One-Car Family: The Lifestyle Hack That Saves a Fortune

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This post is all about how we manage life as a one-car family.

I know what you’re thinking.

We’re crazy.

That’s not untrue! We are, in fact, a little bit crazy. (See also: Full Home Remodel Before and After for proof).

But you’re here because you want to know about being a one-car family. That makes you a little bit crazy, too! OH MAN!

Alright, I’m sure you have questions about the one-vehicle lifestyle. I plan to answer everything I can in this post, plus offer pros (you guessed it, money!) and cons (you know it, repairs). We’ll also talk about big considerations like work commutes and children’s activities.

I hope this discussion will help you decide if being a one-car family is right for you and yours.

Common Questions About Being a One Car Family

Can a Family Have Just One Car?

Sure, why not?

Do Families Need 2 Cars?

Some families do not need two cars. We do not at the moment.

We used to have two cars, a 2007 Honda Fit and a 2011 Toyota Prius. Realizing we didn’t use them both often enough to warrant keeping them, we ditched the car with more wear.

Therefore, we gave away the 2011 Toyota Prius (it had 192,000 miles) and kept the 2007 Honda Fit (91,000 miles, not a typo).

best car for one family
she was a beaut!

How Many Families Only Have One Car?

According to Motley Fool, 91% of households in the US have 1 car, and 37% have 2 or more as of 2020.

Having only one car instead of two or more will (surprisingly) put you in the majority.  It might feel like everyone else has two or more cars, but that is not true on the national average.

However, consider that the national averages include major cities.  New Yorkers are car averse, but, in Montana, there are over 4 cars per person (also maybe one or two per cattle, but that’s a convo for a different day.).  

Is It Smart to Only Have One Car?

We think so.  For us, for now, we believe it’s the smartest choice.  We spend less on transportation, and we don’t have a giant depreciating asset that we don’t need.

Should You Only Have 1 Car?

You?  I don’t know you.  You might fare better with only one car, or you might not.  Keep reading for tips on what to consider.

one car family pros and cons
Fun fact: we once road-tripped from Jersey to Florida in our little Honda! Yes, those are CDs you see on the top right.

How to Be a One Vehicle Family – Considerations

How Often Do You Use Your Car?  

We do not even use our car every day.  Between working from home and having young children, our lifestyle allows this. Dropping down to one car wasn’t a big deal.

However, some people take it to the gym, the bagel store, and school drop-off all before 8 AM! Consider how often you currently use your car, and if your lifestyle is adaptable to less driving.

How Walkable Is Your Neighborhood?

With only one car, I don’t feel stranded when at home with our kids without a car on occasion.  We have two delis within walking distance of our home, and a grocery store less than a mile away.  Life is quite manageable between parks, the library, and the advent of DoorDash, Amazon, Target, Walmart, etc.

Honestly, if I tried, I could walk 8 minutes down the street, hop on a local train to Newark Airport, and fly to any destination worldwide. When I think of it that way, I don’t feel I’m missing much by not having a second car!

What About Work, School, & Activities?

When we downsized to one car, it meant more walking to the train or bus for me, the city commuter.  However, the frequency of my commute to the city has dwindled since the pandemic (meet me at a local watering hole if you want to hear my rant as to why).  The grind of a ten-minute walk plus train or bus plus subway plus more walk… it’s all fizzled to a rare occurrence.  The novelty of commuting returns for only a couple of days per month, and it’s not so bad at all.

Derek’s company returned to work on a hybrid model in 2021; he doesn’t need a car on a daily basis, either.

We chose the location of our home specifically because it is near public transportation.  Maybe you can do the same.  Do your children have a school bus stop they can walk to or that comes to get them near your door?  Can you carpool with a coworker and reimburse them for gas and tolls? Get creative!

How Old Are Your Kids?

This is a big one.  This is also the pain point that I believe will eventually bring us back to two-car status.  

Our kids are under three.  They don’t do softball, soccer, Girl Scouts, dance class, karate, Latin club, hunting trips, choir, basket weaving, t-ball, or whatever else American children are running off to currently.  

We don’t bring our kids to many places these days, and it’s brutal when we do.  We are at the phase when we think twice about whether a trip out is worth the effort.  Storytime and swimming, one hour per week, and we’re good.  Mom’s taxi has yet to be in business.  

Consider how old your children are. This may inform your decision quickly.

