The art of the one car household

How we get by as a one car household

I have written about the monumental pain in the ass that is Auckland public transport many times, and touched on what it’s like to get by without a car.

I have to say, it certainly has been easier since late 2010, when we finally got an automatic car (all our previous vehicles were manual, at T’s discretion, and despite my intentions I never really learned to drive manual properly), and a little more so again last year when we added a motorbike to our arsenal.

That said, a motorbike is not a second car. You’re at the mercy of the weather (which is temperamental in this city, to say the least, and has been ATROCIOUS this summer). You’re limited to what you can fit under the seat and in a backpack, and while parking is a breeze, you will be stuck carrying around a bulky helmet wherever you go.

I have always been inclined to think that we will eventually be forced to become a two-car household – either upon buying a house (because we’ll be priced out further into the suburbs than we already are) or having kids.

But I’ve been inspired by a one-car family I know that lives on the North Shore, with one parent working over this side of the bridge. Heck, if they can make it work…

I’ve reached a few conclusions about setting up for success at this.

Plan and communicate like a boss

I’m a planner. T is the opposite. Good thing, then, that I’m the car-less one. Getting by with one car requires getting to know each other’s schedules and planning all manner of journeys, from trips to the supermarket, parental visits, social engagements, and work functions.

Live close to one person’s place of employment

It helps if one person can walk to their workplace, or take public transport. Otherwise, planning gets even more serious, because you’ll have to contend with one person dropping off and picking up the other at the office every day (unless you can wangle a carpool with somebody).

Having never owned a car of my own, the number one thing on my list when choosing a place to live is proximity to bus routes. I was spoiled growing up; my parents’ house is literally 10 seconds from a bus stop. Since then, the furthest I’ve lived from public transport is a 15-20 minute walk.

Make sure you have a reliable car

Cars that don’t start or fail WOFs or break down regularly are stressful enough. When that car is your only mode of transportation, it’s infinitely worse. T and I have always worked in different areas of the city – and his is not one you can get to via public transport, especially at 6 or 7am.

And on that note…

Only patronise mechanics where courtesy cars are available

Or you’ll be forking out a lot of money to rent a car while yours is in the workshop.

Could you swing it as a one-car household?

16 thoughts on “The art of the one car household

  1. I think a one-car household would be ideal for me and BF (if we were to every move in together). I like the flexibility of having a car (though it isn’t a necessity if we lived in the city), but the extra salary to help pay for the costs is much more manageable!

  2. We couldn’t be a one car household just because we have opposite schedules but my end time overlaps his start time, so it would make it impossible for me to get home or his to get to work if we shared. I wish we could though.

  3. I barely use my car now as I take the train to and from work Monday-Friday. Unfortunately, it’s not realistic for me to not have a car, so I need to keep mine. Because I have no garage or secure parking however, basically my boyfriend drives my car whenever I’m not using it, so I don’t have to leave it out on the street.

    We’ve managed to make it work – he has the car to get to work easier, I have the car on weekends to go grocery shopping. He also pays pretty much all the petrol costs, and as we share the car further, we can negotiate splitting registration/insurance costs when they come up for renewal in October.

    It’ll be a lot easier if/when we start living together, but it’s not bad so far.

  4. As much as I’d like to say that we could make it as a one-vehicle household, with a baby on the way I don’t think we could. We’re right on a transit route, but since hubby works shift work I’d have to rely on a bus to get myself and the baby everywhere. Not so practical when you have a stroller and need to buy groceries or whatnot.

    1. Oh yeah, I feel ya. You bet I knew the bus timestable like the back of my hand when I worked shifts and sometimes I would have no choice but to take the car on weekends or there was no other way I could make the early starts.

  5. We only have 1 car, and for now it hasn’t been a problem. We live a 5-ish minute walk from a bus stop that gets us to the school. Every now and then, especially on the weekends, one of us will be planning on driving somewhere and the other will want to work, and the busses don’t run that frequently on the weekends, especially in the evening. It just requires a bit of planning, but even with our best efforts, I’d say there have been a handful of times that one of us has hung out in the lab for an extra hour or two while waiting for the other to come back- generally either at night or bad weather, since it’s not even an unreasonable walk all the way to school.

    1. I was going to mention a fiasco we had last week in the post but it got a bit rambly! Suffice to say T took off, was out for aaages, so I arranged another ride into town. When I rang him to let him know what I’d done he was speeding back and nearly got ticketed (and as you know we’ve had too many of those lately!)

  6. My ex and I only had 1 car and it was never a problem. Sure, I had to take some cold walks to work at 6am, but it never really bothered me. Even though it was his car coming into the relationship, we shared it as though it was ours and made sure it was used in a way where we would both get what we wanted. So, yes, I can see doing that again with the next guy!

  7. Having one car per household really depends on your location. If you’re living in the middle of nowhere then you’re most likely sol.

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