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Why I Don't Mind Being a One-Car Family

One Car Family The Prudent Homemaker


Twelve years ago, after our third child was born, we sold both of our vehicles and bought a single vehicle for our family. We needed something that would fit three car seats and have rear air conditioning and tinted windows. In our heat, it can easily get to 140º in a car in the summer, so having these features in pretty essential in making sure that passengers in the back don't overheat; we run the air conditioning in our vehicle eleven months of the year.

After our seventh child was born, we needed a larger vehicle that would fit our larger family. We sold what we had and bought a used van for $500 over what we sold our previous vehicle.


Why I Love Being a One-Car Family:


1. We only have one car to register.

In our state, registration for a vehicle is pro-rated by the vehicle itself as well as the age of the vehicle.  It's several hundred dollars a year, even for older vehicles.

2. We only have one car to insure.

This easily saves us hundreds of dollars a year.

3. We don't have car payments.

Not making payments on multiple vehicles saves us a ton of money.

4. I have plenty to do at home.

Being home more often rather than running around gives me more time to do the things I want and need to do

5. I am happy at home.

I have been asked if I don't feel "stuck at home" with just one car. I have never thought of being in my own home as being stuck. Home is not a place I want or need to leave and get away from in order to feel complete each day. I try to make my home a beautiful place to be where I am surrounded by the people and things that I love.


The practicalities of living with one car: 


1. Most of the time, I don't go further than a two-mile radius.

Within that distance, I combine trips to save time and gas. We have a lot of stores within that distance. Once a month I'll go to Sam's Club (which is 5 miles) and a couple of times a year I run an errand a bit further out. 

2. I will make a trip to the store usually very early in the morning or late in the evening.

Stores are blissfully empty early in the morning, making it easy to check out quickly without a 20 minute time spent waiting in line. Late evenings are good for that as well, depending on the store. 

In our summer heat, running an errand during the day will literally wipe you out. Sure, it may only take 5 minutes to get to the store, but your vehicle is 140º inside and it doesn't cool down by the time you've gotten to the store. Then you get back in on the way home. This makes a person exhausted and in great need to cool down when they return home--and leaving you too tired to accomplish much for the rest of the day. In the summer, I try to go shopping less frequently. No matter the time of year (but especially important during the summer) I'll try to go super early (like 6 a.m. if the store is open then, or right at 8 if it opens later) or go after the children are in bed, so I can come home and go to sleep afterwards. Going shopping during those hours means I don't interrupt our day and my husband has our van to take to work.

3. I don't go shopping very often.

I try to limit my trips to the store. I keep a well-stocked pantry, which means I don't have to go to the store every week and can wait to find the best deals.  Staying out of the store also makes it easy to stick to my grocery budget.

4. I do my shopping research online ahead of time.

If I know what I need but I'm not sure where to get it, I'll look at several stores websites before venturing out to see if the stores have what I need. This saves a ton of time and gas. It's much faster to "go to" 10 stores online and figure out if they have what I need before I go. Another bonus of looking online ahead of time is that I can often find out if the store has what I need in stock.

5. I shop online when possible.

This saves time and money. I look for free shipping deals whenever possible.

6. My children use bicycles.

My older children get to where they need to go on their bicycles. Last week when my husband was at Scout camp with one son, my daughter attended a swim party and my son attended Boy Scouts. They took their bikes where they needed to go. They learn independence.

We bought used bicycles and solid tires for their bicycles to keep costs down and keep them from getting frequent flats.

7. We carpool when possible.

When my eldest has a church dance she wants to attend, she'll go with a group of friends all together and one of them will drive or one parent will drive. They have more fun being together in the car. We'll likewise do the same for church activities for our younger girls.

8. We have piano lessons at home.

We have a piano teacher who comes to our home every other week. I don't need to drive my children to lessons. (Bonus: I get to accomplish more things at home while they have lessons!)

9. I homeschool my children.

Driving them to school and picking them up isn't something on my to-do list. This alone gives me a ton of time in my day which I can use to do other things.


We generally put between 8000 - 10,000 miles a year on our only vehicle. We save not only gas, but wear and tear on our vehicle.


