How (+ Why) We Became a One-Car Family

Happy New Year, BB friends!

It’s a new year, which means a fresh start! Or something like that… Some people buy gym memberships, some people make lists (I love those people). For us, that meant taking another step toward becoming debt free!

A little over one week ago, we were sitting in the used car office at the Subaru dealership, our snazzy, red 2017 WRX Limited sitting out front. The dealer walks back into the office.

“Did it start?”, we asked. The dealer replied, “Hell, no!”

But that’s OK because there was a very good reason it didn’t start right away and they had to jump it right there in the parking lot.

You know you’re destined for a one-car life when you drive your BRAND NEW vehicle so seldom that the battery dies while it’s parked in the garage and you have to jump it each time you want to drive it…every two months. It might as well have been an old lady car, except we didn’t even drive it once a week to church and back.

So, a year and a half after we purchased this brand new car, we sold it back to the dealership with 5,500 miles on it, never once having changed the oil. And, thus, we returned to one-car family status.

How (+ Why) We Became a One-Car Family

When we tell someone we’re a one-car family, we get a lot of strange looks.

How? Why? …How?

How do we function? How can we do this with a baby on the way? How will we survive?

Very few people can fathom why we would want to be a one-car family. Some might even wonder how this is possible in 2017. And I get it, for many people this seems impossible. But this isn’t a new thing–we were at one time a one-car family even before purchasing the car we just sold back to the dealer.

It seemed great at the time, but we probably shouldn’t have bought a brand new car. It was also a strange time in our life (you can read about the SNAFU here). After a while, we realized it just wasn’t worth the expense and it wasn’t practical for our lifestyle, especially after we purchased my SUV (used).

There are a lot of reasons why being a one-car family works for us, and they all pertain to how we’ve structured our life. We didn’t make a conscious decision to be a one-car family. It kind of just happened…

1. We were (and still are) paying off debt

We’re fortunate that we live in a city with decent public transportation. In an effort to reduce our monthly expenses while we were paying off all our credit cards, Stuart started taking the express bus to work, which turned out to be super convenient and a really good deal. Even after purchasing a home across town and me changing jobs, this setup still works for us perfectly.

We no longer have any credit card debt, but we still have student loan debt to pay off. By getting rid of this vehicle and the associated monthly payment and insurance, we just increased our monthly income by over $600! That’s kind of a big deal, and it sounds ridiculous now that we no longer have to pay that each month. With that kind of money, we will be able to knock out that student loan debt so much quicker!

I’m also going to throw in a Dave Ramsey fact here (which completely blew me away)… Did you know that if you took the average monthly car payment in the U.S., which is about $500, and instead put that into a decent growth stock mutual fund, in 40 years you would have over $5.6 million? Even if you cut that time down, you could easily be a millionaire with that money you were throwing away on car payments every month. I mean, WHOA!

The question becomes, what do you want to spend your hard-earned money on?

2. Our schedules are chill AF

You want to know our weekday schedule? We wake up, have coffee, go to work, come home, and do whatever we want. I don’t mind telling you this because it’s completely devoid of detail and it sounds like we have the most boring life on the planet. But that’s how we like it (and spoiler alert: it’s totally not boring)! If our routine ever deviates, we’re usually going somewhere together. And if we’re not together, it’s never been an issue to coordinate plans.

I realize this is a foreign concept to a lot of people, but it’s just how we are and it totally works for us.

Even when Baby N arrives, the only thing that will change will be adding a daycare drop-off/pick-up to the schedule. Both of us are also very fortunate that we can coordinate our work schedules to accommodate an emergency doctor’s visit, etc.

And here’s the awesome part–if something changes and we absolutely have to have a second vehicle for any reason, we will be saving so much money from NOT having a car payment that we will be able to throw down cash for an inexpensive, used vehicle to get us from point A to point B.

More income means more options.

3. We communicate

We’re millennials. Let’s just get that out there. We didn’t grow up in the 1950’s when it was commonplace for a family to only own one vehicle. Our garages are built for two vehicles. Most of us get our first vehicles in high school and carry a personal vehicle with us through our lives. If we get married, each person likely already has their own vehicle. Two vehicles are the norm. I don’t think many people even consider the prospect of functioning with one vehicle. We grow up with the mindset that we NEED two vehicles.

There are legitimate reasons to have two vehicles. If both people work, their schedules and the location of their job may not allow for only one vehicle without extra cost or inconvenience. Currently, this isn’t an issue for us even though one of us works inside the city and the other works in a different town altogether.

There is one major element of our relationship that has made this transition possible, which is communication. We ask each other about plans all the time. Some people mistake this for asking “permission.” However, it’s more like, “I need to go to X place at Y time, does that conflict with any plans I’m forgetting?” And then we coordinate and plan.

It’s not that complicated, as long as you maintain proper trust and communication with your partner. It also helps when both partners have the same goal. We both want to save money, get out of debt, and build wealth, so it’s pretty easy to accommodate one another when we’re excited about accomplishing mutual goals!

4. New cars are a terrible investment

They’re like diamonds. Have you ever tried to re-sell diamond jewelry? If you ever need to, you’re in for some major disappointment…

In exactly 18 months, our brand new 2017 Subaru WRX depreciated by 30%. Nonfiction.

And Subarus are awesome vehicles! Ours had 5,500 miles on it and sat in the garage, out of the elements, in mint condition until we sold it back to the dealer. We probably would have gotten more out of it if we’d sold it through a private sale, but we decided that was more trouble than it was worth.

Craigslist is like a box of chocolates–you never know who you’re going to get.

There’s a big difference between listing a brand new Honda Civic (also an awesome vehicle) on Craigslist versus a brand new WRX. The dealership wouldn’t even let us test drive this car until we filled out the paperwork to actually purchase it. The reason being that they realized yahoo morons kept showing up wanting to “test drive” them, which was just an excuse to tear around town in a sports car. Because people are garbage. Basically, it just wasn’t worth the risk or headache of selling it ourselves.

Neither of us will ever buy a brand new car again. Used all the way! You can buy a late-model used vehicle for thousands less than a new vehicle (and you’ll probably have better info regarding any kinks in the specific model). Because of this, you’re more likely to be able to throw down cash on a car and avoid a monthly payment. And don’t be fooled–anyone who says it’s impossible to find a safe and reliable vehicle for $10,000 or less either has an agenda or knows nothing about cars.

So here we are, a one-car family once again! The best part is that, in addition to saving major bucks, our life won’t actually change that much. We basically were a one-car family prior to selling the car… It’s not for everyone, but it’s a great way to save A LOT of money if you can swing it!

How about you? Could you be a one-car family?

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