Posted by: thefitacademic | December 10, 2010

Why we are a 1-car family

Well I promised you the story, so hopefully I don’t disappoint.

Let’s go back – way back – so you get some background:

It’s 1998 – Chris turns 16! His Grandparents buy him a used Mitsubishi Mirage


The next year, I turn 16! My Grandparent’s give me their old truck – my first vehicle!

23a1992 Nissan pick-up truck

(If you take note of the date in the corner – I am, indeed, a New Years Eve baby!)

I had that truck from 16 through 18 – and drove it until its transmission literally dropped out while just driving down the road (it was a piece!)

Then –  my favorite car:

sebring(Source) 98 Sebring Convertible

I got it at auction for $6000 – paid cash & it was MINE! I got it when I was young, carefree, living away at college, and just living the American dream! I felt hot in that car (mine was also the rare white on white with black leather edition – my EXACT fave at the time!)

Had that car from 18 until 21, when it crapped out & was going to cost more to fix than it was worth because the problems were all electrical.

So then I bought my first NEW car that I had to finance:

spectra2005 Kia Spectra SX

…..and, I hated it! I mean – it was the “sport” package with a spoiler & fog lights and all…..but yeah. I basically felt forced into it, didn’t get to think it through – and I impulsively bought a car because I thought it was economical & easy….instead of really weighing my choices and considering all options.

But – it got me from point A to point B, it was super cheap on gas (it was a manual transmission), & basically served it’s purpose well. Had it from age 21 through age 26.

During this same period of time (a span of 5 years), Chris went through a:

98 Dodge Neon

94 Honda CBR 600 (motorcycle)

95 Eagle Talon

98 Pontiac Sunfire

98 Chrysler Cirrus

98 Ford Ranger

96 Ford Explorer

96 Cadillac Sedan Deville & a

2002 Trailblazer

Yup. That’s 10 cars total folks. While I only went through 3. He was always cycling through cars: either selling them, wrecking them, or having them break down – about an equal 1/3 of each)

That’s really besides the point – but it’s setting the stage.

Most of the places we have lived have absolutely required that we each have our own car. We have lived in Austin for most of our relationship. The city is huge & spread out, doesn’t have good public transportation, and we both worked on opposite sides of the city (plus both took classes at different places, etc.) Next, we lived in Boynton Beach, Florida. I went to school in Boca Raton (45 minutes south) and Chris worked in West Palm Beach (45 minutes north). There were a couple “gaps” between Chris’ car when we were forced to carpool (only for a matter of weeks) & it was MISERABLE!!! So much time spent in commute that it was just way too inefficient.

So – Florida. Moving to Florida had wreaked havoc on our financial situation. When we moved there neither of us had a dollar of debt to our names! We paid our credit cards in full each month & both had always worked full time (while also going to school full time)! But I had to take us to Florida for graduate school, I had to take out a disgusting amount of student loan debt, I was unable to work more than just part-time jobs making remedial cash, and cost-of-living was so outrageous that even with Chris’ full time-job, we were going into credit debt to maintain our lifestyle. We made a bad choice with buying the Cadillac. It was a crap car, but it was cheap & we needed something so we went with it. Biggest mistake EVER! When it blew a head gasket (common problem) that basically rendered the car “totaled”, we went and got Chris’ trailblazer from Carmax (the first time that Chris had ever financed a car!) We did the in-house financing because the interest rate was way lower.

In April of 2009 – 1 month before moving cross-country to Arizona to continue my graduate career at a place with better funding and better opportunities, Chris got into a wreck and his car was totaled. Oh yeah, remember Carmax’s in-house financing with a good interest rate? Well, it doesn’t include gap insurance so we’d only had the car about 4 months, but you know how they depreciate the second you drive them off the lot (translation: We still owed a LOT of money on the car so now we have a car payment for a second car we no longer have).

It was very scary. We didn’t really know what to do. We had always been really financially responsible, and over the course of 2 years while living in Florida, things totally got flipped upside down. We were in a position where we couldn’t afford another car and we were down to just my little Kia Spectra.

What to do?

Fast forward 5 months:

PICT1567(cue Willy Nelson’s song, “On the road again…..”)

PICT1562packed in tight with ice chest, etc.

PICT1569the whole fam

We moved cross-country to Tucson, Arizona! Packed everything we could into my little car & got a small U-haul trailer in tow to carry some of the things we couldn’t part with. The only furniture we brought was our bed, our TV, & a dresser. And we’d had a lot of nice stuff : (

Our setup in Florida:

Little Rocky used to be a couch-sitter (like a kitty cat!) : )

We stopped in Austin for a few weeks on the way to Tucson.

When we moved to Tucson, we made sure to live close to campus (4 miles away) and on a direct bus line since we only had 1 car. We’ve since moved even closer to school (3 miles) & I have acquired a bike that I often ride to school. Also, Chris frequently drops me off/picks me up on days when he doesn’t have a conflicting work schedule.

