2 Years With 1 Car

Long before we started watching tiny house documentaries or knew that Mininalism was a proper noun, Ben and I took our first big leap in simplifying our life by getting rid of one of our biggest and most costly possessions: Ben's car.

Becoming a 1-car family was something we had talked about for a while, but, like most people, it just wasn't feasible. I had a 25-minute commute in one direction while he had a 10-minute commute in the opposite direction, and our schedules were too far off from each other to make carpooling feasible. The public transportation in our area left a lot to be desired, so that wasn't an option either unless one of us was willing to significantly extend time spent commuting. 

Ben's office was only a few miles away (really close enough that he could have bike-commuted...), but in June 2013 his company moved to a new office that was even closer. A few miles turned into a few blocks, an easy 5-minute walk through our very walkable neighborhood. Even though they moved in the summer, it took us until the fall to realize that Ben's car had just been sitting on the street outside our apartment, barely driven for the last several months. Once we realized how little we used it and how much we were paying for it in payments, insurance, and taxes, suddenly getting rid of it became a no-brainer and we officially downgraded (or upgraded, as we like to think of it) to one car two Novembers ago.

We had a great gig going for a few months, until life threw us a major curveball and we moved across the state in July of the following year. Ben was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work remotely for his same company even after we moved...with the caveat that he needed to be in the office for a week out of every month. So, for approximately 5 days every month, he takes the car 5 hours away to spend the week at work and leaves me at home, essentially stranded with no personal vehicle. We definitely didn't plan on moving when we sold his car, but we've been really lucky to have been able to make it work as long as we have. This is how we do it.

We Take Advantage of Alternative Transportation
We live in a relatively small college town and are so, so fortunate to have a great public transportation system here. Work and school are 2 miles away as the crow flies, and there's a bus that stops literally right outside the front of our apartment building every 10-15 minutes (or every 30 minutes at night).

We also have a bike bath that's right outside the back of our apartment that leads straight to work and school, which is my preferred travel method. It's a ten minute commute, which is officially the shortest commute I've ever had! Plus I get a little chance to get the legs spinning and the heart rate up a little bit, so it's not a bad way to start or end the day.

The areas of our town are dense and close together, which makes getting around pretty easy. I can walk, bike, or take the bus to just about anywhere I need to go, and within a reasonable time frame at that. That is without a doubt the biggest factor in making our one-car endeavor so successful. We use our one car when we need to go to the next town over for big box stores like Target and Petsmart, and for out of town travel obviously, but we rarely ever use the car in town. 

We Make It Work
The first time we ever really encountered a serious issue was this summer, when we temporarily moved back to Virginia Beach. We decided to live at the oceanfront, about 35 minutes (without traffic, but the tunnel is notorious for traffic in the morning and afternoon) from where we used to live and where Ben's office is. I had a 20-minute commute in the complete opposite direction of where he needed to go, which meant we had to come up with a solution (that didn't involve spontaneously buying a second car). I mentioned that VB's public transit system is not the best, by a long shot, but they do have an express bus that goes from the oceanfront to downtown Norfolk, very close to Ben's work. The bus stop was right on my way to work so I dropped him off every morning, then he had a 30-45 minute ride and even had free wifi so he could work on the way! The catch...once he got to Norfolk, he had to catch a ferry across the river. One of the most frustrating things about this area is that a river separates these two cities but the only way to get between the two is by car through one of two horrendously congested tunnels, or by ferry (in the photo below, he's waiting at the ferry dock, and his office adjacent to the taller white building right across the water - it's THAT close). It ended up taking him 1-1.5 hours to finally arrive at work, but after a few texts of his summer mornings spent waiting for or on the ferry, enjoying his coffee while I was already running around at work, I didn't feel so bad for him.

We Strategically Schedule Our Travels
We go back to Virginia Beach fairly often for family gatherings, races, concerts, etc., so at the beginning of every month we look at our travel schedule to figure out the most logistical time for Ben to go to the office for the week. Since most months we have at least one weekend when we plan to be in the area anyway, it makes him having to travel there feel like a little less of a burden.

We also schedule any trips one or both us plans to take around the best times for him to go into the office. For example, when I went to visit Alyssa in New Jersey in January, we scheduled it so that Ben would drop me off at the train station in Richmond then continue on to Virginia Beach and go to work for a few days; then when I came back, he picked me up at the train station and we continued on back home together.

We Do A Lot of Driving Back and Forth Across the State
Scheduling Ben's work trips around a weekend we had already planned to be in VB anyway really helps, but it still leaves us with the issue of the two of us needing to be on opposite sides of the state during the following week. Usually what happens is we'll go to VB together for the weekend, then I'll leave Ben there for the week, then go back the following weekend to pick him up. Of course I spend the weekend and I try to come up with some secondary reason to make the trip (which I had no shortage of during half Irobman training because it meant I could train with my group!), but it does mean I have to make an extra trip that I wouldn't have normally made. Maybe that makes the whole one-car thing seem counterproductive, but every month we spend less much money on gas than we used to, even with trips across the state. Plus we now have half the car payment, insurance, and taxes that we used to have - our Prius has been paid off since July so our total monthly car-related costs are basically nothing compared to what they were a couple years ago.

