Choosing to be a one-vehicle family

When the Mountain Man and I met, we each had a vehicle. I had my sweet little Volvo and he had a big ol’ mountain-manly truck. OK well it’s not that big, but it’s a truck.

Now that my dear car is continually trying to depart, we’re faced with some decisions.

Perhaps this is forced frugality, even though it will mean taking on another car payment.

We have talked before about what we would do when my car died, we knew this day was coming. We talked about having only one car, but it’s hard to make decisions in the hypothetical. And besides, we didn’t have a baby back then.

We’re taking my car in this week for yet another repair, likely extensive and expensive. We may get it back in good running condition, clean it up and sell it. But I don’t like driving the truck and it’s not a good fit for a car seat. Not an  ideal family vehicle.

So we’re actually considering selling both the Volvo and the truck and getting a new (used) family vehicle. I am leaning toward a wagon.

There’s potential here for a single-car lifestyle, but what will it mean, in reality?

In our current lives, I drive maybe a few times a week. Grocery store trips, errands, meetings – I could even plan ahead more and consolidate to a weekly drive. But I also have few friends and activities around, so little need for non-necessary driving. Some weeks fly by and I realize I haven’t driven at all! It’s possible, then, for me to live without exclusive access to a vehicle.

Depending on where we live, the Mountain Man could get to work without driving at least a few days a week. In our house now, the only way he could get to work somewhat easily without a car is if he found a carpool (unlikely) or if I drove him to the train station at 6am with baby in tow – possible, but not pleasant. But if necessary, I could have use of a car on those days.

Living with one car in our current situation would be unpleasant at times, would involve a significant amount of planning and a relinquishment of spontaneity, but it would be possible. The lifestyle shift would be more difficult to get used to – I wouldn’t be able to jump in the car whenever I wanted on the days that the Mountain Man had it, and public transportation in our town is a joke. If we lived closer to his work, things would be easier, but it would still involve a lot of planning and schedule comparison. My biggest concern is if the Mountain Man goes backpacking, which he likes to do for a few days at a time in the summer – and I would be without car for a few days as it sat somewhere in the mountains.

We may make the choice anyhow. The truck is not a practical family vehicle and mine is perhaps on its last legs. Trading the two for one may be our best bet financially – one car is less expensive to maintain than two, and although both of our cars are paid for, it will be more functional to have one car that works and works well for our family as opposed to one that’s unreliable and one that is a squeeze.

I like the idea in theory of being a single-car family, especially since I don’t need to drive on a daily basis. It would be even better if we lived closer to the Mountain Man’s work. It will involve making some adjustments to our lives, but I think it would be manageable… any tips from single-car families?


  1. One of my best girlfriends is in a single-car family (and they have 2 kids with tons of activities). The way they make it work is that he takes the metro to work. If it is pouring rain, she may sometimes pick him up from the metro station so he does not have to walk so far.

    As for me, when I was dating my (ex) boyfriend 15 years ago, we shared a car. I did a lot of bussing, and a lot of begging friends for rides.

    Also, there was a brief time (about one year) when I was car-less and boyfriend-less. I relied solely on metro and buses to get me everywhere. It was, in a strange way, freeing.

    The tricky part for you, Megan, is when Pie gets older... driving her to her different activities and preschool, etc. But lots of families do the one-car thing, and I applaud you for looking into it as an option. (Just out of curiosiy, why not keep the truck too though? why so determined to get rid of both vehicles, does not sound like the truck has anything wrong with it?).


  2. the truck is in perfect health and was recently paid off, which makes for an argument to keep it. however it's not valuable as a family vehicle and is more of a gas-guzzler than I'd like. It would be OK to keep it and drive it less frequently, but if we're moving into the city it's easier to not have two cars, a motorcycle and 3 bikes to negotiate...

    we haven't completely made up our minds, but the mountain man doesn't like working on two vehicles, and the truck would have some trade-in value whereas we may be paying someone to take the volvo...

    we haven't made any decisions yet, and once this repair is done my car may keep running for a while, but depending on an unreliable vehicle with babe is tough.

    if we knew what our housing situation was going to be, we could better decide what to do about the cars. and if we knew what our car situation was going to be, we could better make decisions about housing.

    I've always had a car, and even when I primarily relied on transit I still had a car there for when I "needed" it. It'll be an adjustment if we go single-car, but it will cost less in gas, maintenance, licensing and parking. i'm kind of determined to drive my car into its grave. hopefully just not while the Pie and I are in it.


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