Can You Survive with One Car in Suburbia?

Do you live in suburbia? It seems everyone who does has two (or more) cars in their driveway. Is it a necessity for everyone, though? Is it possible to lead a one-car lifestyle while raising a family in the suburbs?

When I read about Matt Jabs' experience with leading a one car lifestyle, I was inspired to try giving up one car. After all, the family car I drive was sitting in the driveway 3-4 days a week. My husband was resistant, though.

Then disaster struck in the form of a $2500 repair bill just to make our 10-year-old car run safely. More repairs were on the horizon, as well. Put in the position of choosing between paying thousands to repair our car or purchasing another car, he was easily swayed — once we talked about our goals. We're paying off our other debt, so adding more to it just didn't make sense.

We sold the car to our mechanic for $1350, and the money went to new tires for the car we kept and our savings account. Our mechanic could easily fix the car up and make a decent profit. For us, it was not worth the money knowing the repairs equaled more than the value of our "clunker." (On another note, we missed the Cash for Clunkers program by 1 mpg.) We made this leap a month ago, and so far it has been fairly easy.

There are some advantages to making a one-car living work for us:

  1. I work on weekends and from home part-time. My husband commutes to a 9-5 job that is only 7 miles one way.
  2. We live within walking distance to many places, including Goodwill, a locally owned pharmacy, three ethnic grocery stores, a discount grocer, a grocery chain, numerous restaurants, Starbucks, the local public schools, a preschool, several day care centers, the YMCA, and Target. (The amazing thing to me is, that despite these areas being within walking distance, most people choose to drive. I admit I used to be one of them. It just seemed easier and faster to drive. In reality, however, it would take very little extra time and would add to my health and well-being.)
  3. Our schedules mesh really well. We can put our daughters on the bus, and I can drive my husband to work on time. (This is key, since I need the car for occasional dentist appointments, doctor's visits for the kids, and other planned activities.)

Can you live with one car?

Not everyone in suburbia lives within walking distance of businesses, work or school, so careful planning is the way to get where you need to go with one car. I suggest the following tips for making it happen:

  • Make a list of places you go weekly, or less frequently, and map out a schedule. I used googlemaps along with a list of places we need to go.
  • Use the power of Google to find out what public transportation options are available in your area. (I was pleasantly surprised to find bus routes that run on both major roads that our neighborhood connects to going along various routes.)
  • Consider bicycle commuting as a viable option.
  • Carpooling is another way to make one car work. Whether you and your spouse carpool together, you carpool with a neighbor, or you find a carpool online, this can really save you a ton of time and hassle.

What you need to make one car work

Some of the savings from the sale of a 2nd car, repairs, gas and maintenance costs should be put toward comfortable walking shoes for the whole family. If you plan to walk year round, having layers during the Spring and Fall, and really warm coats for the Winter, is key.

For bikes, try yard sales or Craigslist for a used bike before you break the bank with a new titanium road bike. (And of course, invest in a helmet.)

If you have young kids, don't forget the stroller! You don't need anything fancy, but I would recommend a jogging stroller versus an umbrella stroller for ease of use on roads and bumpy sidewalks. (I spent about $350 on a top of the line stroller that was greatly discounted — well worth it after 2 years.)

Other options

If you can't work out how to have only one car, I suggest trying one of these alternate ideas.

  • Give one car living a week-long trial.
  • Consolidate your errands.
  • Don't plan activities that overlap, when possible.
  • Try alternate methods of transportation one or more days a week.
  • Have a car-free day every weekend.
  • Walk or bike whenever possible.

What has worked for us may not work for everyone, but trying to use your car less has many benefits. The main one for my family has been that we are happier and healthier, and we're staying away from stores when we don't really need something. Through this experiment, I have realized that the biggest benefit is to my wallet. Walking to the store presents a barrier to buying too much stuff, and makes me consider whether I need to go at all.

What do you think? Could you make one car living work for you?


