One Vehicle Living - How to Make it Work for You (Part 2)

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by Ed

Last time we talked about our history evolving from a multi-car house to a one-vehicle, one walker house.  (See Part 1: in our One Vehicle Living Series here).  The transition wasn't easy or quick, but with planning and thought, we save hundreds of dollars every month.  The CAA publishes a document that verifies our number; that's around the average savings a family could expect.  I'm sure you'd like to save some of that $7, 200 a year (that's our annual savings estimate), so this week I've created a list of ideas that could, at a minimum, reduce the number of days you need to drive 2 cars.

This list runs the gamut, from quick and easy to life altering and extreme.  Typically, more pain equals more gain, but even the easy ones can still create savings that add up.

Alright, the list.  (By the way, while I've done my best, this list is not exhaustive.  If you are doing something cool to get by with less car-time, please share it in the comments!)

Here we go:
  • Buy yourself some good, all weather shoes.  I define these as shoes that are stylish, comfortable, warm and waterproof.  You may not need to wear them every day, but they'll be there when you need  them.  Walking is easier if you don't have a soaker.  Bringing a pair of indoor shoes to change into in the winter is a great idea, too.

  •  Bikes/bike trailers/jog strollers/wagons. Your feet won't get you everywhere and even if they do, you won't want to carry kids or small shopping trip stuff home when you're done.  Having a way to tow your little people and stuff will open up more options for your one-car life.  It doesn't mean you'll always have to tow, but it will be there when you need it.


  • Find childcare in walking distance of where you live.   Being able to walk your children to childcare eliminates one step of complexity in the already complex life of a working parent.  It will make future scheduling of car use infinitely easier too.  When your kids are school age, after-school care close to home is simple and good exercise for them.  We have a great arrangement where our friend, Ruth, who has kids the same age as ours, walks her kids and ours to our house after school.  Both pairs of kids play while they wait for me to walk home from work.  It's a great arrangement for all of us! 

  • Learn about/try public transit in your area.  It goes without saying that even expensive public transit is cheaper than owning a car.  It can be much more interesting way to travel.  We all have a billion games/books/songs on our phones or whatever now, so you can even use your travel time to your advantage.  


  • Carpool!  In my experience, lots of people really, really want to carpool, they just don't want to take the first step.  Try tossing out an email or post on a common company message board.  This way you still keep your car (a sticking point for lots of people) and just drive it less. Carpooling takes work to schedule, but usually less than you think.  If your workplace is too small to have a decent carpool pool, try Kijiji for other options.

  • Pay for rides.  The next level up from carpooling.  There are likely people who live around you and work where or near you do.  Many are more than happy to split gas costs and/or have someone pay for coffee.  Yes, you will have to pay some money.  No, it will not cost more than owing a second vehicle.  

  • Transfer or job hunt in your area.  Extreme perhaps, but we are talking alternative lifestyle here, not a different hairstyle; you had to know there would be a commitment to change.  If your job is portable, you might find transfer easier than you thought.  You may be able to work from home once and a while.  You may be able to move closer to work.  You don't have to commit to this step, but at least give it some thought.  I really enjoyed transferring to a new school - it jump started me professionally and made me better at what I do.  Oh, and we save a lot of money on a second car (did I mention that before?).

  • Is working from home an option for you?  For more and more people, telecommuting is possible.  Maybe you can't make the move to working from home full-time, not everyone can.  But each day you're not driving into the office keeps more gas in your tank and money in your pocket.


  • Sell your second car.  Having two vehicles is a crutch; the final step is to get rid of one of them.  When you have tried enough of the above changes and feel comfortable that you can cope, your final step is to commit by going to one car.  Not for the faint of heart, but survivable if you have done your homework.   

  • If you can't go that far, could you try taking one car off the road for awhile?  See if you can keep it parked for week.  Then a month?  Then 6 months?    

  • Be ready to spend some money.  What!  Well, you will need to take extra-good care of your one remaining vehicle (regular maintenance, new tires, etc), take the occasional taxi and maybe even rent a car when you need to.  One of Robin's friends and her husband don't own a car at all.  They have figured out it's cheaper for them to take the bus in the week and rent a car every weekend, than own a car at all!  Stay the course and know that these occasional expenses are a drop in the bucket compared to owning a second car outright.
Keep the other benefits in mind...
In Part One, Alli  pointed out that saving money isn't the only bonus to the one car life.  She pointed out that getting to know local shopping and meeting neighbours are a plus.  Other bonuses to one (or no) car living: 
  • Fitness.  You definitely get more exercise, you can't avoid it. 
  • The environment gets a break.  
  • Less work on car maintenance.  No worries about scheduling oil changes or repairs.
  • Walking is safer than driving.
  • If you don't own a truck, no one will ask you to help them move. 
  • Walking is a stress reliever.  Sitting in rush hour traffic is definitely not.  

Have I missed anything?  Do you have more ideas?  Leave a comment!


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