I know being a one-car family isn't practical for everyone, but if you can make it work for you, it's a great money-saver!


Are you a one-car family? How do you make it work for your family? Do you have great public transportation where you live and go without a vehicle?


Last modified on
Tagged in: Frugal Living


  • Becky @ Becky's Place July 20, 2017

    I wish we were... My husband is a contract carrier for the postal service (mail person with no benefits available and pays for all vehicle expenses out of pocket in exchange for an annual $ amount) and his contract requires him to have a second vehicle for back up. I also work out of the home and use that second vehicle. I love that some people are able to do with one automobile, and some to do with none even! (We live several miles out of town=not feasible.) I actually encourage my young adult children to live near enough to a large city so they can use mass transportation, bikes or feet.

  • Kelly July 20, 2017

    No public transportation where I live. My son's school is too far away for him to walk or bike there, especially in winter as we get a lot of snow.

    To top it off, someone stole my son's bike right out of our yard the other day:o

  • Cari July 20, 2017

    We are a one car family as well. We sold my vehicle earlier this year when we got married as I now stay home and my husband works only 5 miles from home. On days that I have appointments or errands to run, I drop him off at work and use the car. I don't feel stuck on the days that he takes the car either. I'm a homebody! It has saved us money on our registration, insurance and the deletion of the monthly car payment. We do have some public transportation where I live as well, there is a bus stop just down my street. Great post!

  • Jennifer July 20, 2017

    I live in rural Maine where this is no public transportation. My husband and I work about 25 miles in opposite directions so we're a two-vehicle family now. However, when we were a one-car family when our teenage son was a baby and my husband was home as the primary caregiver.

    We try to reduce the demands of being a two-car family on our budget by not having car payments. It makes a big difference.

    Also, vehicle registration in Maine is also costly. I'm driving a seven year old car and my husband a 10-year-old car and the excise tax and registrations are about the same as the year we bought them. :(

  • I feel like our registration is the same way. It barely drops each year and our vehicle is 13 years old.
    But some states are different; I believe it's Oregon that charges $35 per vehicle, no matter the year.

  • Toni July 20, 2017

    Our small county in rural TN charges $24 a year for each vehicle no matter the year. No other tax.

  • Laure July 20, 2017

    This is very interesting. In Illinois (generally crazy high taxes on everything) our vehicle registration is only $101/year per car, regardless of age of car, type, etc. We also must buy a city sticker; the cost varies by city but is also per car, regardless of age, type, etc. For us the city sticker is approximately $130, so $231 total per car. Can't believe I finally found something where we are not on the high tax end of things!

    Living in Chicago, we use lots of public transportation, but it doesn't go everywhere and it's not always safe, so we also have cars, but don't put many miles on them. Kept the last car for 17 years. Others in my family have cars they've had for 20+ years that still have only approximately 150K miles. That said, many people who both live and work in the city (especially transplants who don't have relative in the suburbs) just use public transportation, cabs, zip car, etc.

  • Amy August 19, 2017

    Not all cities in Illinois require a sticker. I'd never heard of cities requiring a sticker until your comment and I've lived in Illinois for 31 years now. The city sticker thing must be one of those Chicago/Burbs things. I've lived mostly in Central & Southern IL.

  • Heather I. July 21, 2017

    We became a 1 car family about a year ago which greatly reduced our financial strain. We sold our second car to my brother who then had to pay almost $600 to register it in Seattle, Wa!! Its a 12 year old car.

  • Libby July 21, 2017

    Taxes in CT are due by 31 July so I have the bill right in front of me!

    My 2006 Toyota Camry is $132.71 in state taxes this year.

  • Kristin July 24, 2017

    In PA, the registration is $36/year. It doesn't matter the age of the car. I'm surprised at how expensive it is to register cars in other states!

  • Athanasia July 25, 2017

    I agree. I suppose there are reasons/rationale put out by states with high registration fees but that is only harder on those trying to make ends meet as it is.