This is a guest post by Kelly Whalen who blogs about paying off debt, organizing family life, and personal finance on The ¢entsible Life:

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Guest's picture

I need to learn it and live it :)
then we really mightcould be a one car family.

great post as my definition of that is one which gets me thinking...

Guest's picture

for my wife and I - we live in an outer ring suburb of Minneapolis, and we both work during the same hours - in different directions. Add to that we both have drives of at least 20-30 minutes, it makes it nearly impossible for us to carpool or drive with only one car. Add to that the fact that there is no bus service from our suburb towards where we work - and I'm afraid we'll always be a 2 car family.

I at least carpool which helps i think.. :)

Guest's picture
Liz M

I would love to be able to give this a try, but alas, it's just not in the cards for us. I work 13 miles away (but it's 30 minutes minimum with traffic), and DH is an hour away in the opposite direction.

I do know that there will someday be a trail that extends right from where we live to the town where I work, and if traffic keeps getting worse, it may be faster to bike the 13 miles than it is to drive. By then the kids will be big enough that they'll both be on a bus. Only problem is how I bring my dress clothes without wrinkling them!

Thanks so much for sharing your experience and letting people know that it IS possible, even in the suburbs, if you are motivated to give it a try and your circumstances allow it.

Guest's picture

Technically we have two cars, but mine has been sitting with a broken compressor and belt drive for a little over a year. The parts are in the kitchen, but we haven't been able to coordinate getting them replaced. Oh how I wish my husband had taken auto shop instead of video lab. Anyway, we're not technically in the suburbs, but a small rural town 30 miles from the nearest city. He works in the city 4 days a week. I don't really go anywhere on those 4 days and rarely need to. My kids who are in school ride the bus to and from, and the church van picks them up on Wednesdays for their bible club. If I absolutely must go somewhere here in town when he's gone I ask a friend. So far that's worked out ok, but I still want to get my car fixed. I probably still wouldn't go anywhere most days, but if one of the kids got sick or I really needed to go somewhere I could.

Guest's picture

I wish we could ditch a car, but with 3 very active small children in town who attend multiple activities and a hubby who works an hour away from us, it's not in the cards right this moment.

However, we ARE taking steps to solve some of these problems. We have no sidewalks in our town and very busy main roads. Only a damned fool would walk a stroller or walk with their kids down the road! Services (school, groceries, activities) are spread out nilly willy. There is no public transportation whatsoever in town except a senior citizen van back and forth to the senior center.

I've volunteered for a town committee that is trying to fix some of these problems by advocating for sidewalks (safe routes to school), bike paths, and bus service. We also work with other town committees to do things like Smart Growth zoning. It's expensive, so we've only gotten one new sidewalk in town from a very populous housing tract to a school, but just that one sidewalk has allowed more kids to walk to school and consolidate a school bus route. I don't think we'll ever be able to go one-car so long as we have both kids and two jobs (one a long commute job, the other a job that requires mobility), but once the kids are gone and hubby retires in 15 years perhaps we could do it.

Guest's picture
Jennifer Y.

We lived with one car for a while. I dropped DH off at work and picked him up every day. Then, after we had our DS, we still only had one car which was a little harsh. If I didn't get up and take him to work, I was stuck all day. And, the baby was sleeping 6-9:00 a.m. so I wanted to sleep too! We got a second car again when DS was about 6 months old. All in all, I think we did it for about a year. It can be done!

Guest's picture

Hi! I have 7 kids, work from home (mostly) and we only have one car. I drive my husband, high-schooler and middle-schooler to work and school each morning (about a 20 minute trip) while my homeschooler watches the little ones. My high-schooler walks home, but everyone else is just a little too far to walk and the bus doesn't come our way. The older kids can take the city bus, though, to activities and movies - and I do drive around quite a bit - but it's way cheaper than having to pay for two cars! Sometimes kids have to wait a bit for me to come and get them...but that is very rare. It usually works out just fine.

