Well we technically made it two weeks with just one car, but as of today our one car experiment has come to an end. We spent a lot of time juggling schedules and moving appointments but after a thorough analysis of our schedules and responsibilities we just are not set up to be a one car household at this time. We could have made it work with one car for another month, but after that we realistically could not have just one car without impacting our income. If we lived somewhere with strong public transportation or one of us had the ability to bike or walk to work it could have worked, but unfortunately we are not in that situation right now. We even looked at the cost of Lyft and Uber to supplement only having one car but the cost of those services did not even come close to making financial sense, even if used very infrequently. So in the end after looking at logistics and the spreadsheets we created (I mean who doesn’t use spreadsheets for this type of decision :p) we decided to find and purchase a second car…
One nice benefit during this process of only having one car is it forced us to consider a lot of aspects and logistics of our transportation needs, and the impact that it has on our finances. We have always been fairly reasonable with vehicles by keeping them for around 10-15 years, or essentially until someone else came along and totaled them (this has happened twice now). Also when you don’t have a monthly car payment, you tend to only think about your vehicles in terms of fuel costs, registration fees, insurance, and repairs. For us these costs have been fairly minimal and rarely played much of a role in our financial planning.
During this process I will admit that both of us had a huge temptation to go buy a new or slightly used car with the idea of keeping it for 15+ years, but the idea of having a car payment was very off putting to say the least, and we didn’t want to take a huge amount of cash out of our accounts to buy one. Thoughts like the kids safety, keeping the car forever tend to cloud judgement and led to a little bit of irrational thinking. Eventually by taking our time and thinking through every aspect of not only the car, but the financial impact we came to a decision based on our situation. It came down to thinking about where a car fits into our values and our financial plan, which I will admit works for us, but might not be for everyone. For our family, we want our cars to be safe, reliable, and get us from point A to point B, but beyond that we have no specific desires for a fancy or new car. We would rather spend that money on travel, savings, and of course financial independence. So in the end we decided to purchase a 10 year old Toyota Matrix with 144,000 miles, that was in a fairly good condition. We essentially replaced our 2009 Toyota Matrix with a …… 2009 Toyota Matrix. After the amount we received from the other driver’s insurance policy, we paid slightly under $500 for the car which included a full check-up by a mechanic before our purchase. So we are essentially in the same place as we were before the accident minus about $500 which is both frustrating, but acceptable considering the amount of temptation that comes with the need for a car. It is funny how even with a financial independence mindset we can become somewhat irrational with high dollar purchases, even when those run counter to our own values we placed on money. One outcome from this process over the last few weeks is that it has motivated me to write a detailed guide on buying a used car from our FI perspective. It has been a long time since we have been in the market for a car so there were a lot of things we had to learn fairly quickly, especially with the tools and websites that are out there, and the fact that more people are becoming smarter and buying used instead of new. So look for that in the coming weeks as I synthesize our experience into a hopefully helpful guide for others who may share the same goals and values as we do when it comes to vehicles.
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