Author Topic: Who has gone "Car Lite" and has wisdom gained from experience?  (Read 2892 times)


  • Handlebar Stache
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Who has gone "Car Lite" and has wisdom gained from experience?
« on: September 26, 2016, 10:13:20 AM »
My DH and I are a two-car household, out of necessity at this point in our lives.  (Rural location with fewer amenities, including transport).  However, that is going to change when we FIRE.  We're relocating to a mid-sized university town close to family.  The town checks many (not all) boxes, but one of note is that it has a fantastic, low-cost, clean bus system that gets around town and costs about $1.25/ride (unless you get a reduced fare, as if that's necessary)...  It stops all over the college campus, at the grocery stores, the public library and within walking distance of many of the things I enjoy.

After many years of being car-dependent and being aware of what that does to our finances, dealing with the car upkeep, dealing with achy bodies from being in the car so long,and the wasted time spent in cars I am really pumped about this.  I used buses regularly when I lived in graduate school and liked the fact that my car could sit for weeks at a time. 

So, I'm pushing hard to run our current two cars into the ground so we can go "car lite" (one car for two people) in a few years.  Who here has done it?  How did you adjust?  Positives and negatives?


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Who has gone "Car Lite" and has wisdom gained from experience?
« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2016, 10:39:12 AM »
I've never gone car lite, as my DW and I have never had more than one car. While having separate vehicles would make logistics easier occasionally, it would not be worth the expense for use. We live close enough that I bike or transit to work, so usually she has the car. The logistics problem only comes in when there are different places we want to be at the same time on weekends or evenings. Occasionally that means one of us gets dropped off/picked up and sometimes that means one of us ends up waiting for the other's activity to conclude. We'll bring something to read or work on while waiting. Sounds like transit will cover you well enough for "car lite" that it may be even less of an issue than it is for us.

By "pushing hard to run our current two cars into the ground", I hope you mean avoiding needing to replace before you transition to single car ownership rather than trying to wear out whatever useful life they have left.


  • Walrus Stache
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Re: Who has gone "Car Lite" and has wisdom gained from experience?
« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2016, 10:50:57 AM »
My wife and I moved to Seattle with two cars, but we found that we were getting into the second one more often to move it due to the 72-hour maximum street parking time than we were actually driving it. That made the decision to sell pretty easy. Five years (and a baby) later and we can probably count on one hand the number of times having only one car has been a problem. After all, how often do we both want to go to different non-transit-accessible destinations at the same time? It's not very common. We're usually traveling together or the bus is a reasonable option for one of us.


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Re: Who has gone "Car Lite" and has wisdom gained from experience?
« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2016, 11:10:05 AM »

By "pushing hard to run our current two cars into the ground", I hope you mean avoiding needing to replace before you transition to single car ownership rather than trying to wear out whatever useful life they have left.

Car #1 -- my commuter car -- is a Hyundai Sonata with 160,000 miles on it.  I keep it well maintained and tidy and put 20K miles on it per year -- mostly commuting to work and the few hours it takes to get to family.  I much prefer it to the FIT on the highway and in the winter.  I am hoping it will last another 3-4 years.  It pretty much sits in the garage on weekends.  I walk or bike on short haul trips around town, or my husband and I are together in vehicle #2.  As time goes on, I would worry about it on longer road trips.  But my plan is to (hopefully) drive it until it's only worth about $500 or needs a repair so expensive that it's just not worth it.  Then I'm going to call my favorite charity and donate it.

Car #2 is a Honda FIT with 75,000 miles on it.  When #2 fails, the FIT will become #1.  When it fails we are going to purchase a Honda Crossover more suitable for long-haul trips in our FIRE years (and our different heights -- a big issue for us.)  Depending on the timing there may or may not be some overlap between the FIT and the Crossover.  The FIT is a great little car for many reasons but may not work as our primary vehicle.  It all depends on where we are living at the time, the amount of winter driving we do, and how much long-haul driving we do.