Guest's picture

My wife and I relocated to Beaufort, SC exactly a year ago from Washington DC. We had one car in DC and decided not to purchase another car when we moved. Thankfully, I work from home, so I can either take my wife to work or do without the car if she drives herself. I know that we're a special case, but I think quite a few people are capable of living with one car, if they only figure out the total costs.
Cars are horrible investments, depreciating quickly and staying largely idle during the day. If we had two cars, my wife would drive to work and home, using the car for about 40 minutes a day. The car would be idle during the 8 hours she's at work. Total waste of capital.
Doesn't work for everyone, but if it's important to you to reduce your impact, this is a pretty straight-forward approach

Guest's picture

My husband and I are also a one-car family. It's fairly easy for us because there are just 2 of us. My husband also works from home and I only travel 6 miles to work (sometimes on my bike!).

I also wrote a post about living with only one car in the suburbs (and I have to agree with comment #5, the burbs are not designed well for walking and biking - it's a shame). You can check it out here.

Have you looked into cargo bikes to transport more bags of groceries or a child or two? I'm just curious, I am in awe of them but can't find any in my area. Good luck on your continued one-car family.

thanks for the post-
Little House

Guest's picture

My wife's car was totaled in an accident once, and we subsequently carpooled for a month or two. Our commute is about 35-40 miles each way into downtown Dallas. The hardest part is scheduling. Since we both have varying schedules, we end up staying downtown for whoever was working later. We saved in gas & tolls, but we probably more than made up for it in eating out for dinner!

On the weekends, we're pretty much exclusively on one car because we spend most of our time together. But given how far away we are from the rest of civilization in our new subdivision (Wal-Mart, gas stations, etc.), it is almost impossible to make it work.

Guest's picture

It's great to see so many people thinking and talking about trying a one car lifestyle.

For the people who mentioned working in the opposite direction as their spouse, have you considered when it comes time to change jobs limiting the area closer to home?

I know several people who have made it a priority to work close to where they live.

A big part of why one car works for us is we choose to live close to my husband's workplace.

I love that "Guest" is working on improving the layout of the town, to make it more walkable! That's a fantastic idea.

Guest's picture

it's definitely possible for some folks.

my partner and i, however, couldn't do it. we work in different parts of the city, and he'd have to get up an hour earlier to get out when i do...which would get ME up at 4 am. no thanks! i also have no way to carpool, as no one at my workplace lives remotely close to me. he could, but it would be a royal pain in the patootie to carpool with his friend (who has 3 kids, and has to call out randomly and without warning when one of them is sick). once my toy is paid off, i'm parking it and turning in the tags to give myself time to overhaul it (i don't intend to get rid of it ... ever, if possible), and will be buying a more economical gas sipper. depending on the reality of the rumors i've heard, an all-electric Cube might be that car.

my parents have it nailed, though. before my dad lost his job in the buyout of his employer, he would drive my mom to work and pick her up in the evenings. he still drives her back and forth, because the cost of parking in her garage far surpasses the cost of gas for him to drive her...he just doesn't dress in a suit for the occasion. :)

Guest's picture

We've been a one-car suburban family for 15 years. In fact, now that our oldest child is a young adult, we are now sharing one car between 3 drivers. Here's how/why it works for us:

~I am a SAHM, homeschooling my younger child, so neither I nor that child need transportation

~we are homebodies and our kids aren't involved in very many activities that require transportation during the week. Fortunately we live in a neighborhood with plenty of kids around for them to play with.

~my husband and oldest child work near each other and with similar schedules so they share the car to get to work

~I am an introverted personality and don't feel the need to get more socialization on a daily basis than what I can find in my neighborhood or online

~I do a lot of my shopping, banking, and other business online and feel like not having a car available actually saves me money by keeping me away from stores

~we have retired family members living next door who can help with emergency transportation

~our mechanic is within walking distance of my husband's work, so he can drop the car off and walk to work when we need repairs done.

~we have, a handful of times over the years, rented a car for a day or two when dealing with extensive car repairs or some other issue that required us to have 2 cars.

