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How Does a Family Cope with Just One Car?

Having two cars in a family (or more) is so common these days that many families just cannot imagine living any other way. The sheer convenience is hard to beat. Why would anyone give that up?

using just one car

I can think of a few reasons.

For one, it’s better for the environment, provided you are actually driving less. It’s less gas used. Fewer oil changes. Fewer car repairs in general. It makes you think before you drive anywhere.

It’s also a solid financial decision. The points above that are good for the environment are also good for your pocketbook. You can add in that it cuts back on your ability to shop, since you have to plan your shopping trips better. That does help with saving money.

My family has been living with just one car for close to a year and a half now. It’s not easy, since the city we live in does not have great public transportation. But it is doable. Just takes extra planning at times.

As gas prices go up, this has been more and more a benefit to us. I work at home, and drive much less now that I don’t have my own car. Frivolous trips are much harder to make. But it’s still not easy.

For example, my son has speech therapy on the other side of town. I used Google’s transit website to check the bus schedule. The buses here would get me about halfway there; the rest I’d have to walk. You can see where there’s a bit of a problem. The walk is very long for a 3 year old.

But in many areas, public transportation is one of the big keys to coping with just one car. Need to go somewhere and not take the car? Know how to research your local bus schedules. Most cities have them online now; if not, get a supply of the paper ones and keep them in a safe place.

Scheduling helps a lot. Whenever possible, I schedule things around when I will have a car available. This is easy for things like grocery shopping and other errands, but more challenging for doctor’s appointments and such.

If nothing else works, there’s always borrowing someone else’s car. I don’t like to do this, as the people I can most easily ask this of live a distance away and so there’s a lot of extra gas used. Kind of takes away from the whole point of having just one car. But done only when there’s no other solution, this can be a valid solution while still cutting back on your total use of cars.

This brings up another possibility that the person who needs the car most should consider. Carpooling. A good carpool can cut back even further on your use of your car and make it available for other needs.

You can’t forget the biggest challenge, of course. What if the one car breaks down? Suddenly there’s no other car to replace it. A plan for getting to work or any other places that you have to go to become vital. You’ll need to know your alternatives. If you carpool, you have a big advantage.

And of course, there’s always biking or walking. Either of these is good for you and for the environment. A bike with a basket is great for local errands, and you’re limited in your shopping to what you feel comfortable carrying on your bike. That’s more limiting for some than for others.

If you want to walk to the store, you can bring a rolling basket or your kids’ wagon along. I don’t know how stores would feel about a wagon being brought in, but you can always ask the manager or find the bike rack and lock it up there.

Overall, this can be a workable possibility for many families. If you aren’t sure that it would work for yours, just try driving like your family has only one car for a time. Keep one car at home at all times, and you’ll know if it’s possible.

4 replies on “How Does a Family Cope with Just One Car?”

  1. JeanneE says:

    Great post 🙂

    We’ve had one car longer than the kids have been alive, and I walk everywhere with them (I bring a double stroller in case they’re too tired to walk, or if we’re in a hurry). They’re 5.5 & almost 4 yrs old and both almost 40 pounds, so pushing them both is a bit of a work out 😉 Once in awhile I car pool with other Mom friends, and my husband quite often drives us places as well, which is possible because he has a flexible work schedule.

    Something that frustrates me, and I realize this is a reflection of our car dependent lifestyle, is that there are very few “kid utility vehicle” options for older kids. What I would love to see are more varieties of wagons (i.e. with canopies, etc.), or better yet affordable “big kid” strollers, that would allow parents to walk more without being stuck when the kids get tired.

    Ironically enough, even though my kids ride a lot, they walk a LOT more than they would if they were strapped into car seats, so it’s a healthy lifestyle choice for ALL of us, as well as being environmentally friendly.

  2. Stephanie says:

    One of these days my husband does want to get a canopy put on our wagon… mostly for Renaissance Faires, so it would be covered wagon style, but it would also be nice for those times I want to haul the kids along on sunny days.

  3. Jennifer says:

    My family switched to one car about 4 years ago. It takes some getting used to and a lot of planning, but it was the best decision. The best part for me has been that I now walk my kids to and from school everyday…we get to talk the entire time about their days and share stories.

    Love this post.

    From a new and devout reader,
    Jennifer

  4. We managed with only one car when we had only two kids, but now we have three with a fourth on the way. Too many to fit in a stroller, or a family sedan. We will have to move to a van when the new baby is born, and it doesn’t make sense to drive that gas guzzler except on the days when we all travel together.

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