So, it's a process... what I would like to get to is one nice super-reliable car (Honda Crossover) that we keep low miles on and use for longer haul trips and feel comfortable driving in the winter.  The rest of the time -- bus, walk, bike (with a bike trailer).  In FIRE we will also be living in a place with a shuttle system to the airport and close to family... so it seems that there would be other car/ride options.

We paid cash for both of the above, with the plan of driving them until they peter out. 


  • Bristles
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Re: Who has gone "Car Lite" and has wisdom gained from experience?
« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2016, 11:20:12 AM »
My BF and I just went "car lite" about a month ago - we ran his car into the ground, and now we're left with mine that we share. At this point, since there is no snow on the ground, we tend to commute by bike anyway (both cars used to sit idle for days at a time - now it's just the one). Obviously, it takes a little more planning if/when we both need the car. For example, I visited my family for a week a few weeks ago, and instead of the 7 hour car ride to go, I had a 3-hour car ride followed by a 8h bus ride. Not ideal, but cheaper (and I worked on the bus).

I don't have much wisdom to share, other than always remember to include the other in planning activities or events that require the car. Even if the other isn't included in these activities, he/she needs to be aware that the car won't be there at that time. We haven't experienced the need yet, but often, if you ABSOLUTELY require two cars one day, renting one for the day will still be cheaper than having to have a second one permanently.

Nothing else to it really. Enjoy the financial freedom it gives you!


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Who has gone "Car Lite" and has wisdom gained from experience?
« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2016, 12:16:56 PM »
Getting rid of your car will be one of the best decisions you can make.  Spouse and I currently live in Chicago (amazing public transit so I am a bit spoiled) and neither of us has had a car in 10 years.  It's the best.  Sounds like you have done your research--here are a few additional things you may want to consider since it sounds like you're headed to a college town:

We both use car sharing services (he uses Zipcar, I use Enterprise Car Share) on the few times each year that we need to drive somewhere.  These are plentiful near college campuses and are remarkably cheap and convenient--gas and insurance are included, so you pay one hourly or daily fee to use the car.  This is also much more flexible than a traditional car rental--cars are available 24 hrs/day so you don't need to worry about the car rental place closing at 5pm and charging you the cost of an extra day for returning it the next morning.

You can also look into bike-sharing organizations.  Spouse bikes to/from work a few times in the summer, but not enough to make the purchase of a bike worth it.  If you live in a place where weather is nice and public transit is limited, it probably makes sense to just buy your own bike but if not, this is a good alternative.

Uber and UberPool have also changed the way we transport ourselves.  It's now so cheap to get around--we use this for CostCo trips and other times when public transportation isn't a realistic option.  If you need two cars at one time, especially if you're not going far in terms of distance, roundtrip Uber is probably cheaper than renting a car for the day.

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Re: Who has gone "Car Lite" and has wisdom gained from experience?
« Reply #6 on: September 26, 2016, 01:39:57 PM »
We did the single car plan for several years. Then the kids got older and we needed two cars just to deal with the logistics. We were able to carpool to work and adjust schedules for a while but wife's schedule changed for a few months this year and we are reliant on two cars again.

We just save our $ by having two older cars that cost of very little in a year's time, carry only liability insurance, and minimize the miles driven (if we want to go we go but driving much less than years ago).

I'd argue we can operate our two cars for much less than other people car operate one vehicle b/c of our vehicle choices, DIY repairs/maintenance, short distances, and long term planning rather than short term i.e. fix it to last rather than flipping cars every couple of years. If I could flip our's for a profit then okay however we just keep them forever.

We choose to live in a small town so our other costs are low as well. Short distances. No parking hassles. We have a driveway and a garage.


