Do You Really Need a Car?

by Miranda Marquit · 13 comments

For the first several years of our marriage, my husband and I only had one car. Those days were kind of frustrating, since the lack of reliable and extensive public transportation in our town meant I often had to drive my husband to and from school. But we did save money. After we upgraded to two cars, we upgraded our costs in terms of gas, insurance, and maintenance/repair.

Sometimes, I find myself daydreaming about getting rid of one of our cars, or even getting rid of both. Before that could happen, however, we’d need to live in a completely different area.

Here are two important questions to consider before getting rid of your car:

What Are Your Transportation Options?

While you might be able to save money by getting rid of your car, you need to determine whether or not you can replace the car with other transportation options.

Walking or biking to work is an easy way to boost your physical fitness and health, on top of saving money.

If walking and biking aren’t options, however, you need to look at public transit. Do you have reliable transportation that brings you close to work? In my current location, the public transportation just isn’t that great. It takes a long time, and the schedule isn’t very convenient. It’s not like a large city that allows you to access a train every 15 minutes or so.

Another great option is carpooling: you might be able to ride with someone else and split the costs of gas. This can still save you money, since you’re not responsible for maintenance or insurance costs. You can also use services like Lyft, which send someone to pick you up, but these services can end up costing quite a bit if you’re not careful.

What’s Your Family Situation?

Many people in urban settings can go car-less because their public transit is inexpensive and ubiquitous. This isn’t the case in my semi-rural suburban setting. You also might need a car for road trips and/or situations in which you need to haul more items.

My family could probably drop to one car if we lived elsewhere; my husband could commute using public transit, and my son and I could manage with public transit as well. However, my son and I like to camp, and my husband often stocks up on canned goods and other non-perishables for food storage. We’d still require a car for these aspects of our lifestyle — but by not using the car very often, we’d save a lot on gas and maintenance.

Remember that your vehicle is a significant (and not always necessary) expense. It’s worth taking the time to analyze how you use your car — and if you could do it better.

How many vehicles do you have in your family? Have you ever thought about getting rid of your car?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • CINDY CINNAMA.DOT.CA M of says:

    I find these frugal tips very helpful. I recently Totaled my car and I am no longer driving. I will now be walking to work, most days, and maybe take the transit bus sometimes.

  • We used a little bit of an unorthodox strategy in the past. We did have two cars, but we had one car that was reliable enough for road-trips, commuting, and basic daily use. That was our 4Runner. Then we had an uber-cheap $900 backup vehicle that could be used when necessary. This car, an 80s Beemer, was pretty beat-up and not what you would want to take on a long trip, but it could scoot about town just fine. In this way, we were able to eliminate the inconvenience that comes with being a single car family, while at the same time not increasing our monthly vehicle costs very much. I always thought this was pretty good compromise. You just have to be willing to swallow your ego and drive a “beater” now and again 🙂

    • David Ning says:

      Solid strategy Taylor. It reminds me of a car my friend bought back in the day for $100. He doesn’t even lock the car and said that the car protects itself 🙂

      It was awesome though because at that price, it’s cheaper than even a rental!

  • Mike says:

    I recently got rid of my car because I live in an urban setting at travel weekly via airplane for work. I do live with my girlfriend and she has a car so 1 is enough for both of us. If I didn’t have her I’d still need my own car.

    • David Ning says:

      One car is plenty in the city, and you’ll appreciate your decision more and more because you’ll be much better off financially without a car!

      • Mike says:

        Definitely! Even though it was paid off, once I added up gas, parking, and insurance I was still paying over $1/mile driven to own it. That was enough to make me sell it.

  • Truth be told, we could probably get rid of one car if we had to. But the car we’d get rid of is old and has a lot of miles on it- we’d get barely anything if we sold it. It’s pretty cheap to keep and maintain, so because of that I don’t think we’ll be getting rid of it any time soon.

    • David Ning says:

      Are you counting all the extras too Dee? Stuff like maintenance and insurance costs quite a bit too, and with one car you’ll likely drive less and save on gas as well.

  • Aldo R @ MDN says:

    My fiancee and I work at the same company so we commute together almost every day, which saves us some gas money. We’ve talked about getting rid of one of our cars but quickly decided against it because there are times when we drive separately to work because of different after work activities.

    We’ve also discussed getting bicycles to use to go to work since our commute is only about ten minutes by car – probably 30 minutes by bicycle – but she doesn’t want to be sweaty at work… I could care less. I’ll continue to try to convince her about the bicycles but summer is here and we sweat in the car so I’m not sure if I’m going to be successful in my convincing.

    • David Ning says:

      All you have to do is start riding a bike yourself Aldo. Show your fiancee how a bike commute can be done, while losing a bit of weight and feeling healthier to boot.

      She’ll turn around after seeing all the positives.

      • It will be a double saving if you cycle to work, you save fuel, get fresh air, better fitness and better health while doing that you save medical costs of poor health. Bicycling and feel much better, you and your wallet will be both winners.

        • David Ning says:

          I second the health benefits. I actually started cycling about a year ago and lost 15 pounds, feel SOOO much better, don’t get sick as often and have more energy too.

          That bike has been one of the better investment of my life.

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