How We Make Our One Car Family Work

When we were house hunting a few years back, the one perceived drawback of our future home was that it only had a one car garage. At the time, we had no children, both my husband and I worked outside the home, and we had two cars. Fast forward to last June, and we officially became a one car family. In this day and age, where 3+ car garages seem to be the norm, how is it possible that a family of two adults, a toddler, and two dogs make it with just one car?

one car family image

Answering the “What-Ifs” of a One Car Family

Inevitably, when we made our plan known to family and friends that we intended to sell both our “college cars”, and use that money combined with savings to purchase one fuel-efficient economy car, we were inundated with questions. What if there’s an emergency? Won’t the person without a car feel isolated? How in the world will you run errands and get things done with just one car?

To be fair, becoming a one car family isn’t for the faint of heart. It is certainly not for everyone. If, for example, you live in a rural community, where the nearest proof of civilization is several miles away, having one car for the entire family may not be the best choice for you. If, after honest reflection, mass transit simply isn’t an option for you (e.g., there is no bus system in your community), or if it is simply not safe for you to be walking or biking to get to where you need to go, dropping down to one car (or none!) may not be a good fit.

In reality, however, I am convinced that a surprising number of families could get by with just one car.


Before taking the plunge and going to just one car, my husband and I had to assess several items, not least of which included the “what-ifs” brought up by loved ones. Fortunately, we live less than a mile away from a major hospital, we have amazing neighbors that we can fall back on if needed, and we also have ready access to phones to call 911 as needed. Since my husband works outside the home, he is usually the one with the car (except for twice a week — more on that later). His place of work is relatively close, so he is also able to leave and come home if needed. Of course, we do all we can to prevent emergencies from happening, but if they do, we are not alone.

…and the person without the car for the day definitely knows they aren’t alone. I am the one who uses the car the least and I feel far from isolated. We live in a suburban area, with plenty of shops, restaurants, and even a library within easy — and safe — walking distance. I am able to be surrounded by as many people as I wish, whenever I wish.

We also had to assess how we would get things done with just one car. Because I am fortunate enough to be able to stay at home to raise our daughter, my schedule is definitely the most flexible, which works well in a one-car household. I work hard to ensure that all errands for which I need the car are scheduled for Wednesday and Saturday. When Wednesday morning rolls around, all of us load in the car to drop Daddy off at work, and off we go to run errands! We pick him up at the end of the day. Of course, there are some things that need to be scheduled on “off” days, so when that happens, we plan ahead. The family calendar in the kitchen is a lifesaver! Planning ahead is critical.

The Benefits of Having Only One Car

The one car system works so well for our family — the benefits are many. Obviously, we save money, but in more ways than you may think. For one, we bought this car with cash from our savings and from trading in our prior vehicles. As such, we don’t have a car payment!

Because we only have one car, we only pay taxes and insurance for one car, thus saving us quite a bundle. We traded in two gas guzzlers for one fuel efficient Honda that came with a warranty, so we save not only on fuel, but also on maintenance…to say nothing of helping the environment out!

A more subtle benefit is with regards to our health. My daughter and I get outside a lot more than we would if we had a car for use on a daily basis, which is especially helpful during the winter months — more Vitamin D absorption, and an instant mood-booster. We also go on more walks as a family, which helps with weight maintenance, cardiovascular fitness, and a whole host of other benefits that trickle down to our pocket book.

While it’s not for every family, dropping down to one car or less is a viable option open to more people than one may expect. Not only will it save you money, but you can put that one car garage to good use!

Picture by FreeDigitalPhotos.

About the Author

By , on Feb 18, 2013
Amanda is a full-time mom and aspiring writer. When not chasing after her one-year-old or writing, she is figuring out creative ways to stretch a dollar.

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  1. We’re a one car family too. Two adults and two kids – living in a city I don’t think we can justify two cars. Yes, it’s a pain sometimes – today my husband’s got the car and I’ll be doing a lot of walking but, hey, it’s sunny! We take the view that it’s more financially prudent to run one car and to take taxis even a couple of times a week than to pay for the upkeep, tax, insurance etc on two vehicles.

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