Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Pros and Cons of Being a One-Car Family

This last week as we were in another city stocking up on some groceries, I walked back to the car with my boys as my husband turned the key in our van, only to hear a clicking noise. You know the feeling you get when this happens, right? First you just think, "Oh, well it's good that our friends are meeting us in the parking lot. . ." then you sit there wondering if it's going to need to be towed, and then wonder how you are going to get home since you only have one car. Thankfully, our problem just turned out to be the battery, but it got me to thinking about the disadvantages of owning just one car.

Are you debating downsizing your vehicles to just one car, but wondering what it's really like? We have a family of six, including four young children, and have been living as a one car family for over four years now. I'd like to share the pros and cons we have found of surviving with only one vehicle.

When we got married, we knew we needed two cars as we both worked in separate locations. And once our first three children arrived, we continued to keep two cars as my kids were young (and therefore not in school) and I needed a way to get out of the house. But then we moved so that my husband could attend law school and one of our cars had given us so many problems that we didn't think it was worth bringing with us, so we sold it.

We had considered buying a very used van once we moved, but after looking around, we wondered if it would be cheaper to just buy a carseat that would fit with the other two in the backseat of our 1992 Honda Accord. While getting 3 children ages 4 and under in and out of carseats was not that fun, it worked for us. Toward the end of law school, however, the Accord needed a new engine and was not worth repairing for us. Plus, we found out a fourth child was on the way, so we ended up buying a used Sienna and selling the Honda for $500.

Overall, I have found that being a one-car family has worked very well for us in our current situation. My husband now has a job and works only one mile away. He can bike or walk to work if he really wanted to, and often he does bike during the spring and fall. As a homeschooling mom, I am at home most of the day with my kids (we don't run them around to day lessons or co-ops) so I don't really need the car during weekdays.

The things I love the most about being a one-car family are:
  • We have only one car to insure and pay registration for.
  • We use much less gas.
  • We are more efficient with our trips because we have to share a car
  • There are fewer maintenance expenses (i.e. we don't bear the risk of major repairs on two used cars - just one).
That said there can also be a few cons:
  • When the car breaks down, we have nothing to fall back on but friends and my husband's bicycle. Thankfully, this doesn't happen too often, but when it does, it's more stressful. 
  • As the boys have gotten into sports, it is hard on evenings and weekends when I might need to go somewhere else too.
  • It's a little inconvenient if I have a sudden illness spring up in one of our kids and have to take them in for a sudden daytime appointment. This often happens more during winter when my husband can't really ride his bike, so we have to do a bit of a switcheroo, but again, he's only a mile away so we're usually able to work it out unless he's in a trial or hearing. 
So while I love being a one-car family in terms of the money it saves us, I do see a second used car in our future once our debt is paid off.

What about you? Have you ever been a one-car (or even no-car) family? And if so, how did it work for you?


  1. We've been a one car family for the better part of the past 9 years when my husband & I got together. At the time we were both in graduate school, working and my oldest was in first grade. We bought a van after our second child was born and I used it for two years. It was totaled out thanks to the poor decisions of the other driver. We decided not to replace the van and just be a one car family again. It's always worked fairly well for us. We pick places to rent that are walking distance to activities for the children & I. Before my husband started working exclusively from home earlier this year if we needed to use the vehicle I'd drop him off and pick him up. If we needed to use the car after he'd left home he'd just come home, he worked 3.5 miles away. Right now the only way that I could see us becoming a two car family again is if we moved to a city with a poor public transportation system.

    1. It sounds like we have very similar situations! I drop my husband off too if I need the car for the day and it's bad weather. I think that once you are comfortable with the idea of being a one-car family, you can make choices that make it easier (such as living close to work, etc.). Before I met my husband, I lived in Uzbekistan where many people didn't have a car at all and used public transportation as their sole means of getting around (either that, or walking), so having a van that is reliable feels more like a luxury to me now, even if it is just one vehicle.

  2. We just sold our second car and are hoping to enjoy being a one car family. I homeschool our kids and hate leaving my home ;) so I will plan all my errands around the one day that two of them have music lessons at the university and just drive the hubby to work to have the car that day. I am getting ready to have our 6th child so I know once the baby arrives that errands will go to the bare minimum. In the meantime, we are enjoying paying less insurance and not having to worry about two cars breaking down. Our family van is 9 years old now and good for another 9 years (can't go wrong with Honda) so it is a wonderful feeling to not be locked into car payments every month!

    1. Hondas are great! We had an Accord for awhile, and then got a Sienna when we needed a van. Congratulations on your 6th baby - I feel overwhelmed with homeschooling 3 kids and having a baby/toddler around, so I don't know how you do it with six. But I do understand the aversion to leaving home, though somehow I don't mind leaving home if I am by myself :).

  3. I love being a one-car family! It's just the two of us (for now...;) but one of the unexpected benefits is that I get to spend more time with my husband. Errands are run together to save time, so I get to grocery shop with him, and he gets to buy parts and tools with me! It's nice to be a part of his "world" sometimes and has made me a better wife.

    1. I never thought of it that way, but yes, sharing a car can bring you closer together! Even with a family, having one-car can work depending on your situation too.

    2. I never thought of it that way, but yes, sharing a car can bring you closer together! Even with a family, having one-car can work depending on your situation too.


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