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Living with One Car in a Two-Car World


Guest Post by Liz from Frugally Blonde

When I tell new acquaintances that my husband and I share one car, I am usually met with a mix of shock and pity. In our affluent society, it is practically unheard of for each adult driver in a household not to have his or her own car.

However, my family has managed well with only one car for four years, and we plan to continue to live this way as long as it seems necessary. While our lifestyle might not work for everyone, I hope that it demonstrates that living without a second car can be both possible and practical.

When my husband and I were first married and both working, it was easy to just have one car with the help of public transportation. However, a year after our wedding we moved to an outer suburb/small town bereft of a subway or bus system that we could use, and shortly after I quit my job to stay home with our newborn daughter.

There was no other way for my husband to get to his job 30 minutes from home except by driving–which meant that I was left without transportation during the day. So that’s what we decided to do. Now, three years later, we have added a second daughter to our family, but not a second car!

The girls and I stay at home most days without a car. Once a week (occasionally twice), we get up early in the morning, drive my husband to work, and spend the entire day on errands and appointments. Then we drive 30 minutes to pick him up in the evening, and we all drive 30-45 minutes home in rush-hour traffic.

Why do we have only one car?

The simple answer is that we do not feel that we can responsibly afford another one. At certain times during the past four years, we might have been able to squeeze a car payment into our budget, but it would have been at the expense of our other priorities.

For instance, we were blessed last year to be able to purchase our first home. We knew that doing so would seriously hamper our ability to get a second car in the near future, but we felt that a home was more needed as well as a much better investment. Further, although we would not rule out a car payment, we would much prefer to pay for a second car in cash, as we did for our first one.

Clearly, living with one car can be challenging and a sacrifice. However, after four years in this situation, we have discovered a host of unexpected blessings and benefits that have come with our unconventional lifestyle.

First of all, we easily save hundreds of dollars a year by not paying for gas, insurance, maintenance, fees, and taxes for a second car.

It also helps us save money in other ways. Out of necessity, I have become extremely organized about my shopping trips. I combine trips and map out the route that is most efficient. I try to do most of my grocery shopping for a two-week period in one trip, and I can often go at least a week without going to the supermarket, except perhaps for fresh fruit. Limiting my shopping trips to once a week also prevents me from being tempted by impulse purchases.

On a more personal level, I feel that our situation has also blessed me with the opportunity to truly blossom in our home and to focus on my life there.

At first, as a new mom, I chafed at being unable to get out of the house, and I admit that some days it is still hard. But now with two little ones, I have so much to do that I can’t get it all done even with being home all day! And my girls and I have developed a rhythm to our days, so much so that I feel very discombobulated if I take the car more than one day a week.

I believe that the day will come when our lifestyle and/or our growing family will require us to purchase a second car. God-willing, at that point we will have the money to do so. And quite honestly, I am looking forward to that day.

I know that I will never take having my own transportation for granted, but rather see it as a wonderful privilege and gift.Until then, I tell my friends, I may not get out much, but they’re welcome to come over!

Liz lives in Nothern Virginia with her husband and two little girls. Her blog, Frugally Blonde, is a place to discuss frugality and celebrate living the good life on less.

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  • Emily C says:

    But does anyone have any advice on making it with no car and kids? We’ll be moving either to LA or Philadelphia in a few months, and would love to dump the car altogether if we can.

  • Melissa says:

    This post has truly inspired me! We have a family of 5, that includes 3 little girls under the age of 6. Currently we have 2 vehicles, one of which is a lease. We had always felt the NEED to have two cars because my husband and I each had our own when we met! The lease runs out in October of this year and after reading this post and talking to my husband we have decided we will go down to only having 1 vehicle. With the savings of only having 1 car payment we can afford for me to drive him to work if necessary. We plan on “paying ourselves” in what we would be making on that car payment to our savings account and paying cash for a car that makes sense for our family. We CAN do this, and we will do this until we can pay cash and own our car or car(s) outright.

  • Jan says:

    wow good for you- (I could never do it- I can’t stand to be stuck in the house all day)

  • Kristin says:

    We have done this for years and saved a ton. We have never had a car payment, and I can’t imagine it any other way. And I save a LOT of money by just staying home. Ever noticed how you always spend *something* every single time you go to town?!

  • Kellie says:

    We are not a one car family, but a one cell phone family! People are always surprised by this! Sometimes it’s an inconvenience, but not usually. I really LOVE our low cell phone bill 🙂

  • Melissa says:

    I have a friend whose family only has one car and they do well with it. She like Frugally Blonde, just goes with her husband, if she needs to go to appts or do errands. It works well for them. Kudos to any family who can make that work for them.

  • Joy says:

    Love this article!! Just wanted to let you know that I’ve linked it to the “This ‘n That Thursday” post on my blog.
    Hope you have a great day!!!
    ~ Joy 🙂

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