The One Car Experiment

Last November when the lease came up on our Chevy Trail Blazer, we did something a bit unusual. We turned in the vehicle and elected not to lease another.

So now we’re down to one car, a 1994 Oldsmobile Delta 88 with 180,000 miles on it. Unlike many families in this country, this is really an elective decision for us. I have steady employment that shows no signs of letting up (fingers crossed) and we have two home based business to supplement that income. We can afford the second vehicle.

Consider also that the car we do have is no beauty. It’s been well cared for but it is 15 years old. The air conditioner stopped working years ago and the seats are cracked. The sound system died a few years back. I found a replacement on EBay for $15, but that was without a DVD player. The car looks and feels old.

2007 Mercedes-Benz S 550

OK, so we have a established that my self image doesn’t require a fancy car or SUV. It’s not that I don’t like cars. Hey, I’d love to drive an S-Class Sedan with a 5.5L Twin-Turbo V12 and 510 hp like the one pictured here. But it won’t be happening anytime soon given my salary.

So 5 months later, how has it worked out? Exceptionally well. There was perhaps only one time in that period where two cars would have been helpful but as it turned out, I was able to catch a ride home with a co-worker that day.

I have the fortunate circumstance of living only 5 miles from work. Most days, after seeing the kids off on the school bus, my wife drives me to work and then on to her chores or whatever else she as scheduled for the day. On days where she knows she is going to be at home, I drive. Frankly, I’ve grown use to her driving me back and forth. :)

If I had any hesitation, it was because I thought there might be a stigma attached to only having one car. As far as I can tell, most people seem to accept our “one car-ness” without judgment. Apparently, my motivations are believable.

And what are those motivations? Well, it’s really two or maybe three.

Reason one is the money. I figure conservatively between lease payments, insurance, gas, licensing and maintenance that we save $500 per month. That’s like half a mortgage payment for many people.

Reason two is that it’s the right thing to do. With all the talk of global warming and carbon emissions and energy and (insert your favorite cause here) lowering our consumption of energy is good for the planet. Consider that takes about as much energy to produce a car as it will use in energy during its service lifetime. Even before you drive that new car, a huge cost in energy and resources has already been expended.

Reason three is that I want a plug-in electric (not a hybrid). I’m voting with my dollars here. I’ve told everyone who will listen that I would buy a plug-in electric tomorrow should one become available with a dealership nearby to service it. Gasoline is like so 90’s.

So what’s the point of all this? Partly, it’s to see if I can walk the talk. The lowered expenses are also helpful. But mostly because I believe many of us can be wealthier now by making a few simple choices.

I meet people everyday (mostly through our home businesses) that tell me they don’t have the money or the time to get ahead. Most of the time when I dig a little, I find what they don’t have is the will.

When I ask, I find they often have luxuries like Cable TV (often with premium channels), multiple cell phones, large SUV’s, a new flat screen TV, and other “necessities” that really drag them down and enslave them. Sometimes less really is more. (I must confess I did buy a flat screen TV over the holidays. It’s been almost 20 years since I bought a TV and it was a legitimate business deduction.)

I’d like to note one other thing that was quite unexpected. It’s a feeling of liberation. I’m not entirely sure why, but some how I feel better for not having the second vehicle and it’s associated expenses. I suspect that in part it’s just less stress and perhaps that’s the best reason of all.

This is the third installment in my occasional Managing Money Series. Here are the earlier articles.

What are your favorite ways to save money? Write me, or better yet, why not author a guest article here.

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