~my husband and I are in our late 40s and both remember our parents getting by with one car when we were young, so we knew it was possible before we tried it.

Guest's picture

i think the main goal is not necessarily to have a one-car household, but to really reduce your transportation needs. SO many folks here are talking about living 30 minutes or more from work. it's totally understandable that (especially in this economy) you need to take (and keep) whatever job you can get, but there's also a lot to be said for working near where you live. it not only makes commuting easier (or nonexistent) but it also invests you in your community more, increasing your commitment to local reforms like those mentioned above. as long as people work far from where they live, cars will be necessary, and nobody will be invested in "local" reform of suburban office parks where no one lives. maybe it's ultimtaely the housing situation, not the car situation, that really needs to be changed, though this will happen slowly, and over time.

Guest's picture
Sarah S

We have two cars, but one is a old pickup that we drive at most once a week (and generally more like once a month) for hauling large loads.

Generally, we get by on one car with no problems. We live in a medium sized college town. I can walk to work, and my husband is at home with our son. From our house we can walk to several grocery stores, the library, the post office, restaurants, etc etc. We could almost get by on no cars if we had to! We did pay somewhat of a premium on our house when we bought one in a more downtown location than if we'd bought a couple of miles out, but I wouldn't trade. I love being able to walk everywhere.

Guest's picture

We have one car and have always had one car. He has never actually had a license because when he was younger his family couldn't afford insurance or a second car and the same goes for us. I work part time and it is only 5 miles away. I wish it was bike-able but it would be quite dangerous, no bike lane and not many bikers so drivers don't know how to drive around bikers, also quite hilly and I would need a nap when I got to work and don't know how I would get myself home.

Five years ago we moved to the apartment complex right behind husbands work so he walks. A second car just wouldn't get used. There is rarely a time when there are two things that need to be done. I think because it has just always been this way and we know no other way. It would be nice if there was more than one driver but I don't think we will ever need a second car.

My boss and his wife are also a one car household, they both work from home and I help them out with their business. They rent a car 3 or 4 times a year when one of their jobs requires a lot of meetings or other things.

Guest's picture

My husband and I have been a one car household for over 2 years now. We got rid of our second car (a classic VW) when we moved to a small town in central WA (the snow and salt would have damaged the car anyway.) We were able to walk everywhere and we hardly used the car, since the town was so small.

We now live in a larger city. I don't know if we are considered to be living in the "burbs", but one car is still doable for us. When we moved here we purposely found a house that was within walking distance to my husbands job. Since he works at a University we save a ton on parking too.

I use the car most of the time, but since I work 10 minutes from my husband's job, he can take the car when he needs it.

We've actually been talking about the possibility of going "car-less" in a few years. There are a lot of zip cars around town and we live in a bike friendly place.

Guest's picture

My Dh and I are fixing up our house and getting ready to sell it, in the hopes of moving into an area where we'll be able to walk everywhere. He's looking at job opportunities in that same area, so hopefully when the move finally happens, we'll be able to get rid of his truck, and he can walk or bike to work, while I take the daughter to and from school. We're SO excited for this life change... it's hard to wait for it!!!

Guest's picture

My husband and I were a one car household for a few years. This spring we purchased a medium sized scooter for my drive to work. Although that is a net vehicle addition, it is still cost-effective for us for a few reasons.

Insurance on the scooter is very cheap. The scooter gets about 90 mpg, making our gas costs cheaper. The scooter is my commute method, the car isn't driven very much, because my husband works from home. Occasionally he uses the car for errands, or we use it when we need to buy a lot of groceries. We use the scooter for going places around town, as it seats 2 people and has a small cargo area under the seat. The car is old, so driving it less will (hopefully!) make it last longer. Scooters are pretty inexpensive new or used.

If you can't give up the second car, consider replacing it with a scooter! They are efficient, inexpensive and lots of fun! Save the car for hauling around cargo or kids.

Guest's picture

yes i think it is do-able. My husband and I only have one car, sometimes one of us has to take the bus, but we save a lot of money on extra insurance, gas and car repairs. We have a Budget planner which helps us stay on track and helped us to realize how much money we actually spend on cars.

