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It’s expensive to raise a family these days.
So for some of us, the more expenses we can cut out the better.
One way your family can save money is to cut down to only one car.
Easier said than done, right? Not necessarily.
Becoming a one car family isn’t as hard as you may think.
You’ll have to make some changes in the way you plan your week.
You and your family members will need to set goals together regarding cost savings and lower expenses.
You will also have to get familiar with transportation alternatives in your area and stay as flexible as possible when it comes to scheduling car time for all drivers.
This topic is relevant to many families.
Most of us are at least a two car family, if not more.
We’re talking about some of the financial benefits of becoming a one car household in this article.
Read on for tips on how to live with a single car and more about the most obvious benefit, saving money.
Table of Contents
How To Become A One Car Family
Things To Consider Before Having One Car
If becoming a one car family makes sense to you when you’re looking for a way to cut expenses, then you’re in the right place.
Let’s start by discussing some things you need to think about before making your decision.
- How walkable is your community?
- How many places are you obligated to go in a typical week?
- How much money will you save by not driving separate vehicles?
- Are there conflicting work schedules to work around in your household?
- How far is each work commute in your household?
- Are there friends that would carpool with you sometimes?
- Is there ample public transportation in your area?
This isn’t an exhaustive list of questions you should be asking yourself, but it should give you a good idea of what kinds of things you need to consider.
The last thing you want to do is sell one of your vehicles only to realize it was a major mistake.
This is can cost you dearly as buying another car could be more than what you sold your old car for.
Benefits Of Becoming A One Car Family
The most obvious benefit is you’ll likely save money.
How much money is the real question.
You may have already thought about getting rid of your monthly payment.
That’s a big money saver.
But the total cost of owning a car is much higher than just the amount of your monthly payment.
You’ll also save money on car insurance, oil changes, vehicle maintenance, and fuel costs.
Depending on your living situation, having one vehicle could mean you don’t have to pay for a second parking space, too.
Don’t forget about the taxes, the registration, the emissions tests in some places, and even car washes.
Another benefit is the savings to the environment.
You’ll decrease your family’s environmental footprint by becoming a one car family.
That’s a benefit to all of society.
- Read now: Is buying a hybrid a smart money move
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How Do You Become A One Car Family?
You and your family obviously have some financial goals that have led you to consider getting rid of a car or two.
A goal is not likely obtainable without a plan, though.
Families come in different forms.
Your family may consist of a stay-at-home-mom and the husband works.
In that case, you’ll have to consider when the children’s school day starts with regards to the husband’s work commute.
Also, if one child goes to a different school, you need to plan for multiple stops.
There are also other trips outside of school and work commutes.
The stay-at-home-mom likely spends some days running errands around town.
She will need the vehicle to do that.
You can have money set aside in a public transportation fund for the family, as well.
Just make sure that the time spent taking public transportation won’t make anyone late.
During the planning stage, talk to friends and family that may be able to carpool with the members of your family.
You and your husband can talk to co-workers about riding to and from work together.
You and your kids can also talk to friends about riding together to run errands or for the daily commute to school.
What Are Some Transportation Alternatives?
When you decide to ditch the second car and move to just one car in the household, you should find out what public transit options there are in your neighborhood.
It’s not as difficult to give up that second vehicle if you know you have plenty of other options for getting where you need to go.
Here are some good transportation alternatives for anyone moving to one car.
City Transportation Systems
Here you have the bus, train, subway, and lightrail.
These are great alternatives for people who live in metro areas where they’ll likely have to pay for parking space fees anyway.
There is a cost for riding public transportation but it’s far less than the cost of fuel for a family car.
- Read now: Discover the best tricks to get free gas
Car Sharing Services
A car sharing service works much like a rental service.
The difference with car sharing is there’s more convenience built-in to the service and less hassle with a rental company.
You can simply reserve a car for whatever length of time you need it on the days you need it.
Go pick it up from the indicated location and return it to the designated spot when you’re done.
Ride Sharing Services
Companies like Uber and Lyft make it easy to get places for reasonable prices when you don’t have your own car available.
A one car family can rely on these ride sharing services if they live in areas where they’re prevalent.
You can save so much money with carpooling setups.
It’s a way for all parties involved to save money and time.
Basically, you’re sharing the cost of gas by rotating who’s turn it is to drive each day or week.
So, your single car can also help other families save money, too.
