Johnny and I have a bit of a conundrum. It’s one we’ve been trying to solve for months. In fact, it’s one of our New Year’s Resolutions. And, yet, here we are with our problem still unsolved. What’s our predicament? Well, we’re a one-car family… and we’d like to be a two-car family. But we’re having a hard time justifying the cost of a second car. We moved away from Boston in August, where we didn’t have or need a car. Before that we lived in NYC where we would have been crazy to own a car. But now we live somewhere where cars are necessary to get just about anywhere (like the majority of cities).
Within three days of moving to our new location, we paid $15,000 for a two-year-old car. It’s reliable, gets good gas mileage, depreciates slower than most, and could even be our Baby Girl’s first car in, oh, 16 years. It’s been a perfect new-to-us car. After buying it, we decided we would get a second car within a month. But then a month passed, and we realized it was pretty easy to juggle one car between the two of us. I work from home, so a few days a week when I wanted the car to get out of the house and get some fresh air (and by air I mean Chick-fil-A), I took Johnny to and from work. No big deal.
Still, we told ourselves we would most definitely get a car before Baby Girl’s arrival. I mean, we’d be crazy to try to have only one car with a baby, right? But then December hit, and Baby Girl’s arrival was less than a month away. And for some reason we were having a hard time biting the bullet and buying another car. Let’s be honest: it’s no fun seeing four or (gasp) five figures leave your bank account.
So now here we sit with a three-week-old, and we’re still juggling life with one car. So our dilemma is deciding what to do next. These are our options:
Continue Life with One Car
- We would save thousands of dollars.
- We’d never have to move Baby Girl’s carseat base. Moms, you can appreciate this.
- Baby Girl and I won’t have a car every day, not that we need it. But I would feel more secure knowing I was never stranded at home.
- This is not a long-term solution. At some point, we will need a second car.
Buy Another Nice, Reliable Car
- We would have two great cars that would most likely not cost us much in repairs for at least 5-10 years.
- Johnny will no longer have to play the role of a third grader who’s waiting for his mom to pick him from school.
- We would have to say goodbye to a lot of money, probably another $10k to $15k. While we would still have a good emergency fund in place even with $15k less, I really like the cushion we have now. It would take us several months to bounce back from the hit to our savings.
Buy a Crappy Car
- It wouldn’t cost us much money. Saying goodbye to a few thousand dollars would hurt much less than saying goodbye to over $10k.
- We wouldn’t have to share a car anymore.
- This car would not be super reliable. We would probably have to pay for repairs within five years.
- If it’s anything like the car Johnny was handed down in high school, the front door would break and we’d have to climb in and out of our car through the window. And that’s not a good look for me.
- This car would probably not last us long, and we would have to buy a different car within a few years.
Buy a Scooter
- Johnny could ride the scooter to work on the days I wanted the car. This solution would keep our schedules flexible.
- Buying a scooter would cost nothing in comparison to buying a car. Our wallet would barely feel this expense.
- Our gas expenses would be almost nothing.
- I could ride the scooter around town with Baby Girl on my chest in the Baby Bjorn. Just kidding. Kinda. No, seriously Child Services, I’m kidding.
- I don’t like the idea of Johnny riding a scooter. I trust him but not other drivers.
- We would eventually have to buy a second car. So once again this is not a long-term solution, but it would delay the need for a few more years.
- Johnny would only be able to ride the scooter when the weather was nice.
- Johnny would have to fix his helmet hair every day (or so he says).
So those are our current options. I guess as we’re deciding on a solution, we are actually just settling on not having a second car. But I don’t know how much longer that will work. Right now Baby Girl immediately falls asleep when she gets in the car, but who knows how long that will last? Taking Johnny to and from work might become more troublesome in the near future.
What about you, readers? What would you do in our situation? Are there any one-car couples/families out there who are making it work?
Scooter plus rain coat plus long underwear = all year riding… I’m just saying if you man up you can totally do it. *disclaimer* this is coming from the guy who rode his motorcycle all of 10 days last year because it was too cold or too hot.