Pros and Cons of Having One Car

Pros of One Car

  1. Lower costs.  Gas, repairs, oil changes, registration, car insurance, car payments (if you do that).  
  2. Less trips to the gas station = a win for Mother Nature.
  3. An opportunity to communicate with your spouse / family about who needs to go where and when.
  4. Great chance to live more simply.  
  5. Less parking tickets!  If you live in a city like we do, and alternate side calendar alerts hit twice a week, you KNOW about those meter maids!
  6. One set of car seats.  Fellow parents of little humans, you know how expensive those car seats can get!  With only one car, we only need one car seat per kid.  It’s great!
  7. Less cleaning!  One less car means one less car to clean.  Because honestly, who likes digging the goop out of the cup holders with your bare fingernails? 

Cons of Having Only One Car

  1. More logistics.
    It’s rare that we juggle both of us being at work at the exact same time, but when we do, it’s a process to think things through.  
  2. It Will Need Repairs.
    I know what you’re thinking. What if your car breaks?
    When our car has to go to the shop, we have no car at all.  Usually, it doesn’t need too many extensive repairs, but on the off chance it does – it’s not cute.  
    How do we combat this inconvenience?  Firstly, we have a mechanic within walking distance of our home.  He also runs an incredible business and offers rides to your next destination if needed.  Our mechanic pays for an Uber because he knows you’re out of a car.  Talk about sweet!
    Secondly, we plan our repairs around our schedules.  I know sometimes repairs come unannounced, so…
    Thirdly, we do the math.  It’s (still!) cheaper to rent a car for two days than it is to own one for a year.
  3. Moving the car seats.
    Fellow parents of little humans, you know how this goes, too – if you want to move anything large (chair, bookcase, grill, a Costco pack of toilet paper), then you know that you will get quickly acquainted with the installation of the car seats.  In they go, out they go.  
one car family reddit
Perfect amount of space for our Graco Slim-Fit!

Tips on Being a One Car Family

Car Choice Is Important

Choose your car that meets your needs.  

If dad needs a truck for his roofing business and mom needs a vehicle to drive around real estate clients, you probably want to be a two-car family.  Similarly, if you have three kids and Mom is a low reeds player, that two-door muscle car with minimal trunk space probably won’t do. 

Pick a singular car that works for everybody, all the time.  And while you’re at it, make it a reliable one.  



(Isn’t this always the answer?)

Consolidate Your Trips

Need to do a doctor’s appointment, visit Grandma, and pick up dry cleaning?  Do it all in one swoop.

For us, Derek’s in-office days are very close to some family.  Sometimes, I’ll drop Derek off at work and bring the kids to visit their grandparents.  After a day filled with spoiling and treats, we swing by to get Daddy and bring him home.  Everybody wins!

The Math of Being a One Car Family

We drive a 2007 Honda Fit.  It has 91,000 miles on it.  

That’s not the funny part.

The funny part is I am 5’10” and Derek is 6’2”.  We find the car extremely comfortable.  

We have two children.  Their car seats fit in the back just fine and according to the law.

In other words… you can drive a humble car, comfortably, without a $738/month car payment.  

one car
not a typo! 91k, baby!


On average, we spend about $1,000 per year on maintaining the car.  

This includes oil changes, tires, gaskets, filters, and whatever else cars need.  (I’m a home renovation person, not a car person, can you tell?).  


Our insurance is under $800 per year (another perk of driving an old, forgotten model Honda.)

Gas and Tolls

We spend about $50-75 per month on gas and tolls.  Sometimes we spend more in months when visiting family for holidays and the like. 

Uber or Rentals

In the three years since waving goodbye to our Prius, we have spent a whopping $60 on Uber.  That’s it!  Not too bad, right?  And, much cheaper than owning a second vehicle.  

City Commuting Costs

My NYC commuting costs have not changed substantially since I always take the bus or train to the city from Jersey anyway.  Driving in the city costs more than public transportation, particularly starting in the summer of 2024 (again, meet me at a watering hole for my real feelings on that topic!!).  

My point: we spend less on Uber + other transit costs than a second car would cost.  

In total, annually, our single car costs us less than $3,000 per year.  

Final Thoughts on Being a One-Car Family

Being a one-car family suits us for now. This choice is saving money while our children are young. We don’t feel the lifestyle change has been difficult. We enjoy living simply and plan to ride in our little Honda as long as it runs!

The question is, are YOU ready to become a one-car family?

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