Guest's picture

My wife and I have been a 1-car family for 9 years now. It's gotten a lot easier since she learned to drive manual transmission. 1 car living used to mean I drove her everywhere, since we always seem to end up with a stick shift.

Anyways, we've thought about adding a second vehicle; we're seriously considering making that second vehicle a scooter. A scooter-like ebike probably wouldn't meet our second-vehicle needs, but a gas scooter just might.

Guest's picture

Hola Kelly - Do you guys have Zipcar where you are by any chance? If so, it's a great variable way to use a car when you need to.

Family of 6.... hmmm, may be tough to ride one big long bike. Scratch that! :)

We live in the city and have one beater of a care between us. We use it only one weekends when we want to go to Napa, Tahoe, Carmel or wherever. Other than that, the benefits of city living is simply public transportation.

Guest's picture

For those that can't manage without one car, it is helpful to find ways to use your 2nd car less. Weekends are a good time to combine errands and things to do.

I love that so many of you have alternatives to the 2nd car. I wish I had thought to include scooters in the article, but in our area we just don't see them. Motorcycles-yes, but not scooters.

Part of the reason I was so impressed we could do it, was because we have tried in the past and it was very isolating. At the time we lived in a walkable neighborhood, but you couldn't really go anywhere. Combine that with 95% of the neighbors working all day (while I was at home with little ones), and you have a recipe for isolation.

Should we ever move again (not happening for at least 5 years) we will move to a more walkable and pedestrian friendly area.

We did pay a premium to live closeby to my husband's job, but would have paid even more had we chosen to live closer. It was a decent tradeoff for us.

Shogun, we don't currently bike as a family. That would be expensive for everything we would need, but I'm hoping we can get there at some point. It doesn't help that my oldest is averse to riding.

ZipCar, well something similar anyhow, is available in the nearest metropolitan area, but that's over 30 minutes away for the closest car. It is a fantastic option for people who live in cities or areas that offer it.

Guest's picture

We've got two cars, but I don't doubt that we could get by on one car if we needed to for whatever reason. My husband walks to work, and I work from my home office, so neither of us needs a car to commute, and I'm sure we could find a way to schedule around the times when either of us needs a car to get someplace.

On the flipside, though, the second car, a 13-yo compact sedan, does not cost us much--a little over $600/yr in insurance and registration, basically. And it saves at least some portion of that by getting better gas mileage than the minivan.

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

I find it interesting that when you get used to walking a certain distance or route, to later drive the same route seems to take ages longer than it should. Conversely, when you drive a certain distance without ever walking it, you start to believe that it's just too far to walk (when it might only be a 10 or 15 minute walk).

I have a friend (a 2-car 2-person household) who just bought a place in suburbia, and when driving by the nearby shopping centre, I commented that wow - she could walk to do her shopping and even get some exercise while she's at it! She shot me a look like I was absolutely nuts. "It's too far to walk" was the curt reply.


Guest's picture
pam munro

We do have 2 cars - but one is almost 20 yrs old & the other 10 - we mostly have driven the younger one - a car - & kept the truck idle. I work at home mostly, so it's doable. But when we have trouble with the car - we use the truck & today I had to use the truck for an appointment. I think that by not using the truck a lot we are prolonging its life, too - that and additives to everything - radiator/gasoline/oil and so on....

Guest's picture
Lisa B.

My husband and I are both self employed and live in a Seattle suburb. He works from home and I work in Real estate, so I have the car most of the time. It's worked out perfectly for us, mainly because my hubby doesn't like to go out too much. If I need to go downtown I can take the bus, or he can give me a ride/pick me up. I dread the thought now of having to pay to maintain another car, I like things just the way they are now!