From your post I am assuming public transportation where you live is just not an option, much like it is not an option in most of the midwest. I would probably just get the scooter knowing you have probably 6 months or so use out of it before you would possibly need a new car. The beauty of scooters is they are cheap and don’t really lose much value.
Luckily, it’s only cold about two months out of the year where we live. The heat is another story. We are definitely leaning a little toward the scooter option. We even went and looked at one a week ago. And I must say there’s nothing better than a tandem scooter (or motorcycle) ride on a summer evening, so that’s another perk!
Hmm I don’t know, this is a toughy. I eventually plan on being a work at home mom (hopefully) and I think I would still have a car. It definitely helps though that W works at a dealership and can get a great deal.
Oh, that’s an awesome perk you guys have! We know for sure I will need my own car at some point. I haven’t gotten to the point of feeling stir crazy yet, but if I do start feeling that way, I might not be able to hold out any longer for that second car!
This isn’t really an area that is up for debate for us. If we had only one car either my wife would have to drive an additional ~ 1.5 hours a day picking me up and dropping me off, or I would have to catch a bus at 6am and not get home until after 8pm. It wouldn’t be efficient.
I’d say get the two cars, though I can understand in your situation why you have put it off for a while.
Yes, unfortunately it’s not *quite* inconvenient enough for us to justify getting that second car yet, haha. Sometimes I wish it was so it would force us to make a decision!
I was in your exact situation some time ago. Don’t buy the car yet I’d say! As you say, think long term – you don’t need to address this yet. I would drive Johnny to work maybe twice a week, just so you can get out. You can join some kind of Baby and Me yoga or stroller fit or something if you’re interested – that’s what I did.
We bought a second car when our first two kids were 4 1/2 and 2 and that’s because they were starting after school activities where my husband was not home from work yet and he took a job with a longer commute so it would have been difficult and time consuming to drive him to work so I’d really hardly ever have a car and couldn’t walk to everything. You will save thousands in car payments, car maintenance and insurance by waiting. I would not buy a crappy car with a baby but good luck with whatever you decide!
You make some very compelling points! I always forget about the additional costs that would come with a second car (aside from the cost of the car itself)! Blegh. I do think we’d like to keep holding out as long as it’s feasible. Who knows, maybe we can even last until baby #2 (not that I’m planning on a second baby ANY time soon!). 🙂
For sure, it’s more convenient to have a second car but think about the hundreds or thousands of dollars you’re spending for convenience. Baby gets hurt, call a cab. Need diapers, milk etc. – check the night before or if desperate -call a cab, friend, whatever. These are rare occurences. If real emergency, call 911. These things might not even happen. It’s nice to drive him to work occasionally so you can get out of the house which is great!
My kids are getting older 13, 10 and 7 and I would tell younger people – save hard and have fun when you’re young. You may need that money one day if you’re daughter wants to train for the Olympics or just wants to be on a soccer travel team where you have to pay for tournaments and hotels or one of you goes back to school or you need it for a house downpayment. All that money you save will be needed one day for something important and you will not regret saving it but not all of it! Spend the rest on going to movies, having family fun, couple fun, travel and all sorts of things because you’re only young once! 😀
When our kids were quite young and my wife stayed at home with them we could afford to own only one car. Public transportation wasn’t available where we lived at that time. Fortunately later in years we moved into another house where I could bus and subway to work, leaving the car at home.
So the way we coped with the issue back in those very early days (and quite well, I might add) was to carpool with other guys from my company. That way I only needed my car 1 day a week while my wife then had use of the car the rest of the week to take the kiddos to their doctor / dentist / (you name it) appointments.
So explore “all” your options before making your decision. One thing is certain though, Joanna will need the use of a car at some time during every week.
I wish carpooling were an option! As far as I know, no one from Johnny’s work lives near us. But there are lots of employees, so maybe I should have Johnny start asking around. 🙂 For now, taking Johnny to work a few days a week is all right, but it would be nice if Baby Girl and I didn’t have to fool with that.
We are a one-car family but we won’t re-up our second car until we’re living in different cities – BUT we don’t have any children.
