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Should You Become a One Car Family?



One of the biggest expenses for any family is transportation. It seems that most families own as many cars as there are drivers, or more. For example, I know a couple that own four cars between the two of them. While it seems like it goes without question that you must own a car (unless there is great public transportation around you), do you really need two or three cars in a family? Could you get by with just one?

I started thinking about this recently because I was trying to figure out different ways to pay off our debt. My car worth is approximately equal to what we owe. My husband only drives his car to work and back. While the finances seem to support selling the car, the challenges behind being a one car family would be hard to tackle. First, I want to discuss the pros and cons of becoming a one car family. Then, I’ll go into some alternatives to driving that you should consider.


1. Save Money – Owning and maintaining a car can be pricey. By owning one less car, you will obviously save money on gas, but that is not the only thing you would have money on. Cars need maintenance such as oil changes, tire rotations, and mechanical work. You will save on tag fees and possibly taxes as well depending on your state. Also, if you are going somewhere where you must pay for parking, you can avoid these fees as well. Additionally, you won’t have to worry about getting pulled over and having to pay a ticket! With all of these factors, you could save hundreds or thousands of dollars a year.

2. Pay Off Debt – If you currently have debt, consider selling one of your cars to pay it off. As I mentioned, this is what got me started thinking about living with one car. Depending on your debt situation and how much your car is worth, this may or may not be helpful. But without question, you should at least consider the option of selling your car for cash online or to a used car dealership. If you want to go the online route, consider these tips to sell your car online for free on Craigslist.

3. Go Green – Reduce your carbon footprint by being one less driver on the road.

4. Get Exercise – Depending on the alternative mode of transportation you choose, you have the possibility of burning some calories and getting in shape.


1. Rely on Others – At times you may need to rely on the generosity of others to get you where you need to go. Perhaps you could chip in for gas money if someone is helping you get around.

2. Share and Compromise – We all were supposed to learn how to share in preschool, but it can still be a challenge as an adult. You need to have very open lines of communication with your family to know who gets to take the car and when. You will need to learn to compromise.

3. Getting Wet – If you decide to get rid of your car and ride a bike instead, you are going to have to deal with inclement weather. Depending on where you live, this could be a really big deal, especially if you are up north where it gets really cold or down south where there are frequent storms. I have a friend who rides his bike to the bus station to get to work, and I always feel bad for him if I hear rumbles of thunder when I wake up in the morning.

4. Being Left Stranded – If your driver can’t pick you up, and there is a monsoon outside, you just may have to stay put and wait. Hopefully, that won’t happen too often.

Alternatives to Driving

If you do decide to go the one car route, here are some really great alternatives to driving for you and your family:

1. Carpool – Chances are there is someone that lives near you that is going close to where you are going. Considering looking on a carpool matching site to find someone. The carpooling benefits are endless.

2. Bike – This is a wonderful form of exercise. Even though it might take you a little longer to get to your destination, you may end up saving time in your day because you will have already completed your daily workout. This is mostly likely what my husband would use if we do decide to become a one car family.

3. Bus/Public Transportation – Unfortunately, funds for public transportation are being cut in many areas, such as mine, but this is a great alternative to owning a car. What I really like about using public transportation is that it gives you an opportunity to get stuff done, such as emails, or it gives you an opportunity to have some downtime to read and realx. If you have a busy life, it might be nice to just “chill” for 20 or 30 minutes every day. While public transportation does cost a few bucks, it is usually much less than what you would pay in gas and in parking.

4. Moped or Scooter – This might be a good mode of transportation if you are going somewhere that is too far to bike.

5. Telecommute – Consider working at home a few days a week if your company will allow it. Telecommuting is becoming more and more popular.

Final Thoughts

I really think this is a difficult decision. It would work well for some people but not for others. Your comfort level also plays a huge part in it as well. While I think it is a cool idea for many reasons, I am still hesitant about taking the plunge.

Do you have experience living as a one car family? I’d love to hear your story!

(Photo Credit: Stephen Barnett)

Casey Slide
Casey Slide lives with her husband and baby in Atlanta, GA. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering and worked for a prominent hospital in Atlanta. With the birth of Casey’s son in February 2010, she decided to become a stay-at-home mom. Casey’s interests include reading, running, living green, and saving money.

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