Guest's picture

We're about 3 months into our family's suburban one-car experiment and so far so good. Wife & I are lucky that we work in the same zip code (though opposite ends of it!) but there are certainly challenges. Before this we lived in the city and walked as many places as we could (sometimes the car would sit for days) and we definitely miss some of those advantages—being able to exercise after work and then walk (or get a ride) home was a huge plus that is missing.

We try to consolidate trips to keep the driving down but it's not always easy. We're hoping to remain a one-car family as long as possible.

Guest's picture

We have been a one car family for over 15 years now. We live in Syracuse, New York- not exactly suburbs- but the bus system is not exactly conducive. My car literally died the weekend of my wedding ceremony with hubby--- we've never looked back on getting a second car.

Before children, she had a job that required lots of driving and I didn't. Logically, she would drop me off and pick me up. When the first two kids entered the picture, the daycare stop was added before my drop off in the morning- then she would pick me up in the evening so I could help gather the little ones at daycare.

Once we adopted our third, finances made more sense for her stay at home. Before ending her job, we saved enough to buy a mini van (hard to fit a booster and two baby seats in the back seat of most sedans) with cash on the barrelhead. I began bussing to and from work- my job was downtown and relatively easy to get to. Having the van home for her to have for any school pickups, drop offs, and emergencies only made sense. Any emergency I had could warrant a cab ride if needed.

Unfortunately, the workplace moved- but I was lucky enough to find someone to carpool with.

I was laid off in February and the job searching required frequent interviewing. Hubby and I would plan out the next day's car usage each night- so there would be a clear understanding of who would need the car.

I have had a new job since May- and made it clear to my employer that travel needs planning for me. I needed to travel to Rochester NY for some training for the first few weeks- we borrowed my father in law's car for that, but could have rented just as easily, given the good milage my job pays. I am back to bussing into work- but my transfer in the morning is iffy. I either just make my transfer- or just miss it. Luckily, I can walk the distance to work in about 15 minutes and haven't been late. Afternoons, I must walk the 15 minutes to the main bus center of town. Its a good refresher between work and home for now- but when snow is two feet deep, it will be less enjoyable.

We have not even entertained for one minute the idea of buying a second car for my work. It never makes sense to me to buy a car for ten minutes of driving each way- then sitting it in a parking lot for the 8 hours I work.

Guest's picture

We are a one car family. Have been for about two years. I work full time and my husband works a part time schedule when I am at home. We have three children. We are lucky to live in a city that encourages bike riding, and to live in a neighborhood where we can bike to several supermarkets, the library, park, schools and even a hospital in 10 minutes or less. We lived within walking distance of these things before, but have moved a little further out. My husband usually drives me to work and has the car (and kids) during the day.

Guest's picture

While working with the town planning committees and consultants to make our community more walkable and green, the biggest challenge we seem to be having is that a lot of the planners come from large urban areas, such as metro-Boston, and really don't "get" how challenging it is for someone living in a more rural area to get around without a car. They come up with unworkable assumptions such as taxpayers coughing up huge tax overrides for bike trails and new sidewalks and assume businesses will voluntarily rebuild things simply because it gets rezoned (yeah ... on who's dime?) Their retort to everything is for everybody to pack up and move back to the city (the thing everybody here fled in the first place ... hint ... we loathe the city down to the core of our bone marrow and aren't moving back). Explaining to them you just can't hop the "T" because there -is- no "T" is like shouting "hello-hello-hello" into an empty cave...

If you want people to change, you need to make it work for THEM. Otherwise ... you're just banging your head against the wall.

Many people view their cars as freedom and are reluctant to give them up. Some of their concerns are legitimate (no sidewalks, dangerous traffic, unsafe to bike, services too far, no public transportation, etc.) On the other hand, a lot of the resistance is just plain inertia. Advocating for people to give up one of their cars is about as socially acceptable as farting in church. We've had good luck convincing people to carpool, plan trips to deal with multiple errands, and buy more fuel efficient cars when gas prices spiked and had people nervous, but with prices back down inertia is beginning to set back in.

