How to Be a One Car Family

I know the thought of being a one car family might be down right frightening to some families. How is it going to work with the schedule? How are the kids going to get to where they need to go? I’ll have to be at home more! And the mental thoughts go one. Also, I will say this disclaimer: Being a one car family doesn’t work for everyone. Just want to be clear about that. Not everyone can make a one car thing work because of their work schedules or work locations. But if you are able to make it work, there are a lot of benefits to having only one car. Let me explain.

Back in 2016 my husband’s car was dying. It was needing a repair done that was far more expensive than the car was worth. now what? Do we buy another car? We really didn’t have the money for one saved up since we like to own our cars outright. So we made the decision to not replace the car. Instead my husband rode a bike to work since at the time we only live a couple miles away.

Fast forward to the summer of 2016 and disaster hit our family. You can read more about that in my post Empathy for Single Parents and it explains that we lost everything in our home to black mold and my husband and I had to live in separate locations because we only had one car. We then made the choice to go ahead and get a car loan on a used car since we wanted to be able to see each other more, but then our current car’s A/C went out which left us with a car payment and one car again. So I kept the car at my parent’s house with my young daughter and my husband stayed with a co-worker and got to and from work that way. This was the down side to only having one car for sure, but we made it through.

We bought a house that summer that was only 6ish miles from my husband’s work and I regularly drive my husband to work and pick him up in order to make this one car thing work for us. I have been a stay at home mom so I haven’t had a work schedule to deal with and is one of the reasons we have been able to live with only one car for a little over two years at the time this post was written. We do plan on buying another car but the opportunity hasn’t presented itself yet for us to do so.

Now that I have gone into our history of having only one car, let me go into some highlights I have learned along the way that are very positive and some that are negative, but I want to encourage you that having one car is possible. It just takes some planing.

Benefits of having only one car:

  • Cost

The cost savings is a HUGE thing with having only one car. We only have to pay gas for one car, insure one car, and pay to maintain one car. That alone is one of the biggest factors that has kept us a one car family is the fact that we save so much money by having only one car. To give you an idea of how much you could save, here is a break down. Now granted we are also in California so some of these numbers will be much different based on where you live.

Cost for gas: $120/month

Insurance: $100/month


Maintenance: $55/for an oil change once a quarter

So on average our cost for our car is under $250 a month. I know that for many people that is just your insurance bill. How does that sound to save money on you bills per month with having only one car? It’s been pretty great for us.

  • Storage

One other thing that is awesome about having only one car is that fact we can always fit it in our garage. We have a two car garage, but like most people we have stuff in it. No need to fight about which car goes in the garage because you only have one! Hehe. So storing one car is so much easier than two.

  • Care

If you are one of those people who love taking care of cars, good for you. I don’t have that gene apparently. I am one of those go through the car wash people and vacuum the car out once a month type of person. The great thing is that I only have one car to keep clean, and that works for me.

  • Maintenance

I know I mentioned the cost maintenance earlier but I am serious about how much you save both in time and money in maintenance for our car. We bought a Toyota so it doesn’t need a lot of maintenance any way, but it still needs to get it’s oil changes and flushes like any car. If we had two cars that would be double the cost and time. There is only one schedule to keep track of and you and your partner are both aware of where the milage is because you both drive the same car.

Drawbacks to having only one car:

  • Scheduling

This is the hardest part of having only one car. The schedule can be hard. Thankfully I don’t work right now so I am little more flexible so if my husband needs the car it’s not usually a big, but there are times where the schedules clash. Who is going to get the car? Many times I have had to cancel things because my husband needs the car for work and I like his pay check so his work does trump what I am doing. But that happens a lot less than you would think.

Maybe once a month the schedules clash. That really isn’t that big of a deal. So what I had to reschedule something. I end up having the car 95% of the time. I can do that thing later. There is give and take on both ends in order to have this lifestyle work. And it is a lifestyle. Don’t think that it is something you can just wing it and things work out. You need to plan how you are going to spread the car out and who gets it when. If you don’t it could be disastrous.

  • Time Limits

Since I have to take and pick up my husband from work, I do have my day on a clock. I have to adjust what I am doing to be able to go pick him up when he gets off work. This can be a drawback depending on how my day is going, but there is a way we counter balance the problem at times. My husband has some awesome co-workers who are willing to give him ride home. Find out if this could be an option for you. It could be once in a while or you could set up a regular thing, but ask co-workers if you could get rides from them and then compensate them for their gas.

Final Thoughts

There are so many ways to live with one car. It is something that is possible and there are so many pluses to it. Can everyone do it? Probably not but, if you are willing to get creative, you probably can. Take a look and see if being a one car family can work for you. It has worked for us 🙂



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