Many of us grew up in two car families, and more recently, even three car families. A car for each adult (and sometimes teenaged) member of the family seems to be a necessity, but is it? Are there transportation alternatives for one car families?
We live on the outskirts of a major urban area and have lived happily with one car our entire married life. By not having a second car we have saved thousands of dollars. Consider the following:
Parking space rent – $60 per month/$720 per year
Registration fee – $98 per year
City parking sticker – $25 per year
Car Insurance – $700 per year
Gas – $75 per month/900 per year (this is using a conservative estimate of 20 gallons per month at $3.75 per gallon)
Maintenance – $900 per year
Just owning a second car and maintaining it would run us $3,343 per year. This is not even including a car payment if we didn’t have cash to pay for a car outright. Over the course of the 10 years we have had only one car, we have saved $33,430.
If you do make the leap to a one car family, you don’t have to constantly juggle who will drive the car. There are plenty of options available so that the person who drives the car less often still has access to transportation.
- Take public transportation. If you live in an urban area and commute daily, you can take advantage of public transportation. My husband has done this for 10 years at a cost of $100 per month or $1,200 a year or $12,000 over 10 years. Not necessarily a cheap option, but certainly cheaper than owning a second car, especially when factoring in the exorbitant price of parking a vehicle downtown if he were commuting by car rather than train.
- Become a Zip Car member. Zip Car options are popping up around many big cities and college towns in addition to other countries. If you would like more flexibility than a train or a taxi offers, consider a Zip Car. You pay a low annual fee (typically around $50) and a one time $25 application fee. Then when you use the car, pay a daily fee of $72 (this is the price in my area, rates vary by location) or $7.80 per hour. All cars taken out for the day are allowed up to 180 miles. Gas and car insurance are automatically included. Once you are a member, you can use a Zip Car anywhere in the world that they are offered.
- Rent a car. If you are driving locally, many car rental agencies offer very reasonable rates, especially if you are able to rent a car with an advertisement on it. (Too bad those aren’t offered in more markets!) In my area, I could rent a car from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. for $38 to $46. Obviously this is not something you want do every day, but if one member of the family is usually home and simply needs a car to run errands or just drive for the day, this option would be economical if only done once or twice a month.
- Bike or walk. Many Americans have stopped biking and walking. My son goes to school a mile from our home; rather than driving, we have been walking. This will be more difficult in the winter months, but for eight months of the year it is a good option. Many people could get more exercise into their lives and save money by biking or walking instead of driving.
If you live in suburban or rural areas, deciding to give up one car may require more of a sacrifice. Before you make the decision, park your second car for a month and live as if you are already a one car family. See what the experience is like. If you decide you could make the leap to a one car family, prepare to save thousands of dollars a year.