Back in the day, we had WAY more cars than we needed. In 2016, when we had three cars (two electric smart cars and one Volvo), we spent $8,128 and that didn’t even include the electricity required to charge our two smart cars, which we shed in January 2017.
When we turned in our smart cars at the end of their leases, we’ve been sharing the 2007 Volvo we own outright.
In 2017, we racked up a whole lot of miles on our Volvo, so we had more than 155,000 miles at the end of the year, but we spent only $4,746 on auto-related expenses. As a one-car household, we spent 42% less money on auto-related expenses!
Update: We bought a minivan in March 2018! #vanlife
Lots of folks asked us how we make it work, but when they find out how we work, it’s much less of a surprise since we don’t commute for work and the primary use for a vehicle seems to be commuting.
As a self-employed person, I work at home most of the time. Garrett works in sales, so he’s often in the car visiting clients. Not all the time, but at least half the week. We don’t have the commutes that we once had, so our Volvo sits in the driveway more often than you’d expect.
How about errands? We used to drive everywhere when we had a list of errands to tackle after work. Then, we moved to a walkable town, so we’ve replaced driving with walking as much as possible. Quick trips to the grocery store, post office, and bank are easy because all are located within a mile of the house.
With fewer miles on the car and more walking, we’re spending less money on gas than we anticipated. And because Garrett’s employer pays for mileage, gas and insurance are covered with this reimbursement.
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Now, how about when we both need the car? What do we do when the car is in for repairs? Here’s what we do when we both need the car.
Tip #1: Relocation (Permanent and Temporary)
Relocating from a rural community to an urban community made it easier to transition to being a one-car household. Many services we need are within a mile of the house, so this was a huge step in the direction of being able to live comfortably with one car.
Temporary relocation is also helpful. When we both need the car, we check our calendars to see if one of us can spend the day at a coffee shop or a co-working space near the destination. Temporary relocation, for the win!
Recently, I had a meeting in another city when Garrett needed to travel in the opposite direction. The cost of renting a car increased to $50 and since I needed a car for only two hours, I looked for another option. Lo and behold, I found a co-working space just down the street from the meeting; the drop-in rate for the day was just $24, less than half the cost to rent a car. Plus, I met some fascinating people!
Tip #2: Resource Sharing
I thought about creating a Google Calendar specifically for our car, like one of those shared resource calendars in Outlook…something to help us facilitate scheduling. It’s the logistics that can be a bit of challenge, but these moments are few and far between.
There are also two zipcars nearby, one car at $7.50 an hour and another at $8.50 an hour. I’m thinking about creating an account as a backup.
Tip #3: Resource Allocation
Given how expensive cars are, I’ll do anything to avoid ever getting an extra car. We wasted so much money on cars over the years. In 2016, we had three cars: one Volvo, two smart cars. And all the maintenance and expenses associated with them, which ran us $8,083 (not including the electric for charging car batteries). Cars are really expensive and not always necessary.
Instead of signing up for a second car (or a car payment), we’re allocating some of the extra money to the “Auto” category of our budget to cover the occasional car rental (and the rest of the money we save goes to our emergency fund).
Tip #4: Resource Alternatives
Our mountain bikes have been underutilized for years. Sometimes I bike to complete errands, but most of the time I walk. Because I don’t like fussing with tire pressure and bike locks, our bikes are mostly for recreation. If the location I need to be at is within 10 miles and I don’t have the car, I can easily make this on the bike. I might be hurting the next day, but I’ll live.
There have been a handful of days in which the one-car situation wasn’t working for us. The car needed to go to the shop on a day that Garrett was driving around for work. Enterprise Rent-a-Car, for the win! Renting a car was about $45 for the day, including the gas to refill the tank.
What do you think about sharing a car?
Having no car or one car works in urban areas for some folks. Could having one car work for everyone else? Could we have made this one-car life work back in the day when we had office jobs or lived in a rural locale? Maybe, but there are too many variables to consider every scenario. Sometimes trying to save money increases the headache factor, so it may not be worth it.