Sadly, we know our time as a one-car family is probably going to come to an end sooner rather than later. We'll be moving in May, and while we don't even know where to yet, let alone what our commutes will look like, were bracing ourselves for the possibility of purchasing another vehicle. It would be ideal to live somewhere else with a good transit system, but that won't be the deciding factor for our relocation. I'm sure we'll look into alternative transportation wherever we go, but I don't know that either of us is willing to make another bus-ferry situation a permanent reality. We plan to hold on to our one-car lifestyle as long as we can!

Would you be able to share a car with your partner? How often do you use alternative modes of transportation?


  1. I think it would be so nice to only have one car, but (assuming Michael will finally marry me) it's just not possible for us. He has a great job in downtown Knoxville, and I love my school too much to leave it. Even on a day where there is zero traffic (it's Knoxville, so that's not possible), it would still be a 45 minute drive down the interstate between the two locations. We could technically buy a house closer to his office, but I would be driving SO FAR to work and would have to leave SO EARLY just to avoid the morning rush hour. And sadly, Knoxville public transportation is garbage. We have a bus system, but it's not the best... I would love to live in a place where public transit was accessible!

  2. I've spent a lot of time going over the pros and cons of having my SUV - it would be SO nice to not have that payment every month but in the end its just not feasible considering I live in the middle of nowhere with not a single form of public transportation. If I lived in a city I would definitely consider getting rid of it though! If I had a partner I think I could definitely share a vehicle with them - my work is a short walk anywhere in town (perks of small town life! ha) and I would really only need it to get to the city for my part time job every Sunday and for trips to other cities when shopping for necessities

    My parents themselves have 6 vehicles between the two of them - its insane!

  3. Great public transit systems in NYC/Northeast NJ. Just saying. (I'm always gonna be "just sayin'".) I love that you guys are able to make that work. I think one thing I like most about my town is how walkable/accessible it is via public transit, but I leave my town and roam all over the place way too often to go car-less. Plus, Target trips. You know.

  4. My husband and I could most definitely share a car, since he works from home. He typically drops my daughter off at daycare in the morning, which allows me to get to work earlier but that could be wiggled around. The silly thing about this though - we have 3 vehicles! My husband's beater car (but it's paid off!), my SUV, and a truck we bought for hauling things. Super great deal on the truck though, and our insurance payment is less that $110 a month for all 3...so, not so horrible. It will hurt when one of us needs a new car though!

  5. I love that worked for you.
    We live 25 minutes from the city - or to anything civilized - & our work is 45 minutes away - in difference directions. I wish I lived in an area where walking/ biking was an option. All the car insurance - ugh!

  6. This will probably be me and my husband when we decide to get a car - but we've never had one living in the city and we use zipcar whenever we do need one!! So I'm enjoying not having to pay all the things that go along with owning a car!! xo, Biana -BlovedBoston

  7. i love that you all made it work. i would love to go to a one car family, but the public transport here is basically non existent and what little there is, is just horrible. KC's school moved locations recently, but his hours are significantly different to mine so it doesn't work. however. 'one day' when we have more people in our family and i am staying home (maybe) we will most likely move to one car. we'll see ;) if we lived in a city, i reckon we could go without completely!

  8. This is awesome!! Sometimes I wish we lived downtown or much closer to the city so we could go down to one car. Jared and I work at complete opposite sides of town from each other, and then our house is no where close to either. Sigh.

  9. I love that you guys were able to make it work!! Unfortunately, down here in the south....none of these cities are really walk-able. It sucks that they aren't. I work 27 miles away from our house in downtown Birmingham from 830-530 and Chris works about 11 miles in a smaller suburb from 700-500, so there is no way we could commute together. And there is no public transportation around here. At all. Pretty tragic. But to be honest, even when I lived in downtown Atlanta..it was a rarity to be able to walk anymore. The south really needs to step up their game on this!!! I would love to have only one car payment!

  10. Right now I think John and I could share a vehicle. We both work on the campus, so it'd be easy. We tend to have different schedules, though. We have doctor's appointments, and meetings, etc. that make it much more convenient to have our own cars. When we move, though, I have no doubt that we will both need our vehicles. Austin is a great city for many things, but I've never heard a single thing about their public transportation. O.o We'll see though.

    I think it's really awesome that y'all have made it work.

  11. K and I share his car but it's really just because I don't have one right now. I work in the city so I'm always taking public transportation. He works 40 minutes from home so he needs a car. If I need to do something I just go on the weekend or after work when he's home and I can go about my business. But long term, I'm not sure.

  12. I think it's amazing y'all were able to do this and am not sure we could. I mean, if we had to, it might be possible, it would just be a struggle. My husband is in sales so he drives all over two states which would mean he would have the car and I've the public transportation, no thanks for now ;)! PROPS to y'all!

  13. for sure if we lived in the city, we'd get rid of our cars and either take the subway/public transpo, walk or ride everywhere! but the burbs are different; it's so spread out that it would take forever to get someplace. also what we have downtown are thigns like Zipcar (you rent the car for the day or few hours) and something like that for bikes so those who live in the city don't even need to worry about travelling to the suburbs/far away places since they can rent cars/bikes!!


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