I think in your situation I would take a relaxed approach. Wait until you want the second car more often than not and then take your time researching your options and looking for the right vehicle. I bet you could get a reliable used car for much less than $10k if you know what you’re looking for and are patient.
I think you’re right. It’s obviously not inconvenient enough for us yet, or we would have gone ahead and bit the bullet. I think we’ll know when the time is right (probably around the same time Baby Girl no longer sleeps when we go pick up her Dad from work!). 🙂
We’re in NYC now, but anticipating needing to buy a house and two cars all at once when we make the move to the suburbs. Won’t be happening for at least a couple more years, but that’s what motivating us to save! Glad to hear it’s possible to make it work with one car while figuring it out.
That was the craziest part about moving from city life… all the stuff we had to buy for normal living! You guys are super smart to save. You’ll probably also need more furniture, but home interior stuff is fun to buy! After you buy all the necessary stuff in the beginning, though, you’ll definitely find your cost of living go down!
I feel more comfortable with my wife having her own car because if something happens to our son where she needs to get to the doctor, then she can just jump in her car and go. It would take me 30+ minutes to drive home to take them. I don’t see that as a viable option.
I know a few people that drove scooters for years. My good friends father is a scooter dealer and I was unaware there are a few scooters that can go 70mph. That is really fast for a scooter. You have to do what is right for you, but I would think about another car.
Having a car in case I needed to rush Baby Girl to the doctor is definitely one of our big reasons for wanting a second car. I’m a worrier by nature (ugh!), so I’ve thought about that scenario time and again. I think we’ll definitely get a second mode of transportation soon; it’s just down to deciding on a car or scooter.
We are in the middle of trying to figure all this out, too. I am a SAHM mom with a toddler and one more due in April. We have a paid for ’06 Accord that acts as our reliable family car (and reliable it is!) and our “second car” is my husband’s ’67 mustang. He drove it through college, and we thought it would work for his commuting vehicle. We have, however, spent at least several thousand on it and he has been able to drive it to work probably less than ten times. It is also absolutely not carseat appropriate. We have no money for an additional car, and barely any for further repairs. We have three choices, really: 1) keep trying to get the mustang fixed, in the hopes that AT SOME BLESSED DAY in the future, I’ll have my own car and can GET OUT and make some new friends in this new city we’re in 2) sell the mustang and get something more reliable…but like your “crappy car” option above, it’s most likely still going to need repairs anyways, and 3) sell the mustang*, put the money in savings, and call ourselves a one car family. I’d take my husband to work…dragging what will soon be two kids…whenever I want a car.
A second car (heck, a first car) is a HUGE priveldge…I remember it being fairly normal for families to just have one car when I was growing up! Sad it doesn’t quite feel like that anymore 🙁
*PS I’m not totally heartless–he has a ’65 sitting on blocks in his Mom’s garage!
First, congrats on having a little bundle due in April! So exciting. I’ve LOVED these first three weeks of being a mom, but they’ve kind of kicked my butt. I hear the second time around is so much easier because you actually know what you’re doing!
And at least we’ve each got one reliable car! That’s something! Good luck in figuring out your car situation. We should reconvene in a month and see how we both figured out our respective dilemmas! 🙂
We used to be a one car family, for about five years, but that was before us having kids. Your situation does lend itself to being able to swing the one car deal, but there is valid concern in being left home alone and possibly needing/wanting the car. I think some of it hinges on when/if you plan on having other kids as that might play a role in what kind of car you want to get.
True. We have talked about *if* we got a second car, what kind it would be. Our current car is compact, so we’d probably want a family car of sorts, such as an SUV or crossover of some kind (I’m not quite ready for all-out minivan mode, but I’m sure I will have to be someday!). Both of those kinds of cars are more expensive than a compact car, though! Hence, the dilemma. 🙂
I would look into a station wagon or a hatchback over an SUV, just as reliable, much less upfront and operational cost!
Sorry, I will play DEVIL’S advocate here (because you will think me evil) but 2 issues may arise with baby girl in the picture. In a sleepless haze you may not realize that you are out of diapers, formula, milk bread or whatever and may not be able to wait until Johnny comes home to get one of these items. (This would be worse if you had two kids!)
