Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Getting rid of one car

We are a two car family.

When we got married Joe had a car and I had a car. Both were fairly new. Since cars take their biggest dip in values in the first couple years it just made sense to keep them both -- they'd both taken the largest chunk of depreciation so we made it a goal to pay them off and drive them til they died. Or until the repairs started getting so extreme they weren't worth repairing, which I guess is death to a car.

And in fact we're looking to pay the cars off in the very near future -- hopefully within the next 12-18 months. Very exciting time in our lives -- no more car payments, rejoice!

I was feeling pretty good about this plan until I read this article last week. And the wheels started turning in my head wondering how we could get rid of one of our cars.

The article, you will note, recommends living within biking distance of work. Joe actually loves biking so that would be great except his office is within biking distance of the prison and, uh, no. Also they are a young growing company prone to relocating the office quite regularly as they outgrow it. So buying a house for biking proximity to work -- not going to happen.

But we can give Joe a reasonably short car commute.

And I, as a work-at-home mom can go without a car during the day.

Gasp. No car. Seriously?!

The no car thing seemed really extreme to be, before, I read that article.

Then I did the math -- the article suggests that even in a paid off low maintenance car you are spending roughly .17 per mile. Ouch.

Example: The trip from my house to the local Joann's fabric is 4.2 miles. So it's 8.4 miles round trip. So that means, in addition to my purchase at Joann's it costs me $1.50 to drive there. Take similar trips during the week and those add up. Fast. If I'm doing this in a car that's not paid off -- it's more like .34 per mile or $3 per trip. Double ouch.

It's not that its not affordable (we've been doing this a long time, we can afford it), it's just that it's not how I want to spend my money. If I'm going to clip coupons and price match to save 1.00 here and there on groceries it makes sense to me to make one larger change to save a lot of money.

Image from here.

For us, getting rid of the car will save a lot per month:
$60 insurance (ish. That's about 1/2 what we pay now)
$30 registration/taxes
$70 gas (2 fill-ups per month)
$20 maintenance (oil changes, wiper blades, car wash, etc..)
Total: $180

And that is on a paid-off, no major repairs car. Add in either a car payment (about $250/mo) or one major $600 repair per year on an aging vehicle ($50/mo) and it gets even more painful.

So I was sold. Totally sold on getting rid of the car.

The question became, where should we live that I would be within walking/biking/public transit of the places I'd like to go during the day. Trapped in the house is not for me. And that is why, next year a we house hunt we're only looking in one community in Salt Lake -- Daybreak on the west side of the valley. Also known as  heaven.

Image from here.

They have a gym, lake, school, churches, an LDS temple, parks, playgrounds, shopping -- all within walking/biking distance. And there's a new Trax stop out there (SLC rail transit) so we can hop on and go to the library a couple of stops down. Or anywhere else trax will take us.

Will it be a hassle sometimes to not a have a car during the day? Yes. Is it a hassle I'm willing to take on to save $180-230 a month? Yes. Absolutely.

And hopefully I'll get some killer quad muscles from pulling Evie around in a bike trailer. And hopefully since Evie will grow up with parents who are naturally more active in their day to day life and that will make her more active in turn.

So what do you guys think? Would you consider dropping one of your cars? Making your home purchase decision based on that decision? Biking everywhere you went? We are so so excited about it.

12 little remarks:

Kaela said...

Way to go... though I don't know if I could go back to one car. I just need the peace of mind with my kids that if I need to go somewhere I can- for emergency reasons too. In the evenings it is sometimes hard to get a hold of Paul at work and if something were to happen with my kids I want to know I could just take off. I dunno- we were a one car family for a couple of years and I love my freedom too much to go back. I only go through about one tank of gas a month which I think is pretty reasonable. If I were you, with both cars being so close to being paid off, I would keep both of them, but still use the bike as much as possible... plus it's really hard to bike year round in Utah;)

Tannie Datwyler said...

This is a great idea. You are right - HUGE money saver. I would love to do something like that, but with 3 kids I just don't think it's doable. Especially since Claire is in preschool and I have to drop her off and pick her up 3 times a week. Plus it gets pretty darn cold here. Maybe I'm wimpy, but I am not sure I could do it.

Rich could maybe do it if we lived in Rexburg - he could ride his bike to the university. But again, it gets REALLY cold here and the roads are nasty. I suppose he could take the bus in the winter. HMMMM, sometime to think about.

Like I said though - we are a 15-20 minute drive from campus, so we can't do it now. Maybe we'll have to give it more thought next time we move.

DP said...

That is awesome! I am glad you were inspired by that article. We started at the beginning and have been reading all the posts. This guy has some great ideas.

I'm really lucky to be able to bike to work. We are also considering how long we can go without replacing our stolen car!

Andrea said...

We were a one car family until I was pregnant with our 3rd baby. There are definite benefits and drawbacks. We have been able to work it so that we have never had a car payment, and we will drive our current cars until they die.
If you are going to house hunt in Daybreak only, the money you will be saving in car stuff will be taken from your budget when you have to pay the HOA fees. They are crazy high there!

Sarah Flib said...

Awesome choice, Anna! You'll have everything you need/want in Daybreak and be healthier to boot. I am really lovin' Mr. Money Mustache.

Jessie said...