Asking for tax overrides for new sidewalks and bike paths is a challenge. There simply isn't any money left over once you pay the teachers, the firefighters, and the guy who plows the road! And for those of you who retort "well if it was important you'd spend the money" I dare you to go say that in any New England town meeting (caveat ... wear a raincoat ... you'll be leaving the room covered with rotten eggs and tomatoes). It's important to YOU ... it's up to YOU to make it important to THEM if you want them to change. Simply saying it's so isn't enough ... you might as well be off in the corner muttering to an invisible pink elephant.

However, we've found the voters are more receptive to new sidewalks when you can convince them it will save them tax dollars in some other area (such as eliminating a bus route). The old geezers aren't willing to get out and walk themselves, or spend money on the schools, but they're sure enthusiastic about getting kids out of tax- and gas-guzzling school buses and walking/bicycling that 2 miles to school.

A little at a time ... that's all you can do. By the time we get all those new sidewalks built 25 year from now, the kids the geezers gleefully kicked out of the school buses onto the new sidewalks will have grown up walking and be raising a new batch of more environmentally-conscious one-car kids themselves.

Guest's picture

We have a very similar story: my car was determined to be unsafe and expensive to fix, so we sold it to our mechanic and used the money to finance our move to a new city. Since I was taking my job with me and would be working from home without a daily commute, I thought one-car living would be a piece of cake-- and really, it should have been. Unfortunately I have been completely unable to learn to drive my husband's manual car (it's me, not him or the car, trust me) so my options have been limited. Most of the time my husband drives me wherever I need to go, sometimes I rent a car for important appointments, for group things sometimes a friend will pick me up, and sometimes I just don't go anywhere. (I can't even imagine how much money I haven't spent simply because I wasn't able to go to the store.) At times the inability to get myself around has been a royal pain, but we've made it work for almost two years now.

Guest's picture

Where I live isn't exactly suburbs, but still two miles to the city centre. I walk that two miles to get to work. It's 45 minutes at a leisurely stroll, I can do it in half an hour. There are supermarkets on my walk back. I rent a car for some of my holidays, and while I've got it, I'll run errands that are difficult on foot. I'm 25, never owned a car, and only took my test less than a year ago. I've been places where not having a car may have been more difficult, or even impossible, but most people are too easily scared.

Guest's picture

We've been a one-car family for about 1½ years so far, and generally it's been great. I work in downtown Ottawa, which is about 22km (about 14 miles for you Yanks :) from home in the burbs. I've been biking in almost every day since early spring. So far I've lost 30lbs that way...

When I'm not biking (that is, when it's pouring rain in the morning - I'm pragmatic, not dogmatic about cycle commuting - or in the winter) I'm lucky enough to have an express bus whose stop is a 2min walk from my house that takes me right downtown in about 35min.

So far having one car has been truly problematic twice in 18 months; so when we do need a second car, I just rent one from Avis. The way I see it, about $3oo in car-rental so far sure beats payments and maintenance on a new set of wheels!

When it comes to errands and stuff, we just consolidate/coordinate our efforts on the weekends and it works out.

I'm convinced it *can* be done, but you have live in a city with decent public transit.

Guest's picture

We have tried this out for a week or two here and there when one of the cars needs the mechanic but we don't feel like dashing off to spend the money. Having one car is definitely an option we've considered.

We have a little bit of a plan mapped out that includes some days when my husband takes the car and leaves me home with our homeschoolers, and others when I drop him off so I can take care of chores and various lessons the kids go to.

It helps that the kids are older and can be left alone and that my husband only works about 6 miles away.

It is still my dream to put this in action!

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My wife recently returned to America from Japan, where we lived for two years without a car at all. We moved to Cleveland, Ohio. From April till now we've been doing one car. We got an apartment near my work (9-5 M-F). I walk to ride my bike. She drives the car an hour or so to graduate school M-F, and works several nights during the week. Things worked better than I ever thought they would. We consolidate trips. We're careful about walking when we can. We have decent public transport nearby. I even signed up for a carsharing program with a car just two blocks away...