Baby may get sick/hurt midday (I know hate to think of these things) and you may need to take her for a visit, or worse the ER. Not sure how far johnnys work is, but every minute will drive you nuts if she is sick or hurt while you wait for him.
Both of these issues may be avoided if you have friends or neighbors that can assist…not sure what your support system is.
I recall an occasion where I was out of formula when my second was born. She was literally a week old and I was still not SUPPOSED to drive because of major anemia after her birth. At combined with the total terror of trying to leave the house with a one week old and 17 month old left me crying to m Facebook friends for help! A friend came to the rescue and when she got there and asked what I need at the store, I immediately said “OH NO! YOU are staying with THEM!” My husband had worked every day since we came home and I was trapped alone all day! That was the best grocery shopping trip ever! I was ok risking passing out with just me in the car…I jus could not bring babies with me.
Crazy story! Thank goodness for good friends! I could definitely see myself running out of diapers or wipes because I am always in a bit of a sleepless haze these days! 🙂
Part of our consideration in deciding on a second vehicle is being able to get Baby Girl to a doctor quickly if necessary. It would definitely bring peace of mind to know I always had a means of transportation.
As long as you had the money in your bank account, I would go with the “Buy another nice, reliable car” option, especially now that you work from home.
You make it sound so simple! I wish Johnny or I could be so decisive in this situation. We do have the money, but for some reason we are having a really hard time coming to grips with parting with it!
My husband’s car broke down 3 years ago and we have been a 1 car family ever since. It only gets worse! Now that we moved to a small town with no public transit, I’m completely trapped every day.
One of my goals this year is to save up enough money to buy a newish 2nd car. It has been way too long and is even more difficult when you have a kid. Over the last 3 years, we have had to pass on so many things because we had no way to get there. Yeah, life has pretty much sucked non-stop.
There are other places we should spend this money, but I’m going to explode if I have to spend another year stuck at home every day.
We could afford a crappy car, but it would just end up costing us more over time and eventually need to be replaced. So, for us, it’s best to just save like crazy and get something reliable to start with.
It can be a hard choice, especially in your situation where you already have the money. But it would save so much despair to just do what needs to be done. Good luck. 🙂
When quality of life is at stake, you have to do whatever it takes to make yourself happy! Good luck in getting a great second car this year. As soon as I start feeling stir crazy with Baby Girl, I’ll be sure to take your advice and get that second car!
We’re a one car family and it works for us right now though like you we will need a second eventually. If you can jive it now I think I would jump into a reliable car…I wish we could justify one right now but for us it’ll probably be 2-3 years.
In terms of the car seat, I don’t know what kind of car seat you have but for ours you can buy second bases for cheap, look online! Also, my infant car seat can be used without a base. It has little slits across the top (by the lap) to secure a seat belt around to fasten like if we were in a cab or something. We can’t do this with a convertible car seat when she gets bigger (another month or two and she’ll be out of her infant seat).
Good point on the car seat. Honestly, we still barely know how to work ours! I think the instructions do include something about using it without a base, but just figuring it out WITH the base took us an embarrassingly long time! 🙂 But those options will be good to remember if/when we end up getting a second car.
We’re a one car family currently, but it is just the two of us. We want to have children but we haven’t been able to fall pregnant yet.
I work from home and he works usually 3 days a week (12 hour shifts) so my using the car when he’s home isn’t a big deal, and it’s definitely cut down on those ‘just to get out’ trips that used to cost me an extra $10-75 a week of money we don’t have. Although, to be fair, I’m an introvert and enjoy staying at home most of the time.
Right now we don’t have the financial cushion that you have, and we’re saving for a house, so we’re in no hurry for a second car. After we buy the house and have children, we’ll revisit the issue… I’m not certain that we’ll need one before the kids are 3 or so, tbh.
Way to go on saving for a house! I’d take a house any day over a second car! 🙂
You make a good point about enjoying staying home… I’m sure a big part of being able to manage one car between two people is whether you need to get out a lot. Some people go crazy if they’re alone for very long, but I need that alone time in my life. I’m sure that’s partly why we’ve been able to just do one car so far!
