This weekend we celebrated one year of being a one car family! I can't believe it's been a year already. I'm happy to report that being a one car family, even in the suburbs of a sprawling metro area, is going really well and we have no plans to change our situation.
When we sold Chris's truck and made our 2008 Prius our only car we were determined to try our best but were open to buying another car if needed. At the time we only had one child (and one car seat) to fit in the car. One year and another baby - and car seat - later and we are doing fine with one car. We've found that we love having one car and we've been surprised at how easy it is to have just one car (on most days).
We also haven't run into space issues with the Prius. Both car seats fit well, Chris and I still have some leg room in the front seat and the trunk holds the groceries/luggage/Bob stroller or whatever else we need bring with us. If Chris or I were taller the front seat would certainly be less comfortable but for our 5'9" and 5'8" frames it's just fine. And if we ever do need a larger car for a time, such as a long road trip, we could easily rent a bigger car.
There are definitely some factors that make it feasible for our family to get by with one car that might not work for other families. This includes Chris and I working in close proximity enough that we can carpool and having public transportation available a short distance from our house that can get us to work (even though we don't get there very fast!). But this year has also made me think that many families could also live with one car if they chose to do so.
We live in the suburbs of a sprawling metro area and for the first six years that we lived here we assumed that we had to have two cars. And that was even before we had kids! When we made the leap to being a one car family it was when we had one child with another on the way and needed to transport car seats and make stops at daycare. And we've found that we can pretty easily do this. We could definitely have been living with one car before this! (Oh the money we could have saved!) I say this not to make anyone feel shameful for having two cars but just to invite you to reflect on whether a need is really a want if you have any interest in ditching a car but are convinced that it would be impossible.
There are some sacrifices, for sure. When I take public transportation to work each Tuesday it takes me over an hour to get to work using the bus and light rail whereas if I drove I could arrive in 40 minutes. But I look at what I am gaining. I get to read or listen to podcasts the entire way, two of my favorite past times. I also find that taking public transportation shakes things up and gives me perspective. Seeing different sights and different people takes me out of my routine and I think that's a good thing. I am also reminded that I have the luxury of choosing to take public transportation and that many people get by without a car at all each day. In addition, owning one car has saved us an estimated $3,500 over the past year - money that goes right into our savings.
There have been other benefits as well. Chris and I spend more time together now that we carpool three days a week. And this time is important more than ever since having two young boys at home. We've had some really important conversations about our family, our budget and our future on our way to and from work. It's also easy to fit in a quick mini-date to grab coffee before work. Honestly I think our carpooling has helped us to stay connected during this time of raising young children, which can certainly strain a relationship.
We also think carefully about errands that we need to run, consolidate trips and often run them together. We end up driving fewer miles overall this way plus we spend that time together instead of going our separate ways to run errands.
There have been a few times we have needed an extra car when Chris had an evening event and needed to be somewhere at the same time that the boys need to be picked up from daycare. For these times we've been fortunate to be able to borrow car from Chris's parents who live nearby. But if we were not able to do this we could have rented a car and this expense would still pale in comparison to the money we have saved by not owning a second car.
If you would like to test drive the one car lifestyle it's an easy experiment to do. Just commit to leaving one car parked for a certain amount of time, say a week, and see what happens. You might have to get creative or compromise but you might find it's easier than you thought and that there are unexpected benefits!