5 Tips to Successfully Be A One-Car Family In A Multi-Car World

This is our baby.  Our 1 and only car.  Since the time we were married, we have been a one-car family.  We choose to do that to save money.

How to be a one car family

We live in central CA.  In a place that doesn’t have lots of public transit, and the transit we do have doesn’t really give us much help.  So we had to really consciously make the choice to make this work. We had to figure out tips to successfully be a one-car family.

Why we chose to be a one-car family

Before we were married, we both served missions for our church.  Shortly after coming home, we started dating.  Matthew bought a car and I did not.  I used a family car until we were married.  So instead of going into debt for a car, we decided to manage with 1 car.

That managing with one car meant we made sacrifices.  It also meant we had to know each other’s schedules and talk about them all the time. I think this helped us to bond and get through a lot of hard times because we had really open communication.

We had to be smart with our planning of work and school.  There were 4 different places we had to be at each day outside of the house.  We had to juggle who got the car and who got the bike.

There were also times we had to drop someone off at one place before going to another place.  We spent a lot of time driving and picking up and switching out cars and such.  But it worked.  We had no kids so we had a very simple schedule.

Sharing a family car or buy another?

When we had our oldest son, our life changed a bit.  I had finished my degree before he was born so I was going to be staying home with him.  Matthew changed jobs so we would have insurance and so he could have a better school schedule.

So we were kind of at a crossroad, what do we do about the car?  Do we still keep one?  If he was at school or work and something happened, what would we do?  If I wanted to go to the store, what would we do?  A baby has a lot of doctors appointments, how would we get there if he was at school?

The decision to be a one-car family

So we sat down and had a talk, we both agreed that this could easily work if he just had his bike during the day.  He would ride to school and I would have the car during the day, then he would take it to work at night and if I needed a ride I would get one from a friend or my mom.  So we took the chance and tried it.

We found it was so easy to do.  Did we have to sacrifice?  yes!  But it was worth every one of those sacrifices!

Over the next 8 years, we successfully lived as a one-car family.  My husband finished his schooling, went on to work for a year before law school and we continued with just 1 car in Southern California while he was in school.  I would recommend this to anyone in a heartbeat!  It was so worth it to keep us out of debt!

While we have lived with 1 car, through 4 kids and all, we have learned a few tips to successfully be a one-car family that helped us to make this a totally doable scenario. Whether you are downsizing to one car or just using the one you have, it can be done!

5 Tips to successfully live with one car

1. Planning is the key to having one car.

Planning is the only way to make a 1 car family work.

Like I said before, keep communication open.  Let your spouse know your schedule and know theirs.  This can be done with a shared calendar or a family wall calendar.  But whatever way you coordinate it, this is the key to making it work.

2.  Sacrifice has to happen so expect it!

I think this tip to successfully be a one-car family is the hardest for people to follow through on.

You will have to give up outings, you will have to give up time with your friends and you will have to give up trips at times when you would love to go.

I know of multiple times I had friends doing girls nights out and I couldn’t go for multiple reasons, one of which was the lack of the car.  You just have to expect that it will happen and you have to be ready for it. As an added bonus, you save money when you don’t go out as much!

We also walk everywhere we possibly can.  We walk to and from school with the kids.  Sometimes we even walk to the store at times. If it is too far to walk we will sometimes ride our bike.  It is a sacrifice. Sure, it takes longer to do these things, but sometimes it is really good for your soul to slow down and have a break.

3. Ask for rides.

This is the hardest of the tips to successfully be a one-car family for most people, but sometimes you just need a ride somewhere.  This also became increasingly hard as we had more kids because we take up almost an entire minivan by ourselves.

Therefore, you find those who are able and willing to help you out and you use those people when needed.  For the most part, if you are planning your schedule right this doesn’t happen very often.

My friend grew up her whole childhood without a car because they never could afford it. She used to tell me that you are SO grateful to those who help you and you can serve them back in a different way for their sacrifice.  If it is a concern for you to have others help you, find ways to serve them back!

4. Get good insurance coverage on this vehicle.

This is super important.  If something happens to your car you need to have access to a rental car or have enough money to replace your car.  You need it to cover your needs.

We like to save money on this by save money when you don’t go out as much.  We always make sure we have minimum coverage for our needs but some companies will offer better deals than others on those needs.  So it doesn’t mean that you have to have bad coverage or spend a fortune, it just means you have to know what coverage your family needs so they can successfully be a one-car family.

5. Keep up the maintenance on the car!

This tip to successfully be a one-car family is a super important thing!  You have to have the tires rotated, the engine checked and most importantly the oil changed when it needs to be done.  We didn’t ever want something simple that we could have fixed easily to take our car away from us for a couple of days.

When we would do our oil changes, I liked to do it at a place where I could do other things while I waited.  Due to the fact that I didn’t have all day to have the car, it was a must to maximize our time while the repairs were happening.


Because of this, I love the Walmart oil center to get my shopping done while I waited for my car to get the oil changed! It makes it super easy to get everything done so my husband can have the car when he needs it.

What is really nice is you are able to pull up and they take your car in and you go to the super secret entrance reserved for those who are special enough to enter it.  Ok, so it is just the side entrance of the store but still… 😉

pennzoil high milage oil

You get to go in and get your shopping done.  No fighting for a parking spot or battling the cars to get the kids inside!  LOVE that!

While I waited, I got my shopping done and took a side trip to hug the stuffed animals in the toy section!

waiting for the oil change

Then went to pick up my car.  The best part is if there isn’t a long line, I can check out all at once at the oil center and go out to my car and I am on my way!

Share your tips to successfully be a one-car family!

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  1. David @ Spiced says:

    Great post! I’ve never thought about the challenges that come with being a 1-car family. That’s where Walmart really becomes super handy since you can get an oil change while also checking some shopping errands off your list at the same time. Thanks for sharing! #client

  2. Serena @ Thrift Diving says:

    I think it’s amazing that you’ve able to do it with one car! But you know what? There’s a lot of things we think we can’t do, but once we’re put in that position, we realize, “OH! This is easier than I though!” Humans are flexible and adaptable. I think we spoil ourselves into thinking we can’t do things (like having 1 car). But you’ve proven it can be done. And because of that, you’re in a much better financial situation. And yep, I had my oil changed at Walmart and it was super convenient. It took ME longer to shop than it did for them to get done. LOL

    Great post! And your kids are SUPER CUTE!

    Serena @ Thrift Diving

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