Becoming A One Car Family – Pros and Cons

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one car family posing beside car with thumbs up

When we got married my husband and I both had a car. Nine years and three kids later, we now have one car between us. And you know what? Much as I miss my beat up old Nissan Micra, becoming a one car family has been just fine. It works for us.

Could it work for you?

2020 data shows that the average UK household owns 1.2 cars, with the same statistics from the US showing 1.88 to be the average number of cars per household. Bearing in mind that some households don’t own a car at all, this shows that multi-car families are extremely common among families that drive.

But do you really need to run two cars? Let’s look at why you may want to consider becoming a one car family, the advantages and disadvantages, and the impact it may have on family life.

Why you might consider becoming a one car family

There are many reasons you might want to consider becoming a one car family, or it could be a combination of many factors. Here are some common reasons people choose to switch to one car.

  • Living on one income

    If your financial situation means you’ve dropped down to living on one income, it might be that running two cars is simply out of the budget so you need to cut back to being a one car family. This is a simple way to cut costs and make big financial savings.
  • You want to reduce your environmental impact

    Another great reason for deciding to be a one car family is choosing to lower your environmental impact. If it’s not practical to give up driving completely, switching down to one car from two cars will still have a huge impact environmentally.
  • You’re struggling financially

    If money is tight and you’re looking for frugal ways to cut down on spending, lowering the cost of driving by only having one car is a good way to save money and boost your budget where needed elsewhere.
  • You want to save money

    Whether that’s because you’re saving for something specific such as a new house, a wedding, or perhaps want you speed up debt repayments, switching to one car can help to save money.
  • You want to be healthier

    Perhaps you’d like to walk or cycle more simply to be healthier, and ditching the car is a great way to make sure you have less options!
  • You just don’t need a second car!

    Perhaps you don’t even need that second car! Think about how often each car gets used, how often two people are both driving separate cars at the same time. If this is rare, maybe you don’t actually need the two cars and dropping down to one car will have the benefit of saving money without causing you any convenience at all.

What to consider before becoming a one car family

Before becoming a one car family, it’s worth considering all the implications and how it will affect family life.

Work situations

Do you commute? Does your partner commute? How can you manage to get both of you to work on time?

Children’s activities

Do your children do activities that require transport in the car? Will the car be available at those times or will someone else be needing it at the same time?

Transport options

Are the places you need to get to within walking or cycling distance? Do you have good public transport links?

Work through everything you think might come up as a problem.

Workarounds to avoid needing a second car

family cycling along road

When considering becoming a one car family you’ll need to look at all the angles to make sure it’s practical for you all to get where you need to go. 

For us this was pretty simple. We moved near to my husband’s work so he can walk or cycle easily. I work from home so don’t need to commute at all.

We’re also near the children’s school, so we can easily walk the school run. On the other hand, we live in a small village, with poor public transport, so the car is useful for things like shopping, and getting into town. 

Our church is almost a half hour drive away, so we do use the car for that, but it’s somewhere we go as a family so one car is perfect. 

Having young children and not living close to any family means we’re unlikely to go out often separately (or together even!) without the children. So together with wanting to keep costs down and being easily able to manage as a one car family, it was a no-brainer. 

Finding three car seats to fit inside the car was the real challenge!

Pros and cons of becoming a one car family

Advantages

The most obvious benefit of becoming a one car family is the positive financial implication. Switching to running a single car can have a significant impact on family finances. 

You’ll save money on:

  • Car insurance
  • Car tax
  • Maintenance costs
  • MOT
  • Car parking charges (well, unless you’re my husband, who would rather walk an extra 3 miles than pay for parking!)

Health benefits

Becoming a one car family inevitably means you might want to get somewhere at some point and not have the car available, meaning you’re likely to turn to other methods of transport such as walking or cycling, which can lead to improved health.

Environmental factors

Running one car instead of two means emitting less pollution and reducing the environmental impact of your vehicle usage.

Social aspects

Sharing a car means higher likelihood of shared family travel time, so being a one car family can have the advantage of more time spent together with family members.

Disadvantages

I won’t lie and say that being a one car family doesn’t have any disadvantages. There are occasions when the car is needed for more than one trip, and one has to be prioritised over another. 

If one partner needs the car for a work commute and the other needs it during the day it may mean someone has to drive the other to work in order to keep the car.

Another is that when the car needs maintenance or repair, you don’t have another vehicle to use while the car is in the garage. 

Alternatives to driving

When looking at alternatives to driving, it’s worth considering the length of time it will take to get from one place to another, the practicalities of using them in each season and the costs incurred compared to using a car.

Walking and cycling are great alternatives to driving as they are both free and have great health benefits.

Public transport may be a good alternative as it’s more eco-friendly than individuals driving, but it’s worth factoring in both the expense and the timings.

For example, from our village it takes approximately 20 minutes to drive into the closest city, but if you get the bus it takes an hour. So there and back makes two hours travelling time, which is a big chunk of the day. Plus the bus doesn’t run at all in the evening! It’s worth considering all the angles.

Carpooling or sharing rides with friends or colleagues may be a good way of helping you manage without a car whilst helping someone else by contributing towards fuel costs.

If you have the ability to do so you could consider working from home as a way to cut out commuting costs and negate the need for a car.

Tips for becoming a one car family

  • Plan ahead

    When you’re sharing a car, you do need to do a bit more structured planning. Knowing who needs the car and when in advance means you’re less likely to end up with clashing schedules.

    Plan in advance so that you know when the car is needed. You might find it easier to use a paper planner or calendar, or a weekly whiteboard planner which are great for easily making amendments.

    If you’re more digitally inclined sharing your calendars on your phone or computer might be a good way to go.
  • Be flexible

    Try and become more flexible – things do crop up so a degree of flexibility might be necessary to avoid potential conflict or inconvenience.
  • Be prepared

    Planning on walking more? Make sure you have a raincoat and umbrella for inevitable bad weather.

    Taking up cycling? Don’t forget your helmet and bike pump.

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