For most people and families, there are usually three big spending areas that can have a significant impact on the path to financial independence. Typically in the order of significance they are housing, cars, and food. The scale and size of the impact of these areas will vary quite a bit depending on personal circumstances, but outside of additional income, addressing these items can have a huge impact on how long it takes to reach FI.
Since we have been together, we have always been a two car family (one per adult), and have never considered the possibility of trying to get by with just one car. One reason why we never even discussed it is we have not had a car payment in almost 10 years, and we both planned to keep our cars until they stop running or cost way too much in repairs. Also, based on our schedules, kids activities, and work locations it just never seemed practical, and we never gave it much thought. While we planned on keeping our cars until they wouldn’t run anymore, this changed when our 11 year old Toyota Matrix was totaled by a college student who decided to run a red light at an intersection and directly into my wife’s car. Luckily no one was injured, including both of our children who were in the car at the time, but the car did not survive. This has left us with only one car to use for the last week once the other driver’s insurance company paid us the small amount of value they determined the car was worth. It is a very frustrating outcome because the Kelly Blue Book value is no way near the value we placed on and was provided by the vehicle. So while unplanned we are now operating with only one car, and decided to document this process and whether it is possible given our circumstances to realistically (and I do mean this literally) have only one vehicle in our family. We will probably make this a multi-part post from two different perspectives, and we will see how long this experiment can last, although based on this first week I doubt it will last long…
This week was the first week with only one car since the accident. I am not sure if it was really representative of what may be possible with only one vehicle, because we both had schedules and appointments that were not optimized for only one car. This meant for most of the week we were very inefficient with our schedule, and probably were only able to make this work because I am technically on vacation from my job until the middle of August. In fact sitting down and writing this blog post is the only significant thing I have accomplished this week aside from chauffeuring everyone to the places they needed to be.
A typical day this week involved all of us getting up at the same time, loading everyone into our one remaining car, dropping the kids off at school, dropping my wife off at a work site, driving back home for a few minutes, driving to a pre-scheduled appointment for me, going from there to pick up the kids, then picking up my wife, bringing everyone home, then it was dinner time, bedtime, and the day was pretty much over. Aside from a little bit of time to read at night, I literally accomplished nothing of significance by the time I finished driving everyone around. If I had to be on campus this week I am not sure what we would have done since the distance is too expensive for Uber or Lyft, and public transportation options to get one of us to where we need to be is basically non-existent in our area. From my perspective after one week, it is hard to see how we can make this happen. At the same time, both of us are struggling with what to do if we decide to get a second car since we want to be financially smart about it and the amount of money received from the insurance company for our old car will not even come close to replacing our previous vehicle. We can’t even find the same car with similar miles, and the very few similar ones we have found want almost double the amount of money that the insurance company paid us. So I expect this one car experiment to continue for a while, especially as we try to figure out what we are willing to do that hopefully does not have a huge impact on our FI path. It is not that we planned on our vehicles lasting forever, but that car easily had at least another 5-8 years of life remaining at a minimum. So here we are with our unexpected one car experiment, we will see how next week goes since we can now plan a bit better knowing we only have one car available.