. Based on my own estimates, buying a second vehicle would cost my family an additional $5000 a year (including insurance, maintenance, and car payment). If we bought a second car and moved out of the city, we'd also have to add an extra $2000+ a year for gas and parking.*
- Physical Health. Because we only have one vehicle, we end up walking a lot. My husband walks to and from work most days, which not only saves us money on gas and parking, but means we don't have to pay for a gym membership. And I love that all my walking erases any evidence of the number of cookies I consume each week.
- Mental Health. Going car-lite may not lead to improved mental health for everyone, but it definitely does for someone like me, who equates driving with stress.
- Environmental. Owning fewer vehicles means less gas, less air pollution, and fewer resources used in manufacturing.
Have you tried going car-lite? What benefits/downsides have you seen?
Next week, I'll follow up with some tips for using your own two feet as your main mode of transportation when you have complaining kids.
*As usual, your costs and savings may vary.