One-Car Lifestyle Update

in Kyle’s car, at the start of our drive to Chicago

Kyle and I have been sharing one car for about four months now and I think it’s high time to give you an update in how that decision has impacted us.


Financially, we’re not not-spending nearly as much money as we projected.


Relationally, sharing a car has enhanced our marriage.


Logistically, going down to one car hasn’t been much of a challenge, but at times it has caused stress.




I projected that we would not-spend a little less than $1,000 by dropping the second car, but that hasn’t turned out to be the case.


Fixed expenses: My estimates for the DMV-related costs remain the same as I have no new information in that area.  For some reason our new 6-month insurance price was $418.47 instead of the $380 I was told verbally.  (I should really call to figure out why that changed…)  Our parking permit price is increasing from $274 to $303 next year so not buying the second one will be a bit more not-spending than we expected.


Variable expenses: It’s difficult to tell if we are spending any less money on gas.  I haven’t been confident enough in that to reduce our gas budget from $120.  A couple months recently we spent only about $90 on gas in a month, but other months (like last month) we went over our budget.  It will take a longer baseline to see if there is any difference, but I’m fairly confident if there is any savings it is minimal.  This is a surprising outcome since we are carpooling to work now, when we weren’t doing that consistently before (but we only drive 3 miles to get there).


Instead of spending $972 less per year than we had been, I expect to spend about $681 or about 30% less than I projected.




I had no idea how much sharing a car would improve our relationship!  I mean, I didn’t really know our relationship had a lot of room for improvement (that could reasonably be affected by sharing a car), honestly, but I was wrong.  We are spending a lot more time together: walking and driving on our commute, running errands together, and additional time at home due to our sleep schedules being better synched.  Going to sleep and waking up closer in time has eliminated a great degree of conflict in our relationship.  Since I am a quality time person, I love all the additional hours spend together talking and joking around.




We still have had only a small number of true conflicts that would necessitate the second car, though we have made compromises on driving times frequently.  I’ve had to ask for a ride from a friend on two or three occasions, which Kyle is very reluctant to do.  Mostly it has worked out fine, and we do have public transport and Zipcar options if it ever comes to that.


The only downside of sharing a car now is that having any trouble with our primary car becomes much more stressful.  In advance of our trip to Chicago we got the car checked out to see if there was anything amiss and we ended up getting the oil change, the brakes replaced/cleaned, and the A/C fixed.  We were able to use the bus system to get back and forth from work that day, which went smoothly, but not having the second car to fall back on in those situations inserts a degree of uncertainty.  How many days would we be without the car?  How much would the repair cost?  There is now no recourse like we had with my car to elect to not repair it right away.


In conclusion, this exercise of sharing a car has been wildly successful in a largely unexpected manner – improving our marriage.  Logistically it’s been easier, though more stressful, than we imagined it would be, and we’re not saving as much as we had expected.


Have you ever shared a car for an extended period of time?  How did that choice affect your relationship with your co-owner/user and your life generally?


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32 Responses to "One-Car Lifestyle Update"

  1. Daisy says:

    If one of us were to give up a car, we would be house bound. We’d have to quit our job and pretty much be unproductive. Vancouver living doesn’t exactly support car-free living, unless you live, work, and and breath one area of town which is rare. You’re brave!
    Daisy recently posted..Why Apartment Living Sucks

    1. Emily says:

      Durham is quite a car-dependent town as well! There is no subway, which I highly prefer to buses. I don’t think we would try this if we didn’t work at the same place, although we know some other singles who are car-free and couples who have only one car who don’t work at the same place.

  2. Jason says:

    I’ve never had to share a car but I think it would be difficult to do around our parts. We have a poor bus system and no other public transportation means.

    It sounds like it’s going well for you. I mentioned this awhile back in your first post about this, but you could always rent a car for a day in the event yours breaks down. It certainly doesn’t add any less stress logistically but it could be a good back-up plan.
    Jason recently posted..Why I’ll Never Get My Future Kid a Credit Card

    1. Emily says:

      Yes, renting a car is definitely another option that I think we would go for if repairs took several days. For just one day the buses or Zipcar would be fine. In four months we’ve only had to use the bus once, so we’ve really been able to work out driving together all the time except when the car was in the shop.

  3. Michelle says:

    It would be nearly impossible for us to share a car. He starts work around 2 hours before I get home from work, so if I had the car, then he wouldn’t be able to go (or vice versa). I wish we could though. I’m not sure how much we would save either and if it would be worth it.
    Michelle recently posted..My Money Obsession/Confession

    1. Emily says:

      We thought we couldn’t do it for two years but Kyle was able to shift his sleep schedule. It was our choice to be shifted in our hours though, not like your situation. Do you have any time together daily?

      1. Michelle says:

        I think it’s great that you guys are able to make it work for you! And yeah we have time together, a couple hours after he gets home from work (I stay up pretty late), and of course on the weekends.
        Michelle recently posted..Weekly Roundup

  4. Julia says:

    With only 3 miles between your home and work you could also bike! it’s great exercise, and reduces the amount you rely on the car (even if you just biked one day a week). I love biking to work (especially since I just bought a new bike this week!) and encourage everyone to give it a try.
    Julia recently posted..July 2012 Budget

    1. Emily says:

      I considered biking when I moved to Durham, but unfortunately the N-S routes available were extremely bike-unfriendly. Now that we’re moving closer to work and the route would be different I can consider it again!

