Monday, August 5, 2013


Here's the question hubby and I have been wrestling with the past few days: do we really need two cars?

It seems to have become viewed as a necessity in today's consumer culture: how could you possibly get by with only one vehicle? One person needs one for work, and so does the other, unless they stay home, in which case they need it for errands and such. Hubby and I both need a vehicle to get to work, though I am off on maternity leave now. We both have substantial commutes with no reasonable public transit options. We have a child in daycare that needs to be dropped off and picked up every day. Our dentist, doctor, veterinarian, and closest Costco are all 30 minutes away. How could we function with just one car?
The line we have been fed since we became a family of two almost a decade ago is: you need your own vehicle. If there's more than one of you, you need more than one car.

1.45 is the average number of light vehicles per household in Canada, as of 2009. This was the last time the federal government conducted the Canadian Vehicle Survey, from my research. That means that a substantial percentage of all Canadian households had at least two cars in 2009, even though we were in the midst of recession. Actually, that number was an increase from the 2000 average of 1.43.

Struggling out from under Debt Mountain has caused us to re-examine examine (okay, we've never thought about it that much before) many of the "truths" society has taught us about necessity, success and self-sufficiency. I'll admit that we're not a hundred percent on the same page all the time. Some times we're in different chapters altogether. But since the clutch in hubby's car broke at 70,000km and the dealer refused to repair it under warranty- faced with a $2,000 car repair bill when we are striving mightily to get our Emergency Fund up to $1,000 before baby number two is born in six weeks or so...well let's just say the Two Car Myth is one we have been regarding with increased suspicion lately.

Obviously, I would be the one without access to a vehicle during the week while hubby is at work. It would require much more careful planning in terms of scheduling appointments in groups, doing errands more efficiently and mostly on weekends, and learning to use public transit better, walking more, or just making do without whatever I thought I needed to go out for. I would need to stock my pantry better to avoid small trips to the store, and I would probably have to resort to renting a car for the day once in awhile. For that, we would save over $300/month in car payments, our insurance would go down, and so would our gas consumption. We would be down to one vehicle which we own outright- our 2003 Volvo XC70, which needs a new front wheel bearing but otherwise runs great.

It's a big decision, and not a simple one. We can't just abandon the car at the dealership where it's sitting right now without some serious repercussions. Our best bet would be to sell it. The black book value (yes, it's black in Canada) is only a few hundred dollars less than what we still owe on it, not including the repairs.

Honestly, the idea excites me. I've always found the challenge of frugality a rewarding and satisfying thing. The thought of not having a car to myself during the week doesn't make me feel deprived. It actually gives me a sense of relief. Life would be more complicated in some ways, but a lot simpler in others. It would take away a lot of day to day options that would make planning and prioritizing more straightforward. And it would force me to explore my community more, as I'd be on foot a lot. But it would still be a challenge, after years of being used to constant access to a vehicle. I think it's a sacrifice worth making, but it's not a decision we'll make lightly.

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