Becoming a One-Car Family: 5 Points to Consider


Whether you're looking to simplify your life or just save money, leaning your family down to just one car can be a wise choice. My husband and I have been doing the one car thing for around a year, and it's working out quite well since our daughter is young and I work from home. We made the change after the repairs and gas costs started taking huge chunks out of our monthly budget, and it's proved to be a smart financial choice for us overall.

While there are still times when owning two vehicles might be more convenient, with a little compromise and some planning, we're hoping to keep it simple for as long as possible. Here's how you can do the same.

1. Map It Out

Before anything else, click open a map to investigate the area around your home. When I checked our location, I discovered that our daughter's school, as well as a hospital, pharmacy, grocery store, and even a few restaurants and shops, were all within a mile of our front door. Since I work from home, knowing these amenities were in close distance helped us feel confident that we could access most of what we might need on foot in a pinch. You can also choose to switch banks, doctor's offices, pharmacies, and other spots to fit your new lifestyle.

2. Consider the Weather

That being said, we also live in an area where winter overtakes the region a good five months out of the year. If inclement weather is a factor that might make walking or other transportation difficult, weigh it in your decision accordingly. If you have kids, think down the line to when getting to school events or other activities might get tricky with just one vehicle.

3. Group Your Trips

A lot of the bumps in switching to just one car come from convenience and ease of transport. Sometimes you can't go where you want to go at the moment you want to go there. Start keeping lists of items (food, household, etc.) that you need and try to take shopping trips all at once. Group activities, like gym classes and other recreation, to get the most out of your trips. I find it particularly helpful to post a large calendar so my husband and I can see where the car is needed and when. Then practice before you drop that second car. Can you make it work?

As a bonus, you may also find you save money by not running to the store every time you need something. Staying home more often has its benefits.

4. Consider Alternative Transportation

There's a lot on the spectrum between driving and walking. Check out the bike routes to work, for example. The average speed bike commuters travel is around 10 mph, and trips of three miles or fewer are actually faster by bike. Those of you who live in cities can check local bus and subway schedules to see if you can get where you need to go in good time. Buying frequent rider passes can be a great way to save on travel this way. Comb Craigslist and other classifieds for motorized scooters. Where there's a wheel, there's a way.

5. Dip in the Pool

Furthermore, if you live in a more spread out area, carpooling might be a good option — especially for your daily commute. Ask your coworkers or Human Resource office if any employees have organized groups. You may also find community programs by searching online. And there are lots of carshare and rideshare programs, like Zipcar and eRideShare, across the country that allow you to get from point A to point B without owning a car at all. Once you've surveyed all the options, make a plan that works for your family. (See also: Carpooling: Pros, Cons, and How to Stay Safe)

We'd love to hear your tips on making just one car work for a family (or perhaps no car at all). Please leave your thoughts in the comments!

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