For years, while our daughters were growing up, we kept only one car. After the oldest graduated, she moved to a university town where parking cost big bucks, and free buses were plentiful. That meant that her battered little sports car stayed at our house with driving privileges, provided we paid for gas and repairs.
We remained as a two-car family until a year ago, when Daughter’s car gave up the ghost. (No, we didn’t do it.) Now our first car, a Jeep Cherokee, has 260,000 miles on its odometer, and we’re shopping for another one. Probably a Subaru Outback, but definitely a SUV.
Should we keep both? For that matter, if you belong to a two-worker household, should you?
PROS of keeping a second car
Reasons for doing it are quite simple: convenience.
*Keeping two cars means you never have to jockey for use. Your partner can take a car to work — so can you.
*Even if one vehicle’s in the shop, you’ve got another to get around with. If the weather’s bad, you’ve got two different possibilities for driving. (Hopefully one car’s got four-wheel drive.)
*No worries about errands or meetings — go whenever you like, wherever you want.
*No concerns about getting the kids to school and appointments. And in case of accidents or sudden illnesses, you’ve got a way to pick them up quickly. (Provided you can easily get off work, that is.)
*Status. If you’re looking to keep up with the Joneses, this is one way to do it. Especially if both vehicles are new and ding-free.
CONS of keeping a second car
But there are equally good reasons for keeping only one vehicle. They focus on another single word: cost.
*No car or truck to buy, or loan to carry. According to AARP, the average vehicle loan is now $30,000 or more, and can last for up to six years. You’ve also saved the time, gas and effort you would have used to go look at vehicles for sale.
*No extra insurance to pay for. (Although more than one car means a multiple-vehicle discount.)
*Take each other to work. Arrange your schedules so one drops the other off. Or plan your working hours around your partner’s schedule. Plan for errands after work and on weekends.
*Use the money you would have spent to beef up the emergency fund, instead. Or use it to finance the trip you’ve always wanted to take. Piano lessons for the kids. A four-wheeler.
*If you need a second vehicle, rent one. This worked very well recently when I had working gigs in Indiana and Michigan — and Husband needed to keep commuting to his job at our home in Colorado. I put 2500 miles on the rental in less than a week — stress that our older Cherokee would have been hard put to endure. And I did it for $15 a day, thanks to Priceline. (Hotwire‘s a good starting point, as well.)
*Buy a collector’s car — a vintage one that can be used, yet will possibly appreciate in value over the years. Granted, it’s going to cost extra to keep it insured and in tiptop running shape. But if it’s that Corvette you’ve lusted after since high school, well…
Variation: If you’ve needed it for hauling in the past, get a truck or van.
*Buy a second vehicle — but make it a used one. Look for a vehicle with a single owner, or a dealer you’ve trusted in the past. Get a model with the best gas mileage possible. Have your mechanic look it over before purchasing, and keep insurance minimal.
*Buy that second car or truck – but only with the funds you’ve got. No loan. If you must, make do with one vehicle until you can save enough for a nicer second car.
*Keep car #1 after you buy #2 — but plan to ‘drive it into the ground.’ Our venerable Cherokee is facing this end. We’ll use it around town and on short trips until it gives up the ghost, or we donate it to a good cause. Meanwhile, our second car fund continues to increase.
*Or hand off the older vehicle to your children as they get older, and ready to drive. If it was safe enough for you to trust, it should work for them, as well.
*Instead of two cars, keep one and substitute an alternate method of transportation: light rail or busses, if your area has access to them. If you’re commuting only a few miles to work, buy a scooter — it’s easy to maneuver, costs little to insure and can be driven for most of the year. (Although driving may get a tad chilly in January or February.) Use a bike. Walk or run to work, instead.
Car ownership is not cheap. It’s helpful, and even pleasurable. But if your aim is to save for a greater purpose, even retirement, sticking with one car only may be the way to save money faster toward that higher purpose. Keep just one vehicle, and you’ll have to carry a planner…but your wallet will be fatter. Keep two (or more), and go when and where you wish…but you’ll pay for the privilege.
Which approach will work best for you?