      1. Julia says:

        I try to use side streets to help me avoid traffic, or bike at off-peak times. I hope you find a good route! 🙂

  5. When I first started my current job, I was between cars and had to use my wife’s to get to work. She worked the night shift and got home just in time for me to get in the car and go to work. When she switched to days, I was stuck riding my bike 5 hilly miles in the dark to get to work until I got my current car. I was quite happy when we were back to a 2 car lifestyle.
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..My Best Tips for Making Extra Money

    1. Emily says:

      Yikes, hills in the dark? I couldn’t handle that!

  6. jefferson says:

    our town doesn’t really support the no-car lifestyle either.

    we could get by on one car for a bit, because michelle is home with the kids.. but she has various activities and doctor appointments and such to take the kids to when i am at work..

    one of our cars is paid off.. which helps.. it will certainly be great when they both get there..
    jefferson recently posted..Have Something You Want to Buy? Attach a Goal to It!

  7. I’ve shared a car before and I didn’t feel inhibited at all. I’d do it again, if that meant getting the man to Portland!
    Kathleen @ Frugal Portland recently posted..Weekend link love

  8. Renee says:

    Awesome, Emily! It’s fun to hear how you’re getting your “quality time”! I drove through Durham the other day and was impressed with how sprawled it was. It’s really cool you guys have been able to make this work.

    1. Emily says:

      Why did you not stop to say hi?!

  9. I would like to become a one car household just between my girlfriend and I, but sadly my home is located in an incredibly un-walkable area.

    I look forward to selling my home and relocated to a more walkable area.

    Thank god I have equity in my home, hopefully I can join you in the one-car family aspect soon.

    1. Emily says:

      Oh, we don’t live in a walkable area, either. We just do EVERYTHING together. 🙂

  10. […] Personal Finance writes One-Car Lifestyle Update – Several months ago, my husband and I became a one-car family. We haven’t saved much […]

  11. Amy Turner says:

    One car or no car would do well if there is good public transit in your area. Sadly, we don’t have all that good fortune that NYC residents have. Personally I would prefer a one-car household mainly for the savings, but more importantly, as your own case showed, improved relationship with the hubby.
    Amy Turner recently posted..Iberiabank Visa Classic Review

    1. Emily says:

      Part of the reason I’m writing about our one-car situation is to show that it’s possible even in areas without good public transport. (Certainly if I lived in NYC I would be car-free!) Public transport here (buses) is slow so we are only using as a last resort.

  12. […] if you remember, Kyle and I pack our lunches every day and we share one car, carpooling to work together every day.  I often batch-cook and bring the “leftovers” for lunch, even.  We are right where this […]

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  15. […] a car wouldn’t help our joint finances at all, but that isn’t the case for us.  So while dropping our second car hasn’t helped our bottom line financial much at all, it is definitely supporting our joint money lifestyle and making communication a […]

  16. […] the bus system works in our city.  I have been surprised by how much sharing one car has improved our relationship (I’m a quality time girl!) and our communication around […]

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  18. […] Calculating the money we’ve saved by going from two cars to one is a little trickier than the other categories.  When we were first making the decision, we estimated we would spend $972.03 less over the course of a year by driving only one car, based on reduced gas usage, no need for insurance on the second car, not registering/inspecting/paying tax on the car, and buying only one parking permit.  I still think that is a good way to calculate our savings.  The repairs we had to make on the car we benched are still pending, so I don’t want to add in any no-repairs savings at the moment, although of course there would be some wear on the car if we were driving it.  We’ve even seen some benefits to our relationship from sharing one car. […]

  19. SarahN says:

    We only have one car, really. I have a work provided car, solely for getting to and from work, and at work. As this has been the case for a while, I’ve never bought a car – first I had no car space for it, but second it would get limited use.

    Thankfully by moving in with my BF, we ‘share’ his car, which is to say that he’ll drive me/us places, we go 50/50 on fuel (and I’m happy to split all other costs too – maintenance, registration etc). However, I tend to make almost all my plans of activities alone, with an alternate way to get there – public transport, walking, or for my regular water polo commitments, a lift with a friend (who I gift fuel cards at Christmas, and likely again at the end of the season – even though we share the route, as she lives nearby and is going anyway, I think it’s a nice gesture, and a token to the cost of me owning a car!).

    I do drive the car occasionally on my rostered day off, when the BF is working, but it’s never ‘mission critical’ – it truly is his car in my mind. And he does like me as an occasional chauffeur to get him to work (he catches the bus to work usually)!
    SarahN recently posted..Waste Wednesday & the new herb garden

    1. Emily says:

      That’s an interesting set-up. Definitely having that car to get to work takes care of much of the independent driving needs. It’s good that you aren’t dependent on your BF to get to your commitments, since he may be unavailable at some points. I like having a back-up plan if Kyle ever needs the car elsewhere – public transport, rides from friends, walking, etc.

  20. […] and don’t give consideration to which one of us might benefit more.  It also really helps that we share a car and our life is very simple so our communication about our finances is […]

  21. […] the car one weekday morning.  The last time we did this, we dropped the car off together and then took a bus to campus. When the car was ready, I took the bus back and then picked Kyle […]

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