If you live in an area where there isn’t a large or reliable public transport system, you could ride your bike to get around.
This assumes you don’t need to go on any major highways to get to your desired location.
You also need to take into account the weather, that being rain or if you live in a northern climate, cold and snow.
Still, riding a bike is excellent exercise that could save you more money on health care costs by getting into better shape.
And it can be a fun family activity as well.
Walking is another option, though mostly for people who don’t need to go a very far distance.
The drawbacks are the same as the bike option above.
Of course, you will need to give yourself extra time to get to where you are going since walking will take you longer.
At our last house, I would walk to the grocery store.
It was close enough that carrying the groceries back home wasn’t an issue.
While you could make the argument that owning a moped no longer qualifies you as having only one car, there are advantages to this option.
Mainly, it will cost you a lot less money to own and operate than a car.
However, you might need car insurance on it, which could mean this is not a viable option for a family looking to only have one car.
As with the idea for car sharing, many larger cities offer scooter rentals.
You can rent the scooter on the day and time when you need it, and the cost is less than sharing a car.
Tips For Becoming A One Car Family
There are some ways to make it easier for a family to live with one car.
One thing we recommend is to try it out first before you get rid of that second car.
You may not realize how hard it’s going to be for your family.
It might be too difficult for you to rely on one car.
You could also find it’s not as cost-effective as you thought.
You’ll still have to make the payment on your car loan, but you can live as if you don’t have two cars.
The longer you try it out, the more beneficial it will be in knowing what it’s going to feel like.
Try it for at least two weeks.
As mentioned earlier, it is better to try it out this way rather than selling the second car and then need to buy a car all over again.
Also, consider investing in a road bike for one or two family members.
It’s a good way to get around with less gas and provides a good means for getting exercise.
It might also help with saving time you’d have to spend on public transport routes.
Working from home also makes it easier to live with fewer cars.
You may still need to use the car to get the kids to school, but you can work that into your planning.
How To Lower The Cost Of Having Two Cars
Let’s say you gave becoming a one car family a try and it’s not for you.
Is all hope lost for saving money?
Not at all.
There are some things you can still do to keep your costs low and realize a savings.
- Read now: Learn how to save money on monthly bills
Total Up The Costs
The first thing you can do is total up the cost of your two cars.
Which one costs more to drive?
Make sure when figuring out the cost of gas, you take into account the MPG each car gets.
If you just look at the amount of money you spend filling the gas tank, it can be misleading if one car is driven more.
Whichever is the car that is cheaper to own, drive that car more often.
Review Your Insurance Coverage
Next, reach out to your auto insurer and see how much less your premium will be if you barely drive one car.
Usually there is a discount if you drive a car fewer than 5,000 annually.
Make sure you ask this question for both cars.
You might realize the car you were thinking of being your primary one actually costs more to insure.
This is also a good time to get new auto insurance quotes.
You never know if switching to a competitor will save you hundreds of dollars a year.
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Rent Out Your Car
I mentioned earlier that if you became a one car family, but needed a second car from time to time to get your kids to school or activities, you could rent one.
In this situation, you can rent out your unused car and make some money.
There are a lot of services out there that allow you to rent your car, including Turo.
The cash you make could be used to pay off your car loan or put into savings.
- Read now: Here are great ways to make $1,000
Refinance Your Auto Loan
If you do have an auto loan, you could see if refinancing the loan makes sense for you.
Doing this could lower your monthly payments, helping you to make ends meet.
If a refi isn’t possible, call your lender.
Explain your financial situation and see if they would work with you.
They might be open to making some changes to your loan so your payments are lower.
While this won’t always work, you never know unless you ask.
- Read now: Use these tricks to pay off your car loan faster
- Read now: Learn how to make your car payments more affordable
The bottom line is being a one car family isn’t for everyone.
It’s not a “no brainer” decision, either.
Fewer cars for your house can mean money saved, a smaller environmental footprint, and more exercise.
If you’re thinking about it, spend some time planning for it and sell your other cars.
It could be the best financial decision you make.
- Read now: See how to sell your car for the most money
- Read now: Here is how to save for a car fast
- Read now: Find out how to negotiate car leases
I have over 15 years experience in the financial services industry and 20 years investing in the stock market. I have both my undergrad and graduate degrees in Finance, and am FINRA Series 65 licensed and have a Certificate in Financial Planning.
Visit my About Me page to learn more about me and why I am your trusted personal finance expert.