You Can't Make It as a One-Car Family: Now What?
Having only one car seemed like a great idea, at first. It would save money, and surely you could all work out your schedules so that you could pass the car around, or drop each other off, or whatever.
But then she got a new job across town, or you started working a lot of overtime. Maybe the car broke down and no one could get anywhere for three days, or your social schedules didn't overlap so well. Maybe sharing the car was causing so much friction that it was making the entire marriage feel hard.
Whatever the reason, sometimes being a one-car family just doesn't work, or doesn't work anymore. Guess what? That's not the end of the world. Sure, it's more expensive to have two cars, but if that's what you need to do, then that's what you need to do. Here are some ideas to help you think through getting a second car and minimizing the impact on your finances.
Check the Problem
Is the car really the problem? And is getting another car the best solution to the problem?
If you're fighting a lot and most of your fights are over the car, try to determine whether you're actually fighting over the car. Maybe, instead, one of you feels controlled by the other, or you're taking another frustration out on the car situation. Getting another car will only help if the car is actually the central problem.
And if the distance to work is changing, consider whether moving might be a better option. Would you be happier, overall, if you had a shorter commute? Or, is there any way for one of you to use public transit, at least some of the time?
Many times, getting a second car is the answer. But make absolutely sure it's the answer for you before you buy.
Consider Your Needs
Okay, so you definitely need a second car. But what kind of car, and how much car, do you need?
If your second car is mainly going to be a commuter car, you can probably get something that is smaller and older, and therefore cheaper, than the cost of a new car. Sure, you still want to make sure it is reliable and in good working order, but you may not have to spend as much as you had first thought.
Before you get a second car, consider all of the costs involved. There's not only the initial purchase of the car (or the down payment and regular monthly payments, if you go that route), but increased costs for maintenance, gas, and insurance, as well as any money you might invest in upgrading your vehicle (rims, speakers, stereo, etc.).
Make sure your budget has room for these things before you buy, so you aren't blindsided when they come up. Having your money in order will make you feel more confident about this new decision.
Think of the Children
If you have kids or are planning to have them, consider car seats and their placement before you buy a second car. Will you need both cars to be able to transport the children? Will you want to swap car seats in and out or have separate seats for each car? Do your current seats fit in your new vehicle, with enough room for you to help buckle, unbuckle, etc.?
These may seem like silly questions, but they can save you money later. If you buy a vehicle now that will meet your needs not only now but also in the future, you won't have to go through the hassle of selling a car and getting another one if things don't fit later on.
Before you go car shopping, decide which one of you will drive the new car and which one will keep using the old one. This may be a choice of personal preference, but there could also be good reasons why one or the other of you should have the new vehicle. Consider gas mileage, distance driven each week, commute time, comfort, and more.
While you both should help choose the new car, recognize that some aspects of it will come down to who is going to drive it more and what they need and prefer. This can help in the selection process and may help make the ultimate choice of vehicle more straightforward.
Find Discount Gasoline
When you're driving two cars, you may be surprised at the cost of gasoline. If you can, try to find a discount program in your area. Many people find that they save by buying gas from Costco or Sam's Club, though you have to have a membership to use those stations.
Other people get their fuel through a grocery store program. Kroger's is good, and they have stores throughout much of the United States. Albertson's also has one, though their stations are difficult to find in some parts of the country.
Finally, most states have discount gas stations — places where they just charge less. In my area of the country, Sinclair and Valero tend to be cheap. They're usually a little out of the way, but aren't hard to hit if you know where they are and work them into your daily routine. You can save hundreds of dollars a year this way, depending on where you live and how much you drive.
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