We will need to buy a new car when we have children since neither of our current cars will hold a car seat. One car also isn’t an option since my husband works 24-hour shifts and his on/off times don’t coincide with my work schedule.
All I can say is I feel your pain…and it sounds like no matter what you’re going to have to eventually get a second car, so you might as well bite the bullet.
I wish Johnny or I were able to be decisive enough with this decision to just bite the bullet! But for some reason we are really dragging our feet with making such a big purchase. Hopefully after reading all the comments, our decision will be more clear cut! 🙂
We too are a one car household (http://nzmuse.com/2012/03/the-art-of-the-one-car-household/) albeit without kids. T also has a motorbike, but it rains A LOT here. It works for us as I’ve always taken public transport and right now I can walk to work, which is AMAZING.
Scooters cost basically nothing to run, which I can attest to, and you shouldn’t even need another licence. But like you say, when you’re on a two wheeler of any kind, you are a bit at the mercy of other drivers (which I also worry about – drivers here are awful – and I know T has had a few close scrapes). Sounds like this might be a good option to keep costs down until you NEED to get a second car. Otherwise, I would probably go with the option of getting a second reliable car now (cheap cars are a nightmare).
I think we are leaning toward the scooter route. We could get one and then sell it a few months later when we decide to get a second car and be none the worse for wear.
I never thought I would miss public transportation, but it sure would be a convenient option right now!
I’m not stir crazy yet, but I could definitely see myself getting that way in a few weeks! I’m still in survival mode (grab whatever can be consumed in under a minute for food, etc.), so I haven’t even had time to consider getting out, haha. The scooter really might be the best option. I’d have to make sure Johnny had a *really* good helmet before I could agree to it, though!
Don’t buy the scooter. It’s too risky because of other drivers and now that you have a little one, you don’t want to do anything that will put either parent in danger.
The only one who would be in danger would be Johnny… you better believe I wouldn’t even attempt to drive that thing! 🙂
If we do go the scooter route, there will definitely be A LOT of safety precautions I’ll want Johnny to take (like no roads over 35mph!).
We are deciding on this one right now, too. Well, we will be deciding. I have a car in the city now, and my boyfriend does not. If we get our house in the suburbs, we will have to put down a sizable down payment AND buy a second car. I’d like to get away with one car, but between work and farming, we would often have to be in two places at odd hours. We also have tons of farm costs to keep in mind, and we’re not planning to take out loans.
We haven’t quite figured this out yet. I told my boyfriend that making payments on a car is always an option. You can always make early payments and pay less in interest while not taking the full brunt of the car cost at one time. I know he doesn’t want to do it, but it may prove to be our only option!
It sounds like a second car will serve you guys well! Farming sounds like the ideal life.
I’m not gonna lie… the thought of making payments on a second car has crossed our minds. But that would mean meeting the Debt Monster again, and we hope to avoid that until we get our first mortgage.
Firstly, I love your site; your chat is great and it’s so well designed.
However, if I might be so bold, I’m not sure if you aren’t missing a trick here…move! You mentioned in an earlier post that you’re not looking to buy a house yet so that you can be flexible with Johnny’s work. Well, if that’s the case then why is he needing a car to commute. If you live closer to his office then you keep the car and he cycles. Your husband keeps fit, has a short journey to work and you save loads of cash. While your current home looks great (love the baby’s room), if you can find an equivalent pad for similar money then it’s a no brainer. You may also get quieter neighbours!
I appreciate this is easier said than done and perhaps I’ve been reading too much of Mr Money Mustache’s musings but you wanted comments!
P.S. delighted to hear about Baby Girl’s safe arrival. If you’re still finding time to blog during this manic time, you must be doing something right!
And, touche! We’ve never thought about moving, but that’s actually a great idea. Obviously, we’d have to wait until our contract is up, but that really is a viable option. And Johnny would love biking to work. AND, I really wouldn’t mind saying goodbye to our neighbor. At all.
