Place Your Bets: How Long Can We Be a One-Car Family?

One Car FamilyThe year was 2002. I was shopping for a car, but nothing was really grabbing me. Partly, that’s because I’m just really slow to make big-dollar purchases, and partly it’s because I come from a long line of people who are as good at buying cars as Cuba Gooding is at selecting post-“Jerry Maguire” movie roles. (“Hey! ‘Radio’ was good!” — my wife.)

Then my sister, who was born with the car-shopping gene that everyone else in my family missed, told me, “You should test drive a Maxima.”

Fast forward twelve years and two hundred thousand miles later. The Maxima that had served me so well all that time finally developed a problem that would’ve cost me more to fix than the car was worth. So, I called a tow truck (driven by a guy named “Cornbread,” as is required by Alabama motor vehicle regulations) and had it hauled off to a junkyard. Judas-like, I collected my thirty pieces of silver from the junkyard proprietor and signed over the title. I was hoping for an emotional farewell with my old car, but by the time I got back out to the parking lot, the dust was just starting to settle on the spot where it had been.

So, suddenly, we find ourselves a one-car family. I always thought that a situation like this would involve digging money out of the couch cushions and frantically combing through Craigslist to find something as cheap as possible as soon as possible. Best case scenario: something that’s recently been confiscated by a local police department (“Vomit smell almost completely gone!”) or something that’s being sold by an angry wife after her husband ran off with a Hooter’s waitress (“If he comes looking for it, I’m not saying you should use the knife in the glove compartment. But, y’know, there is a knife in the glove compartment.”).

But we’ve been living with one car for about two weeks now, and I have to say that it’s… not terrible. I’m blessed to have a job that allows me to work from home half the time, my wife is a stay-at-home mom, and our kids are too young to be involved in soccer/dance/gymnastics/driving-past-ex-girlfriend’s-house-to-see-if-she’s-there yet. If there’s a sweet spot for a family of four to get by with just one vehicle, it looks like we’re in it.

With that in mind, we’re going to see how long we can make it like this. We’re taking our time, saving our money (and, seriously, the money we’re saving on gasoline alone could amount to hundreds of dollars a month), and carefully shopping for the right car. I figure we can make it indefinitely, at least as long as we don’t find ourselves in an emergency when we need a car and don’t have one. Or until we lose all our friends because they’re tired of us bumming rides off of them.

We’ll see. So far, every day that I wake up with just one car and not in a cold panic sweat, it’s like a new adventure to me. Anybody looking to sell a reasonably-priced used car that doesn’t have a murder weapon in the glove box, please drop me a line.

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