25 September 2013

A One-Car Family

We first became a one-car family about eight months after we said, "I do." Matt's car died (a hole in the radiator, I want to say) right as the economy collapsed and I was laid off. Plus we knew law school was in the works, so we just stuck with one car, and it was pretty easy. It stayed easy while we were in Florida. I dropped Matt off on campus before work and picked him up afterward. No time was wasted as he studied at the library before and after classes, and in the small town of Naples, going out of my way only added about a few extra minutes onto my commute. It was still easy after Abigail was born and I stopped working outside of the house. Campus was only about 10 minutes away from our apartment, so I could drive him if I needed the car, but usually I scheduled things around his class schedule, as he was home studying long before the 5pm deadline of most businesses. When we moved to Chicago, we were sure to get an apartment close to public transportation, which Matt took every single day, giving me free and clear access to the car.

To add blessed event to blessed event, we fully owned my car. When it died and we purchased our new car, we did so ourselves, by which I mean we've never had a car payment in all our married years.

Our old car and our new car bumper-to-bumper

Before we moved to Michigan, we briefly researched our commuting options and found a few solid leads. I felt comfortable when we moved that I would be able to have the car most days.

But it's not working out like we planned.

Two of our leads lead to dead ends and we're pursuing another that will probably go nowhere and one lone option with our hopes up.

Those of you who have been with me for a while are probably rolling your eyes right now: Seriously, Jacqueline? Another car post? Yeah. Another car post. For those of you who are more recent readers, I admittedly have a dysfunctional emotional attachment to my cars. Red Ford Contour was in my life longer than I've ever lived at any one address. When I first sat in it, it was totally like that moment from Transformers when Sam sits in Bumblebee. Our souls intertwined. I cried as we drove away from the dealership after Red Ford Contour died. But then there was Little Red Manual Focus. Manual Focus was there for me for the entire Baby Heart Saga. (We bought it about a week before we found out about Abigail's heart condition). Little Red Manual Focus and I have done some serious bonding. The poor car, she's gotten pretty scraped up too. Two hit-and-runs. One a side-swipe in Chicago (remember that day? The same day I had a miscarriage? Yeah, that sucked). And just last weekend in a parking lot someone hit it and damaged the bumper. Poor Little Red Manual Focus.

So yes, car drama hits me hard. It's not that we're really thinking about buying another car. I mean, it's there in the back of our minds every time we pass something for sale or a friend mentions selling their old car. But two gas payments, two insurance payments, plus the initial lump sum needed for another car ... getting a second vehicle would stand in the way of meeting other financial goals.

But both Matt and I agree that what we're doing now won't work for the next three years (how long he has at his current job. It's a three-year gig).

I have no idea what a wise move would be for us right now. Totally needing some wisdom.

Little Red Manual Focus on a winter day in Chicago.

Both when we were in law school and in Chicago, no one glanced twice at our little one-car family. It was totally normal. But back in Michigan, the land of automobile manufactures (and friends and family who didn't pay for graduate school or have a child with mountainous medical bills), people think we're this weird, masochistic, hippie family. Or desperately poor.

Sorry, can't make it to your play group. My husband has the car during the day and that's kind of a far walk.

Sorry, I'm going to be late, Matt is already committed for this afternoon, so I can't leave until he gets home.

Sorry, I can't pick you up, that would leave Matt and Abigail stranded without the car all day. It just makes me a bit nervous in case there's an emergency.

But we're serious and we're focused and we know what we want. And a second vehicle? It would stand in the way. Plus, you know how I am. It'd be impossible for me to bond with another car.


Amelia said...

We've gone back and forth between having one car versus having two. I prefer just having one if we can hack it. Right now we have two because I would find it intolerable to be stuck home all day without a car. But, I can understand having other financial goals as well and wanting to do without.

In A Perfect World said...

You know I feel your pain! Limited social availability due to having one car vs. adding more bills to your monthly budget. This is a looming issue with us sharing our "Little Red Automatic Focus". We've mostly been lucky since Howell has a commuter bus system, but it doesn't always work out (their scheduling system is quite unorganized!), and sometime we are left scrambling to figure out how to get us both to and from work. This system won't be able to last forever, and we too are always discussing the issue of potentially getting a second car. Ken likes the idea of just getting a "junker" car to just drive him to and from work, but that also comes with possible issues as well... Michigan desperately needs a mass transit system!

Anonymous said...

We have one car. It's a van. But my husband only works a mile away. Most of our friends function the same way, and it ain't no thang, as the saying goes. :-). Thank God we have ONE! A horse and buggy in the wintertime would be far less economical than a car! -TB

Liz E. said...

When you *really* need another car, you'll know it! Something will come up where life just isn't feasible without an extra pair of wheels or you'll come to the point where the financial sacrifice will be more appealing than the alternative!

Douglass said...

We are a one car family right now too. It is not so horrible because it is just us and 2 kids that are both picked up and dropped off by the school bus. The bigger problem is when we all have something to do around the same time. It has made us very good planners. We need another car.

Douglass @ Viva Kia