We were making the Kia work, but it was getting older (now 5 years old) and higher in miles (just below 100K) and this whole time I’ve still been hating it, but we can’t afford a new car (and the associated payments).

But then – during summer, I was rear-ended on my way to yoga. It was a little jolting. The car of the guy who hit me was pretty badly banged up in the front (hood all crunched), but amazingly my Kia had a few scratches but that was it – No dent even! I went and had it appraised by the insurance company & they gave me a check for $1000 for the damage!! Wow! A grand for a scratch?! I don’t even care about this car! So, I kept the grand & paid down some debt.

But then – less than 2 months later, Chris was rear-ended on his way home from the corner store (I regularly send him on my errands, lol). The accident was pretty bad:  3 cars total involved, the back car was flying when everyone else was  stopped, he hit a lady and slammed her car up into the Kia (the Kia was the front of the line). The middle car looked bad (totally smashed) – and the back car’s airbags had deployed. This time the Kia wasn’t resilient. It didn’t look horrible,  but the trunk couldn’t even close because it was crunched so badly.

This time, we had it appraised…..and the car was totaled (damage exceeded its value).

Down to a ZERO car family???

Through some amazing/crazy twist of fate (and thanks to the fact that I have an amazing insurance company, Thank You Progressive!) I was able to get $6500 for the Kia (WHAT? A five year old Kia with almost 100K miles!?!) The Kelly bluebook said something like $4000. I dunno, folks – but I RAN WITH IT!

Found a new car in a matter of days (a very nice, but used, 2002 Ford Explorer with all leather & only 62000 miles). And how much did we snag this car for? $4500. That means we profited off the Kia $2000 + the original $1000 from a few months prior. Did I ever mention that the Kia was only $14,000 brand new? So even though I HATED that car, looks like things worked out in my favor!

We are still a 1 car family. But now we have a little bit larger car that is more realistic for our family (and is definitely much more comfortable on trips back to Texas!) It works for us now and I don’t even notice it as a problem!

It’s funny how life works that way – it’s like the old Alanis Morisette song, Ironic:

“Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you when you think everything’s okay & everything’s going right…….AND Life has a funny way of helping you out when you think everything’s gone wrong & everything blows up in your face.”

I love that – the contrasts in life. The good only comes with the bad (because if you never knew bad, how could you appreciate the good?)

And that’s your deep thought for the day : )

Would a single car ever work for your family?



  1. My ex and I shared a car for a while when mine broke down and we sold it for cheap to someone because we needed money to move. We broke up 5 months after that (doh!) and I didn’t have a car for another couple of years (I work from home, so I would get friends to drive me to the store and what not)! I have a Kia Rio hatchback now, bless it’s little Kia heart. 🙂

  2. my boyfriend and I are a one car family, but it works pretty well because I walk to work and he takes the bus. The only time it is a bit inconvenient is when there is a holiday we aren’t spending together, but that is pretty darn rare 🙂

    I’ve found that the less I drive, the happier I am. Without having kids, there are really a minimal amount of times I HAVE to drive somewhere each week.

    Great topic!

    • I totally know what you mean! When I lived in Florida I *thought* I enjoyed the 45 minute drive to work – I listened to the radio, or called a friend, and it was kinda “my time.” BUT – since I’m now so much closer to work, I’ve realized how much time I spent just driving around! It was crazy! I LOVE the fact that if I had to, I could pretty much walk anywhere I needed (like – literally everything in my life, friends’ houses & all, is within a 4 mile radius). I think that I’m a lot happier too!

  3. My household is my parents, my brother and I so I don’t think a one car family would work in that case…but I could see sharing one with my boyfriend or something:)

  4. hey girl-thanks for stopping by my blog 🙂
    well, as of now, we are a no car family. my bro in law takes my daughter to school and picks her up.
    hubby and i both take the bus to work. seattle has an awesome transit system 🙂
    buuuuuuut-hopefully this weekend we’ll be getting a vehicle! i’m gonna need one to be more reliable for work.
    i haven’t driven in 2 months and it’s sooooo weird!

    • Funny – I feel the same way! I rarely drive now (maybe once a week) because even when we’re driving, it’s always the hubbs’ doing the driving ; ) But it even feels weird to me so I can’t imagine not driving at all for 2 months! It’ll feel weird next time you drive again!

  5. Holy moly. I thought my husband has had a lot of cars!! I have only had one car so far. It was my gpas. I got it when he passed away and I LOVE it. I have so many memories with him in it, I just cant give it away yet

  6. […] working so I don’t have a car & am pretty much stuck at home (read why we’re a 1 car family here), but I honestly don’t mind. I plan to take Rocky on a walk up to the store (only about half a […]

  7. […] works….for now. I’m starting to think I’d like a second car, […]

  8. […] Now I can zip around to/from school no problem and I guess we are “technically” no longer a 1-car-family (though I would never take the scooter long/distances or highways, so not sure it […]

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