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Do we Really Need a Second Car?

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I'm starting to think that our second vehicle isn't pulling its weight anymore. 

Since Vonnie started her second job, I drop her off at her morning job because it's on the way to my workplace. Then I pick her up in the middle of the day and drive her to her afternoon job. In the evening, I pick her up and bring her home.  

We do this because: 

1. Even in a smallish city like Rochester, MN, parking downtown is not the easiest task.

2. She has exactly 15 minutes from finishing job #1 to when she needs to be at job #2.

This arrangement saves her the stress of trying to find and pay for parking and ensures she gets to work on time. I can work from home and/or come and go from my workplace as I wish, as long as I get my work done, so this isn't a problem for me.

The net effect, however, is that one of our vehicles now sits in the garage all week long. 

I started to think of what we would save if we sold one of our vehicles.

Car Payments: Our mini-van is paid for and our car has six payments remaining. If we sold a vehicle, it would be the car, so we'd save a few months of payments depending upon how fast we could sell it.

Insurance: We pay about $55 per month for each vehicle. Getting rid of one would save one insurance premium.

Gas: Since we mostly only drive one vehicle at a time right now, I don't see any significant savings in gas.

Maintenance and Repairs: This is hard to calculate given we don't have any major maintenance costs planned. We might save an oil change or two throughout the year.

So there would definitely be a cost-savings benefit (and the selling price of the vehicle) to simplifying and getting rid of one of our vehicles. But I just keep going back to, "What if a day comes when we absolutely need two vehicles?"

There are families where circumstances may require two cars, but I wonder if we are really one of those families. We have friends down the block that are a single car family and it works for them. The husband takes public transportation to work while his wife uses the car. 

The best course of action would be for me to diligently keep track of how many times in a month period that we couldn't have made do with a single vehicle.

Are you a single-vehicle family? How do you make it work?

Related Links:

Changing Jobs While Enrolled in the Debt Management Plan

How Much Longer Will my Mini-Van Last?

Comparison shopping for car repairs pays off


Travis Pizel, CareOne Services, Inc. Debt Management Plan Customer and Customer evangelistTravis Pizel

Travis is a contributing writer for the My Journey out of Debt and A Straight Talk on Debt blogs. He is also a very active member of the CareOne community forums. Travis is currently enrolled in a CareOne Debt Management Plan (DMP). Travis candidly shares his personal journey to pay off his debt and the tips he's learned along the way. As a father and husband he provides a unique perspective on balancing debt, finances, and family. You can also read more from Travis on the Enemy of Debt blog, where he is a featured blogger. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

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  • That is a tough one. If you sell the car and the van dies, how much trouble would you be in? Could you get a vehicle or pay to fix it? You are about 6 months from having no car payments so you won't be saving a ton of money. We had no car payment for about 5 years and it was really nice. Then my car died and we bought the van. A year later Daryl's car died and we had to bite the bullet and buy a second car so now we have two payments. We are getting close to paying off the van but my daughter NEEDS a car in the next couple years because the college she wants to do her first couple years at is 45 minutes away. Daryl works 45 minutes away  (in the other direction) from home so sharing with him is not an option. I see the attraction but are you hurting yourself in the long run? This one would have me chasing myself in circles. I would decide one way and then argue myself in the other direction.

  • Chasing ourselves in circles, indeed, Kimmer5000....I got dizzy reading your comment and then going through my thought process again.  LOL!  If we sold the car, and  the van died, we'd at least have the funds from the sale of the car to fix or help replace the van.  Currently I'm leaning towards keeping both vehicles, as it is almost paid off, and you never know when the environment may change.  I'd hate to sell it, then find out in 6 months that our schedules are changing and we need a second vehicle again.  Now, if we had *years* left paying on the car it may change the equation.....

    But I really want to analyze things for a month and then make a very careful, educated decision.  Thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts, Kimmer5000!

  • I would unload the second car. You can wonder "what if we need it eventually" until you are blue in the face. Sell it now, pocket the savings every month (and oil changes, and insurance) and if in 3 months or 6 months or 2 years you "need" a second car, you can always BUY another one! Even if you buy a $1,000 car just for you to get back and forth to work. I know you feel excited to only have 6 car payments left, but you can get from 6 to 0 right now if you unload it, and maybe get some cash in the deal as well.

    We became a one-car family* almost three years ago when I wrecked our Aurora. At the time my wife drove a Pontiac crossover SUV thing (I said it was just a minivan with back doors that opened like car doors instead of slid open like van doors...). A few months after becoming a one-car family we downsized to a Honda Civic since we weren't camping every weekend, but we were commuting a total of 50 miles per day. Best decision we ever made!

    Part of the reason we were able to do that is that we live in a small town and my wife's family is also in town and they always have an extra vehicle around if we needed to borrow one (which didn't happen often). But again, that cost was theirs, not ours, which was nice.

    *We are now a 3-car family because we have two teenagers--both the 2nd and 3rd cars were bought by my father-in-law. So we were truly only a one-car family for a short while...

  • I have a teenager, too, Mike - thankfully he's only 13 so I have a little while yet before I have to worry about him driving.   It's nice to hear from someone who has successfully made it (for at least some amount of time) as a one car family - you've certainly given me something to think about!.

  • That is a hard decision to make.  My initial thought is sell it, put the money away and continue to put the money you would be paying on the car away (insurance, payment, maintenance etc...) and soon you would have enough in savings to buy a new one outright!!  

    At the same time the what if is still there.  I don't know about alternative methods in your area but if there is a good transit system in place or van pool options then you would still be OK until you either were able to fix the van or replace it.  There is a lot to think about and I am sure that you will make the right decision for  your family!!  Let us know what you decide!!  :-)

  • I think one thing you can do to help make that decision is to check out the value. What is the resale value for the car against what you owe for it. The more information you have the easier it may be to make the decision. I read the blog you linked that you were having problems with the van. I agree with Mike about the "What if's" unless there is reason to believe they are likely. If you sold the car would you have enough to make the van really dependable? Would you have enough money left to set aside to use as a down payment on a new vehicle if you need one? What would you do with the money? You could use it to pay down the debt - it would be nice to see that number drop drastically but then if you needed to get a new car where would that money come from? To be honest - if it were me - I would start a chart. I love charts! I would write out all the relevant, reasonable questions and work at answering them. For me it usually helps clear things up. You should be able to see which questions really need to be answered and need to be considered. It would also let your wife see your thinking process and she may have things to add as well.  Oh and enjoy it while it lasts with your son! My daughter gets her drivers permit in 5 months! I know because she is counting down.

  • There is certainly a lot to think about, Monica. November has just started, and I'll be tracking this month how many times we needed our second car.

  • Oh, Kimmer5000 - making "Pros and Cons" lists...I LOVE making lists!  If we sold the car, the money would definitely get put away for potential repairs for the van, or to go towards replacement if needed.  You ask a lot  of very good questions - and yes one of the biggest is "How likely are the what ifs?"  Lots of things to think about, and of course the decision isn't just mine, Vonnie and I will have to decide together.  Thanks for all your input!

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