Living with One Car



Photo by Dario Morandotti on Unsplash

This past December marked our 2 year anniversary of having one car.

In the U.S., living with one car can be quite challenging, especially in a sprawling metro like Phoenix. Public transit is scarce and unreliable in many places, so the idea of one car is hard for many to fathom.

But two years ago our 2004 Ford Focus was on the fritz. We knew it was the end of that great car, and we had a decision to make: replace or not?

One of the benefits of a lean budget is that some decisions are made for you if you choose to live within your means.

This was one of those decisions. We didn’t have cash to pay for a car and we didn’t have monthly cash flow to take on a car loan.

So we began our one car lifestyle.

The Beginning: Bike Commuting

At the time, we didn’t know one car would lead to so many other great changes.

When we first switched to one car, we lived in a suburban part of Phoenix. All houses, nothing within walking distance.

This meant that Kevin had to bike 24 miles a day to work if we wanted/needed the car.

This may sound like an extreme bike commute, but Kevin actually wanted to bike commute to work for years. It was a dream of his, but even when we lived less than 2 miles from work we never seemed to pursue it.

Suddenly, it seemed easy to bike to work since there was no other option. Removing options and excuses paved the way for Kevin and made it almost automatic.

However, 24 miles a day 5 days a week was not ideal, and his route was a death trap of distracted drivers. (He learned to stop telling me about all his near death experiences).

Here was the dilemma: Our suburban set-up left me home-bound with two kids and nowhere to go without a car. But, if we took the car everyday Kevin would be completely spent by the end of the week after riding 125 miles.

Our living arrangement, it seemed, needed to change too.

The Middle: Moving to a Dense Area

Along with bike commuting we also dreamed of living in a walkable area someday.

Kevin and I would discuss our future “kid free” life and how we would walk or bike to grocery stores, restaurants, and coffee shops.

In our fantasy world we would be so relaxed and our lifestyle would double as fitness. It would be magical.

It seemed like a distant dream that we would have to revisit in 10-15 years.

But once again, the simple change to one car gave us a new set of eyes. We had a reason and a need to move to a denser part of town, so it felt like an easy and obvious decision.

We were suddenly living our walkable lifestyle years earlier than we had planned. The move also saved us about $200 per month in rent and enabled me to continue being a stay-at-home mom.

The End(ish): The New Norm

Now that we have had one car for over two years, it feels normal.

It is hard to remember a time when we had two tanks to fill, two car insurances, and two oil change appointments.

Our daily routine of walking, biking, and trolley-ing (not a word) places feels so familiar and comfortable.

Yes, there are times it would be super convenient to have an extra set of wheels.

But when I reflect on all the positive changes that came from switching to one car, I cannot imagine trading those for occasional convenience.

So for now, we continue life with one car and enjoy all the unexpected benefits it brings.


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