4 Benefits to Being a One Car Family

I once read a book about living happily without a car. But Sarah and I like having at least one around.

We own a 2001 Toyota Corolla with 176,000 miles on it. Sarah brought it into the marriage fully paid for and it currently shows no signs of dying soon. We change the oil and try to keep up with all the maintenance that comes with a car.

We just had a baby, and there has been the temptation to get a second car so that we can both have the freedom to get up and go whenever we like.

Here are four benefits we have discovered while being a one car family:

1. Money – two cars means twice the property taxes, more fuel purchases, more maintenance bills, and many other costs to owning vehicles

2. Health – we have 2 bikes, and since we live in an urban setting, we are just a bike ride away (or city bus) from ANYTHING (from the grocery store to the post office to the places where we work); biking is a fun way to get that cardio workout

3. Time Together – a result of living with one car means more trips together and planning out days and trips so that our car rides meet both of our needs; that means we do a lot of errands together and thus spend lots of time together in transit

4. Environment – we’re not green freaks, but I guess it’s nice to think that we’re only emitting fumes from one car rather than two

So, for now, I guess we’ll keep driving our Corolla ’till it dies without getting anything else.

What works for your family?

Car Review – 2009 Dodge Nitro

This past weekend, I got to take a 2009 Dodge Nitro from Richmond, VA to St. Louis, MO and back. I rent a lot of vehicles for my job and I thought I would share my personal opinion about some of them in case it helps anyone out there. First of all, I usually get a smaller vehicle, but I took advantage of a “free upgrade” coupon from Budget and enjoyed the larger and more sporty Nitro this time around.

Overview: The Dodge Nitro has an “oversized boxy jeep” look to it. It can be driven in 2WD or 4WD. It seats 5 comfortably (there might even be some hidden seats in the far rear, but I didn’t check).

PROS: Lots of visibility when you check your blind spots. Lots of room. Sporty look. Satellite radio. Comfortable driver’s seat. Feels like a solid and strong vehicle.
CONS: Not the best gas mileage. No radio controls on the steering wheel (I like that feature in a car). Acceleration pick-up seemed to drag a little when I wanted to speed up quickly. My model did not have any driver’s seat adjustments other than the floor latch (for forward/backward) and the recline latch.

I’ll try to do more car reviews in the future. Whether you’re in the market for a car or just curious about new models, I hope this helps.

-Jesse Joyner

Life Without a Driveway

When you live in an urban setting with no personal driveway, I guess you’re in for life’s unexpected surprises – like getting towed when your car is parked as normal in front of your apartment. The funny thing is that I was in my apartment, a mere 30 yards from my car, which was parked on the block where I usually park it. It just happened to be the bi-annual (or whatever) street cleaning day. The last time I messed up on this one, they just slapped a ticket on my car and drove around it with the street cleaner. This time, they decided they wanted to babysit the Corolla in their “pound” for a day or two. Now, I get to go to the sitters and pay them $60 to get Chamby (named so for her Champagne color) back. Ahh, what a life.

How to Live Well Without Owning a Car

OK, I still own a car. But this blog title is also the title of a book by Chris Balish which I just checked out from my local library (to which I can easily walk and/or unicycle). Sarah and I have been influenced by this book recently, as we now bike more frequently, and we are playing a game where we have a set gas budget at the beginning of the month (which is dropping each month) and then trying to spend only that amount on gas. Who knows, we may be car-free by the end of the year!

This book was written in 2003 (when gas was half the price it is now) by Chris Balish, a professional news anchor living in St. Louis. He drove a big SUV and “accidentally” took the plunge into car-free living. He wanted to downsize his car, so he put the SUV on the market, planning to buy another car in the near future. Well, the SUV sold almost overnight, and he had not yet bought the new car. So he was forced to figure out ways to commute without the precious hunk of metal customarily sitting in front of his residence.

This interim period between cars turned permanent, and he did not go back. His book gives great advice on how to live well without owning a car. Notice the word, “owning.” This is not an “anti-vehicle” book. In fact, he gives thoughts on how to ride with friends, rent cars, and even a new thing called “car sharing.” He also gives advice on how to live “car-lite” for people who really do need to own a vehicle for some reason or another (i.e. large family, rural living, job-related transport, etc).

The bottom line is: we can all drive less than we currently do. And many of us can make it without a car – really. How often do we just hop in those transport devices on a whim – just to pick up a pack of sodas at the store?

Here are the benefits (some of which are detailed in the book) to not owning a car:
1. Financial (you can save boatloads of money by not owning a car – think about how much you spend on registration, insurance, gas, tires, repairs, oil changes, wiper blades, tolls, parking, lease payments, car washes, annual inspections (for Virginia residents), etc, etc, etc
2. Social – the other day, Sarah and I carpooled with my brother and his fiance to my parents’ house – and it was great social interaction with them – we were all crammed into a little mustang and talked the whole way out to the house
3. Health – when you do not own a car, by nature, you travel more on foot and bike, nuf said about the health benefit
4. Spiritual – it may be intangible, but remember the experience of enjoying God’s creation the last time you went on a walk in a park or rode your bike? now, when was the last time you felt that while driving down the highway at 65 miles an hour?
5. Global – by not owning a car, you are contributing significantly less to the oil industry, which could potentially alleviate the volatility in the Middle East (I know, it is only part of a complicated equation, but every little bit helps – especially if we want to see Middle East peace and Global peace)