I’m glad you found our site… you’ve got some great nuggets of wisdom. 🙂
Buy the second, good quality car. You never know if you might need to go somewhere in a hurry on a day when Johnny has the car. Most insurances have policies that cost less if you don’t drive very much, and since you don’t, you won’t spend much on gas. Get a second carseat and you’re all set, or just use your car as the family car so you don’t have to switch the carseat from vehicle to vehicle. Since your only “con” to doing this was money spent, this sounds like the best option to me for your safety, sanity and convenience. BTW, I saw Levar Burton on TV last night, and thought of you guys :-).
Safety, sanity, and convenience are all very important, so we are seriously considering getting a nice second car. Right now we’re investigating the scooter option more closely but if I can’t feel completely comfortable with Johnny riding a scooter to work each day, I think we’ll bite the bullet and go with a second car.
And your Levar Burton comment made me laugh! Johnny will be beyond thrilled to hear it. 🙂
We just went through this process. We’ve alternated between a 1 and 2 car household. We always had a second car but whether or not it could limp along and get us to work or we could afford the repairs was a different story. Up until last year we had over 30 years and 450,000+ miles between our two vehicles. We upgraded my husband last year to a new-to-us honda civic and had hopes of keeping my old car (’99 nissan sentra with 200,000 miles) since it was running beautifully but I was rear-ended badly in my third trimester and the insurance company much preferred declaring it totaled and writing me a check for .02 then pay to repair it. It still runs but the back of the car is smashed and no way would I be willing to stick a baby in the back seat with no cushion if I were to be hit again (I’ve been rear-ended three times in the past few years, is it any wonder our state has some of the highest insurance premiums in the country). Anyway, we recently purchased a new-to-us honda crv and we are back to being a 2 car family again. Like you, I wasn’t ready to commit to a mini-van but we couldn’t do another compact because by the time you get the stroller into the back of the car there is no room for anything else! Not to mention, I wanted 4wd to have something that handled the snow better. It was a tough bullet to bite seeing as we are trying to save for a house but having peace of mind has been worth it. Neither one of us have regretted the purchase once and we are both stingy accountants. Also, its worth investing in a second base – they are pretty cheap online. What happens if there’s an emergency and you need to take a cab? Are you keeping the one base you have at home or is going to work in the car?
I’m glad you guys were able to figure out a solution! Peace of mind is priceless, really. I need to keep reminding myself that so we can just get a second car already!
And good point on the car seat base. Right now we just leave it in the car, and it goes with Johnny when he goes to work. I know there’s a way to use the car seat without the base, but I have *no idea* what that way actually is! 🙂 I need to look into that pronto!
We are a one-car family and have been for almost 3 years. We sold both of our cars (including our F-150) when we moved to Los Angeles. We bought our trusty Elantra used (a 2009) with cash and figured we would get another car when we really needed one, probably when we had a baby. Fast forward-Hudson is almost 8 months old and we’re still a one car family. Luckily, I’m able to walk to a grocery store and coffee shop and if I need/want the car my husband takes the bus or we drive him in to work. I would recommend holding out as long as possible! 🙂 Everyone is always shocked we only have one car in LA (everyone drives everywhere here) but it’s been working for us and we don’t have the extra expense of insuring and parking for another car.
That’s awesome you’re making it work! As long as I can have the car a few days a week for getting out and doing stuff, I think I’d be able to stay sane. And that is sweet you have stores within walking distance. I’m starting to learn that when you’re a mom with a baby, human interaction (with adults) is key! 🙂
While there may be nobody from his office nearby for carpooling, there may be lots of others that work in the same building or neaby. Years ago I carpooled with three other people, only one of whom worked in my office. The others were my coworker’s neighbor and her cousin. We all worked within a few blocks of each other and just met up at the car each night. Every morning the driver picked us up along the way to work and dropped us of in reverse order at night. We had two cars at the time and I still preferred this arrangement. A monthly parking pass near my work was around $100. My cost for the commute was less than my gas costs would have been.
Good call! We need to get to know our neighbors better so we can find out if that’s an actual option! Right after college I carpooled with a group of girls and LOVED it. And since it was a super long commute, we saved about $100 in gas each month from it.
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