Sorry, but no. I don't think the article is all that practical, especially if you have multiple children. Sometimes, living a ways away for a great job is actually worth it. Cory could, in theory, ride his bike to work if we lived close enough, but in order to do that, we'd be paying more than we are now for housing (a super scary thought, believe me--and more than our car payment, I'm sure), and we'd still be living in a crappy neighborhood in a tiny apartment with crime through the roof and really poor schools. The author may argue that test scores don't say much about schools, and I'll agree with that to a point, but I also need my child to be safe in school. And then there are things like groceries--even if I lived within walking/riding distance of a store, trying to bring home groceries for a family of five would be a nightmare. And, like Kaela said above, I need the security of being able to take my kids places in case of emergency, and I need to be able to drop different kids off at different schools at similar times, something I can only do in a car.

As far as church stuff goes, too--in Utah, yes, your ward is your neighborhood, so it isn't a big deal to have playgroups/craftgroups/bookclubs/whatever, and bike or walk to them because they're reasonably close. Where I live now, though--we're in a different section of the city every week for any of those clubs. I would rather be able to get together with other people to save my (and my children's') sanity than give up my vehicle.
I noticed that the author implied that he is *now* retired with a kindergartener--so maybe he was able to work more as a younger man, and then have kids--but for those of us who chose to have kids first, it really just isn't that feasible. Some things, like a really good job and neighborhood, *are* actually worth the commute, if you ask me.

Also--eliminating a car isn't completely saving all that money--you then have to add in the cost of public transportation, purchasing bikes and bike supplies and keeping them running well, and then time perhaps lost in commuting. I know that Cory's time is worth more than he spends in gas/mileage/etc--it is worth it for him to get home quicker so he can actually do more work, rather than attempting to do stuff on the bus, or not doing anything at all on his bike. I know that isn't always the case for everyone, but in our case, it is.

Sorry Anna, I do actually think it's awesome that you want to do this, and I didn't mean to rant at you like a crazy person, but this definitely isn't feasible for us. :)

DP said...

I really liked your point about making a big change if you're going to bother doing the little things like cutting coupons.

Plus you're at the perfect point to make the change, since you are already planning to move anyway.

Also, in your calculation of monthly savings I didn't see the amount of the car payment. But if you sold one of your cars, you could apply that to the loan on the other car, and there's up to $250/month in savings, right?

Erica said...

We have only had one car our entire marriage (5+ years) and I think it is totally the way to go. There are so many benefits to reducing the number of cars out there. Driving doesn't just cost you money, it also increases traffic, causes wear on the road, and increases pollution.

We live in Los Angeles and are lucky enough to be able to live less than a mile from my husband's office so he can walk to work. Luck doesn't actually have that much to do with it because we pay A LOT in rent. But we feel like there is an ethical component to this decision. We are decreasing our wear on the world and increasing the amount of time my husband can be at home since he doesn't have to commute. We live within walking distance of his office, grocery stores, a mall, drugstore, our chapel, and even the temple.

Anyway, I think this is a good decision and I wish you luck with it!

Ali said...

Wow, you got tons of responses on this! I admire people who can do this to save money...(there are a few people in my ward that do it) but on the other hand, I semi-resent it too cause I've gone out on a limb and invited them over for playdates and it ends up being they can't come cause they don't have the car that day, and such...(they have multiple kids including an infant)...and it's hard to ever get together with them but in the evenings when there hubbies home. It would definitely be a sacrifice!! Cars are such a blessing for sure.

Teresa said...

If we lived closer to public transit, we'd consider getting rid of a car. Since we live in the boonies that just wouldn't work for us. However - we have determined to never have a car loan. We will only buy future cars if we can pay for it in cash.
Anyway, I think your idea is great! Good luck with it!

painty (Melinda) said...

If you can make that work for you and it saves that much money that would be awesome! My friends bikes a lot of places in the summer with her kids in a bike trailer. For me it would be a definite no go. Not having a car makes me feel trapped, especially with kids. And since it is freezing and the roads are icy for almost half the year where we live, I would be really depressed stuck in the house all winter. But our cars are both paid off and have needed very few repairs, so it would not save us that much money to get rid of one. It may be worth it if you are really saving a lot.

Emily S said...

I think it's a great idea if you're in a situation to do it. We were a one car family for 2.5 years. We made it work. Would have loved to have done it longer. But now it just wouldn't. Gary can ride the bus, but not in the winter, he works too much. Living close to his work would be WAY more expensive, as it would for many people. And once you have multiple children who need to go to preschool, kindergarten, do church callings, etc., etc., there's no way. Actually, all of the people who have only one car that their husband takes end up getting a LOT of rides from people like me. Which I totally don't mind at all because I know money for them is SOOO tight. But I would be annoyed if they used the money to pay off their debt or go on vacations or buy nicer clothes counting on the fact I'll give them rides - I want those things, too, but I know I need a car to do what I need to do. One more problem, is - it snows and freezes in Utah. Dragging 3-4 kids into foot deep snow to walk even 3 blocks to preschool becomes ridiculous. I would do it if I were forced to for some reason, but it would not be one of the first things in the budget to go. Conclusion - if it works, do it. But our society isn't really built for the most part (oh, yes, there are many exceptions) around the idea that it would after a certain point.

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