Practically, it's sometimes tricky but it essentially works....and in OHIO!!! Changing weather is proving a factor, but the biggest factor is really much more psychological. I work a fairly professional job, and I feel like people wonder what's wrong in my head when they hear that I don't have a car. It means I need to get people to come meet me all the time, instead of the other way around. Most are pretty understanding, but it's hard to shake the feeling that it puts people out a little.

I'm now considering my options, and I can't get away from the idea that I'll need another set of wheels. If my wife were a stay-at-home mother, it might be different, but she's got the car almost every day.

And the snow is a' coming.

That's my story. We've done it for a while, but can't any longer.

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Though on the surface we would appear to be ideal candidates, I don't think it would work in our case. Our area is rapidly becoming a "bedroom community" for Atlanta, 45 miles away, but there is no public transportation in our county nor any of the surrounding counties. Likewise there are no sidewalks and the two lane roads are hilly and curvy, with no street lighting - not at all conducive to safe walking for children or adults. The closest place to purchase anything is an independent gas station/convenience store 3 miles away. That might qualify as walking distance but a second car is cheaper than the prices I'd have to pay to feed myself, husband, and 5 kids if I did my shopping there (not to mention how unhealthy that stuff is). The closest grocery store, Wal-Mart, is 8 miles away.

Even still, since we homeschool and hubby telecommutes, one car might be doable if none of the kids played sports, took music lessons, or participated in church activities, and 2 of the kids weren't in college. Considering that we are a 7 person family with 4 drivers, I think we do well to get by with one minivan and one pickup truck.

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My husband and I are very involved in Boy Scouts and at our childrens' schools and we make it work with one mini van. The weekends my husband goes camping as an assistant scoutmaster in the Boy Scout troop with our two older boys or as a den leader with our younger son's pack and I have no car we make sure I have all supplies I need and these are good times to get things done around the house and spend quality time with the kids. I've canned fruits and vegetables from the garden because I was home and wanted to do it but never had the time before and that was rewarding. My kids look forward to the one on one time we spend while they are traveling abroad on their camping adventures. I have to say some people obviously judge us by the comments they make or the way they react when they realize we have one vehicle, but one woman in our Boy Scout troop has three vehicles, one a brand new SUV, and she constantly complains about having no money, gets mad when we have fun nights that cost over $5 for the boys as a reward for their selflessness throughout the month doing good deeds during scout meetings and outings, and her son had to miss camp because of her inability to manage her money well. Our van is paid off, well-maintained and the insurance is quite affordable, plus we have money left over for my husband & the kids to go to camp every summer and many other times throughout the year creating irreplaceable memories for not only our sons but everyone else's sons too. Let's face it, children grow up entirely too fast!

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I must add that my husband has a high quality well-maintained bicycle with a trailer for the little ones or groceries and the children also have quality maintained bicycles, so if we need to go anywhere and don't want to walk, we are able to with no problem as long as weather permits but we also have appropriate rain gear we can use if needed. Our house is also in the heart of the city, within blocks of our schools, doctor's office, hospital minor emergency, grocery store and convenience store so those are also factors that work well with our situation.

Guest's picture

We have been a one-car family for the last month, not out of necesity --we have the second car out in the driveway, working fine-- but because I am dedicated to the idea as a way of living more simply, cheaply, and more environmentally. My husband doesn't understand this one-car idea, so it is mostly up to me, (he drives to and from work. God forbid he commute by bike --7 whole miles!) I am a SAHM, who takes my daughter to preschool several days a week on the bus. The preschool is only 20 minutes away by bike, but here's the deal: I am scared of being on the roads with her in the bike trailer. People on cell phones are a total hazard, and I will never forgive myself if anything happens to her while we are biking to preschool. So we take it easy (we're in no hurry) and take the bus.

How do other people get over their fear of biking with small children when 50% of drivers are on cell phones?

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Truth be told, most people I know in suburbia feel the need to drive everywhere - and I do mean "everywhere", including to places that could easily be walked in 5-7 minutes.

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