How (and Why) We Became a One-Car Family

Last year, we decided to give back our leased car and become a one-car family. We often get questions about how we “get by” with only one car, especially as a busy family of four. Here’s why we decided to go this route, and how we do it.

Why a One-Car Family?

Not surprisingly, the “why” is pretty simple – eliminating a car payment, car insurance, and licensing expenses saves us nearly $400/month or $4,800/year. (We didn’t save on gas, as we gave back our 100% electric Nissan Leaf.) We now have a paid-off Mazda Speed3.

How Do You Manage with Only One Car?

The “how” took a few more strategic decisions.

The biggest change was we moved closer to my husband’s work. Instead of driving 30 miles to work, he now bikes 4 miles.

I am a work-from-home parent, so we only had one commute to work around, making a move a fairly obvious decision (once we got over our emotions about moving).

When we moved, we also had very specific criteria about the location – we wanted to be close to my husband’s work, but we also wanted to be close to groceries, schools, parks, friends, etc. While we enjoy driving to special outings and to see friends and family, we don’t rely on our car for daily errands. It was also a “no-brainer,” as we moved from Seattle (high cost of living) to Everett (lower cost of living) – saving us money in many other areas, as well.

Why did you return your electric car?

We often get asked why we returned our electric Leaf, and opted for our gas-powered Mazda. The answer is two-fold.

First, our Mazda was paid off, so now we don’t have a car payment.

Second, we need a car for longer trips to see family and the Leaf did not have the range we needed for those types of trips.

We really liked the Leaf, but not enough to rationalize the expense.

What if you have an emergency and don’t have a car?

I often get asked from other parents what we do if there is an emergency and we don’t have a car. The answer is really simple. If we cannot walk or bike to where we need to go (which usually we can), we could call a Lyft, a taxi, or an ambulance. Or, we’d ask a neighbor to help.

With my husband bike commuting, however, we usually have access to our car and I use it mostly for kid shuttling.

Isn’t it easier to just have two cars, especially if you can afford it?

Yes, sometimes it would be. Very occasionally, we rent a car for a weekend if we have separate weekend plans where we both need a car. Even with one-off transportation expenses, the overall savings are huge – we just have to think outside the box from time to time.

If you’re serious about saving money, getting rid of a car can save you hundreds each month. We are all so conditioned to think we “need” two cars, that we often don’t seriously consider what we’d need to change to be less car reliant (or how much money we’d save by not having two cars).

When you think about it rationally, it’s actually quite absurd how car-reliant we all are (and how many thousands of dollars we spend each year on these depreciating assets – not to mention the impact on the environment.)


Ideas for Becoming a One-Car Family

I realize not everyone is in the position – right now – to get rid of a car, but here are some ideas for becoming a one-car family.

  1. Move closer to work (or change jobs to work closer to home, or to be able to work from home). I know what you’re thinking and yes, this is a big change but it is totally worth it.
  2. Bike commute. Invest in quality bike gear and commit to biking in all-weather.
  3. Use online delivery services for groceries and shopping.
  4. Rent a car, or use a driving service, for one-off needs.
  5. Sign kids up for activities close to home. Shop local.
  6. If you have a smaller car (like us), buy a trailer or roof rack for vacations. This makes our small car seem like a larger car and makes camping or car trips much more feasible.

Are you a one-car family, or perhaps a no-car family? What questions or tips do you have about giving up a car (or two)?

Leave a comment below!

How to become a one-car family

2 thoughts on “How (and Why) We Became a One-Car Family

  1. Brittany says:

    I’d love to hear the benefits (besides financial) your family has experienced from becoming a one car family. I’m assuming increased exercise, less stress, etc.


    • Christina (Mrs. Saver) says:

      Yes, so many non-financial benefits as well! My husband has gotten in killer shape riding his bike to work, and I walk and ride bikes with the kids much more than loading up the car. Not having the mental “burden” of two cars is also huge – less time (and money) spent on maintenance, taxes, cleaning, etc. Thanks for the comment!


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