    We don't have public transportation where we are, well, to any extent. We live outside a village which is outside our nearest large town where the university is that we all use. The town does have a bus system that runs M-F and no holidays. It does do a route in and out 2x a day to the park-ride lot due to University employees and students.

    My children have always been good at carpooling. Bicycling into school , not so much, as I did not like the narrow 2 lane road that connects the two. Too much traffic. The last couple years my youngest has carpooled in with our tenant as she works in food service at the school. I work full time during the school year, part time in the summer. When the children were younger and went our church school they rode into school with me, later for high school they were on the rural route for the school bus.

    Until just recently, because we gave our old VW bus to a nephew, that is what my husband drove. He has replaced that with a panel truck for the business. He just has to walk down our road to get to work. If they need to go out on a job they drive in my nephew's pickup, his partner in the business the last 3 years. We've always had an extra vehicle around due to 5 children. Right now it's being shared by my youngest (the last at home) and the missionary who is here for the summer. I seldom let anyone use my car as that has the adaptive features. It also gets more mileage as it is the car we use whenever we travel.

  • Sue July 26, 2017

    We live in NJ........ Need I say more??? Sue in NJ

  • Evelyn Edgett July 20, 2017

    We only have one truck, which my husband uses for work. My adult son with special needs and I stay home most of the time. My husband works odd hours, so even taking him to work and using the truck during the day would put a strain on everyday life. So I wait until after supper and my husband is getting ready for bed (around 7 p.m.) to run any errands we need. Thursday nights the library is open late, so that's our book and movie replenishing time. We only live 3 miles from the center of town, so in cooler weather, we strap on our backpacks and walk to do any needed shopping. In the summer, due to the intense heat here in Texas, we wait until the weekends to take care of things. No, I don't get to 'pop into town' for any little reason, but that helps keep me focused on home. I get it!

  • This is really interesting! I had never thought of your heat being a problem when you run errands. I also prefer to shop late at night after the kids have headed to bed. It's so nice not to have to fight the crowds.

    But we do have 2 cars. We don't live in town and I have to get the kids to school and appointments during the day. Getting rid of one car is something I frequently wonder about, but for now we are content to own my 11 year old paid off van. If Hubby found a work from home job, we could pull it off!

  • My mom was talking about being "wiped out" the other day after running errands during the day, and my husband finds that he has to sit down and cool off for about 30 minutes after being out in the car during the day for a 10-minute ride. My husband and I both feel completely drained of energy after being in the car in summer to go anywhere, even after a 5-minute drive.

  • Terry July 20, 2017

    I have an auto start on my car and I will never be without one again. After grocery shopping I can start it while walking across the parking lot and by the time the groceries are put it in the car and I'm ready to leave cold air is blowing from the ac. They can be installed on older vehicles and sometimes I will see a great deal through Groupon.

  • I know people who have this here and I think it's wonderful! I don't know about putting one on our vehicle as we don't even have an auto lock/unlock. Perhaps one day when we replace this one that will be an option. I can see why this is a huge blessing in cold areas as well. With our large vehicle, it takes about 20 minutes to get cool inside. On a smaller car it goes much faster.

  • Andrea Q July 22, 2017

    In the winter, I start the van and let it run for 5-10 minutes to warm up. In the summer, I run the van for a few minutes to cool it down if we need to go out during the day. It's what I've always done and I don't notice that it requires much gas. If I park in our attached garage, I typically don't have to do either, as it keeps the van at a better temperature.

    We lived with one car when we lived in the city, but now my husband's commute is over an hour one way. It wouldn't work for us now, especially since each of us goes to the dentist twice each year, several doctor's appointments each year (annual physicals and specialists) and the optometrist annually, plus the weekly activities we enjoy.

  • Terry, I talked with my husband about the auto-start yesterday. On our van, starting the a/c early does nothing; you have to be driving the vehicle in order for the a/c to work. Otherwise, it just blows hot air. You have to have an electric fan in the engine in order to be able to pre-cool the car. Ours does not.

    And I found out from him too that the reason we can't park in the garage is not the length of our van as I thought, but the height! It's too tall to go in. But it fits us all and that is a nice thing for a family of 10!

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