We are a one car family, and plan on staying that way for a long time to come. In fact, we are working towards a point where our car is no longer a necessity for us to function day by day.
To make it work, I plan my days and weeks. I only have the car some days a week. If I need to go anywhere, I go on the days I have the car, and I go there on my way to and from school, rather than coming home and going out again (this saves time and fuel). We also use the bus. The bus isn’t the best option in our town, because it’s not overly reliable and takes a lot longer to get anywhere than driving. But for $2.80 once or twice a week, we don’t care if it takes longer: it’s an awful lot less than a second car would cost us.
Cars are expensive. Including insurance, registration, service costs, new tyres and depreciation, our car costs us around $13 a day just to own. Our fuel costs currently are about $5.40 per day. (That equals just over $6700 a year.) My estimate is that a second car would cost us between $8 and $12 a day, plus fuel.
Now that our eldest has started school, at the same school the my husband teaches at, things have become more complicated. They are both at the same school, but if there are meetings on after school, I have to have the car on those days to pick our son up. Some afternoons we do things after school, some afternoons my husband catches the bus home. But because we live 15 minutes drive from school, and I walk our son in and out of school the days I drop him off and pick him up, it works out as a minimum of 50 minutes for me to do the whole trip. But a second car would probably only save me an hour or two a week, and we would use roughly the same amount of fuel as we use currently.
Our solution is to move closer to school. Not just closer to school, but generally more central. The area we plan on moving to is within walking/riding distance from school, but also close enough to other schools in the event that we need to change schools in the future. It is also close to a main bus route, and if I do return to work some day, most of the high schools are accessible by bus. Being able to walk more places is much better for my health than driving everywhere, and I believe a better use of my time. There are other reasons for us to move from this house, but if I only took into account moving costs compared to buying a second car, we would break even with the move in 4-6 years.
We can’t have no car at all. Public transport in our town is not sophisticated enough to allow us to do that. And just like we can’t manage without a car, there are plenty of people for whom it is not realistic to live with just one car. But for some families, it may be an unthought of possibility. If one person can get to work by public transport (or walking or riding!), and the total yearly cost is less than the cost to own a second car, it may be worth considering ditching one car. Buses aren’t just for poor people (which seems to be the attitude in regional cities), and half an hour on the train is time you can spend reading rather than concentrating on traffic.
As far as I’m aware, oil is a finite resource. Fuel will continue to get more expensive until eventually it runs out. Hopefully, alternative options for powering cars will have taken hold well before that day and we will be able to continue driving, but in the mean time I don’t want to have to pay for increasing fuel costs if I don’t need to. Also, burning fossil fuels has a negative environmental impact. I don’t just mean global warming, which I appreciate that some of my readers disagree with me about. The pollution that comes from driving cars isn’t such a great thing, really. So, for me, there are many reasons that I want to reduce my dependency on cars.
What about you? How reliant are you on your car?