7 y/o Grand Prix
$8.33 /mo registration
$0.05 per mile wear & tear (oil change & tires)
$10/mo car wash
$2.50 per gallon gas
Driving 25 miles per week: $144.33 per month
Driving 50 miles per week: $179/mo
Driving 75 miles per week: $213/mo
These were the actual costs for the Grand Prix that we bought and used this winter. It doesn't include the purchase cost of the car, which was $4000.
Here's an interesting fact. If I use "my" car twice per week making a 25-mile round trip to town, each trip costs $22.37. That's a high price to pay for running out of flour or mailing a package!
Meet the Smiths: One Car vs. Two
The Smith family drives 2000 miles every month. Both cars get 23 miles per gallon. Father drives his car to work and Mother uses her car to do errands and other odd jobs. Below we demonstrate the difference between driving one car 2000 miles and using two cars to drive 2000 miles.
One car: $2.50/gal. gas x 87 gallons = $220 + $100 wear & tear + $130 fixed monthly costs = $450
Two cars: $110 gas + $50 wear & tear + $130 fixed monthly costs = $290 x 2 cars = $580
In addition to the extra $130 per month, there are other small costs associated with Mother having her own car. When she goes grocery shopping on Tuesday morning, she likes to stop at the Salvation Army to see if they have any good bargains. Every week she finds something to add to her stash of crafting supplies. And while she's out, she buys herself a cheeseburger at McDonalds, and also gets the kids a treat off the Dollar Menu, because it's almost lunchtime anyway. On Thursday afternoon she meets with the Ladies' Bible Study at church. Again, she buys herself a treat at the Starbucks because it's her day out and she deserves it. On Saturday morning she remembers that she has a baby shower to go to and didn't get a gift! Whoops! And she's also out of flour, so she makes a trip to Walmart. Then she goes home, wraps the gift, and then off to the baby shower.
Well, the day came when Mr. Smith's hours got cut, Baby Smith had to go to the doctor and Junior Smith had to get a cavity filled. Mother Smith's car kept breaking down, and because of the money shortage they decided to sell it.
The first week was pretty rough. Mother got groceries on Sunday after church. The kids were whining and hungry. It was a temptation to go to McDonalds but she put her foot down and said no. On Tuesday she missed getting out of the house and shopping at the Salvation Army. But she spent the afternoon sorting out her craft supplies, and actually finished a project that she had forgotten about. Thursday was a dilema. Mother wanted to go to Bible Study, but Father needed the car to go to work. After some thought, they worked out an arrangement. Mother drove Father to work, used the car for Bible Study and then picked Father up at work when he was done. Again on Friday she ran out of flour, but instead of making cookies for Junior's Sunday school class, she made jello squares.
This went on for the entire month. At the end of the month, the Smiths reviewed their budget. They had saved $102 in vehicle costs, even with Mother dropping Father off at work once per week. In addition, they had an extra $4000 from selling Mother's car. Mother had cleaned out her entire craft room and finished several projects. They spent $20 less eating out, and Mother had not spend a dime at the Salvation Army. She kind of enjoyed less clutter, anyway.
Another month went by and they did not find another car for Mother. As the weeks went on, Mother spent less and less time on Craigslist looking at cars. Her craft room had long since been cleaned and was now functional. She had found an old bike in the garage and started taking the kids out on bike rides now and then. They discovered that bicycles are an actual form of transportation and not just for fun! Sometimes Mother would take the kids to the library or get them a treat at the corner store like old times. Junior started picking up cans to recycle, and now had his own little fund to buy treats with. Sometimes on their rides, Mother found a useful medicinal plant and showed it to the kids. Then they would take it home to use for tea.
A year has now gone by. Instead of Father going to a ball game on Saturday and Mother going shopping, they have found new hobbies/dates that they both enjoy, like visiting museums. When Father does go to a game, Mother goes too... and when Mother goes shopping, Father goes with her. Father likes it when his wife shares his interests, and Mother has discovered that Father really knows how to find a bargain. The kids like it when Mom and Dad get along, and they love being a part of all the fun!
And what is this? An extra $1224 of wiggle room in the transportation budget! And not only that, but there seemed to be even more extra money. Selling the car had caused a trickle-down effect in many other areas. With Father working to bring in money and mother working at home more to save money, the Smiths found that they had more cash than they needed.
Though fictional, this story illustrates some of the challenges and rewards of being a one-car family. It's not for everyone, but downsizing your vehicle fleet can be a great idea in many cases.
Saving With Fuel Efficiency?
A common misconception is that you can save money on gasoline if your second car is super fuel efficient. Our primary vehicle is a big gas-guzzling diesel truck. At 16 miles per gallon it costs $5 in gas for a 25-mile round trip to town. If I keep my personal trips to a minimum, we can get by with $20-$30 worth of personal (non-business) miles per month. This is still cheaper than using another car for $145 per month. If Hubs were not hauling big loads for work, we would drive a much smaller, fuel-efficient car.
During the summer, we do use a motorcycle for personal use and "pleasure riding". This is a better deal than a car not because of fuel efficiency (it gets around 35 mpg with both of us on it) but because of insurance, which costs $22 per month as opposed to $110 per month.
How to Get By With One Car
Here is how Hubs and I get by with one main vehicle.
Wife going to work: One more reason to be a housewife! If you work part time or don't make a lot of money at your job, half of the earnings are probably being sucked back into your car and/or childcare.
Errands: Banking and post office stuff can be done online. We buy our groceries and other supplies on Sunday when we drive into town for church.
Going to club meetings/parties/events: When I was single, I had all sorts of hobby-ish things I would drive to. Band practices, church activities, garden club. When I got married, I quit most of those things unless they could include Hubs. There is not enough time in the week to split between my husband and "my" outside-the-home activities. Now, my hobbies are things I can do conveniently at home or with him. I know it's culturally unpopular to adapt your life to your husband's, but aside from building a better marriage it is actually quite efficient financially. For the rare event that we both need the vehicle at the same time, we employ the "carpool with other guests" trick, or the "drop off and pick up" technique used by the fictional Smiths.
Driving separately: Church is a good example of this. Sometimes one person has to be there an hour earlier (or stay an hour later), and the other person doesn't want to wait. It is convenient to drive separately, but I'd rather entertain myself for an hour than keep a second car just for this purpose.
Driving kids: Granted, Hubs and I don't have any kids. But even if I did have a kid, I wouldn't count on dropping him off anywhere on a weekly basis (daycare, preschool, playdate) until he was at least five years old. This means we can put off buying a minivan for quite a while!! When future kids are older we might consider getting a second vehicle.
Have you ever gone without a second car (or any car at all!)? Was it easy or hard?