  • Pencil Stache
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Re: Who has gone "Car Lite" and has wisdom gained from experience?
« Reply #7 on: September 26, 2016, 01:43:59 PM »
Once neither of you need a car for commuting, becoming a one-car family becomes pretty easy. Neither my boyfriend nor I commute by car, and transit in our area is sufficient that we could probably go completely car-free, but we have one car between us; we both had cars when we moved in together so he sold his, but we kept mine - depreciation and maintenance on a 10-year-old Yaris is probably about equal to what we would pay for other transit costs we'd incur if we didn't own the car. We put about 5000 miles a year on the car, probably half around-town errands (which, honestly, we could easily do by bike/transit/uber) and half short-distance road trips. We will rent a truck once in a while when we need something bigger for picking up craigslist purchases or making a big home depot run.

When you're not commuting in it every day, dumb stuff about your car bothers you less. If you don't need to drive the car every day and you're only putting a few thousand miles a year on it, a high-mileage car is fine. Like, if you want a different car or a fancier car, I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with that. But you might find that things don't bother you so much about the car when you're not driving it every day.

We've never had any conflicts over who's using the car. We also have a motor scooter, which we probably fight over way more than we fight over the car (not real fights, but definitely both of us want to use the scooter sometimes), so that takes some of the pressure off since it's good for short-ish but still kind of car-distance trips. We use Uber on occasion, too. I can't really think of any time when both of us have wanted to go do two different things that we needed or even wanted the car for. We also have Zipcars in our neighborhood but neither of us is signed up; we've just never needed it.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Who has gone "Car Lite" and has wisdom gained from experience?
« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2016, 01:57:51 PM »
DH and I went "car lite" a couple years ago and have never looked back. The most important element to making the arrangement work is communicating so that it's clear who needs the car and when. Once in a while I have get up super-early to drive DH to an early morning work shift, and once in a blue moon we use Uber. It's a small price to pay for not worrying about maintenance, registration, insurance, etc. for two cars.


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Re: Who has gone "Car Lite" and has wisdom gained from experience?
« Reply #9 on: September 26, 2016, 02:25:43 PM »
Three years ago we sold off the second car. We are very close to work, church, grocery, Home Depot, the gym, etc. Still, this is not the most bike-friendly of small cities, and due to district zoning, our kids' school is actually not that close to us. We go past three other elementary campuses to reach it. Anyway, I am still biking everywhere for now, but we are pondering a second car again as after-school activities and my wife's work requirements have shifted us toward driving more.

- Pretty much everything is bikeable. Everything.
- You don't need to get nearly as much crap at the store as you think you do. A bike trailer clarifies grocery and Wal-Mart priorities.
- You don't need to go to the store as often as you think you do. You can probably hold out until Saturday for that box of Wheat Thins.
- Even if you already plan your life and week, you can do it better and be more efficient, and with only one car, you will.
- Being in a car is actually not awesome. The wind in your face actually is.
- Driving faster than 25 mph on a residential street is not only unnecessary and inefficient, but aggressive and dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists - after spending so much time on a bike I am stunned by how fast everyone drives through quiet neighborhoods just so they can slam on the brakes 5 seconds later for a stop sign, curve, school bus, etc.
- While I think most people overestimate the dangers of cycling in traffic, I think many on here underestimate. I am hypervigilant, well-lit, and fairly agile with my bike. If I weren't, I'd be seriously injured or dead.
- Similarly, many here overestimate how easy it is to change patterns of behavior when going car-lite. Infrastructure, real-world time constraints, and other factors often intervene. I don't wish I had a second car all that often, but we do bum rides and do some very inconvenient kid transfers from time to time to make it work.

We will probably get a second car again in the spring, but I expect we will use it very efficiently compared to our previous experience. When our kids are less reliant on us for transportation, we will go back to one car and/or shift the second car to them. Ultimately, I love having only one car. Less expense, less crap to worry about, and more space for kettlebells, weights, and bikes in the garage.
« Last Edit: September 26, 2016, 02:28:54 PM by TRBeck »