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​​​​​​​One Car - One Year On by Bob Lowry

Bill Storie and Robin Trimingham are the co-founders of The Olderhood Group, an online learning company with nearly 100,000 global followers. In 2013 they launched a retirement planning blog which focuses on the issues related to the transition from the workplace to a retirement... Read More

One Car - One Year On by Bob Lowry

A little over a year ago we became a one-car couple. The 2003 Hyundai Accent gave up the ghost, at least to the degree we were unwilling to put ever-increasing amounts of money into repairs. After donating it to Goodwill, we began the experiment that continues: compromising in a one vehicle relationship.

It has not been without its rocky moments. Occasionally, my wife has bristled at her feeling of a loss of freedom. The actual number of times when she has missed something, or had to reschedule is not huge. More important is the fact that she can't walk into the garage at any time and go somewhere without consulting with me first that causes some ripples. I understand and empathize with that feeling.

Because, of course, that reality faces me, too. Now that Betty has Medicare coverage, we have had quite a few doctor appointments and an episode of foot surgery. My schedule has been forced to readjust at times to be sure she has the car. A new volunteer involvement for me has meant lots of meetings and trips around town. Looking at Betty's schedule before I agree is a necessity.

Overall, though, when we step back and look at the impact on our lives, I optimistically believe we are happy ( well, maybe tolerant is a better word) of our situation. A decent late model used car costs more than we paid for our first or second house. It would spend 95% of its life parked in a garage, depreciating as we had our morning coffee. Is that worth an occasional inconvenience?

Besides, isn't compromise part of what we agreed to 42 years ago? Isn't missing a meeting or passing on a shopping trip now and then OK? If we can't do what we want at exactly the moment we want, isn't that a teachable moment?

Well, yes, but it is still a pain. Actually, my biggest fear is the car will break, need to be towed somewhere, and leave us at the mercy of a rental or Uber. Normal maintenance is taken care of at a garage I trust within walking distance of our home. But, if there is a major repair, the lack of alternative transportation would become a problem.

Technically, we are probably a one and a third car family. One of my daughters travels a lot, probably 4 months a year in total. When she is gone for a week or more, her dog and car stay at our home. As long as I put gas in it, her car is available to us. We don't like to drive it much just because it is hers; having an accident would leave her in a pickle during repairs. But, I won't deny, there have been times when having that extra vehicle parked in the driveway has come in very handy.

So, there we are: a one (and 1/3) car family, making do, arguing at times, and having it work. Frankly, if we went out this weekend and bought another, Betty would be very happy. Don't tell her but I would be, too, to end the conflicts and limitations.

For now, we are resisting the urge. At times the sacrifice feels unnecessary since we can afford one. But, it also feels a little virtuous: one small step we can take to pollute less and cause less harm to the environment.

If we do decide, at some point, to get a second vehicle of our own, we both agree it must be either hybrid or electric. Our 2011 Honda CRV will be our last strictly gas-powered auto.

Maybe we will think of a second car the way we do about our dogs. When one pet (our beloved Bailey) begins to get old in dogie years, we have been known to get an "emergency backup" dog that will move into first position when the older pet must leave our lives. This process has worked well three times for us before. The newer dog and we learn to live with and love each other.

A second car might perform that same function, although without the snuggles and unconditional love. The Honda is 8 years old, with about 85,000 miles. It should remain dependable and not too expensive to maintain for several more years. But, when it starts to take bigger chunks out of our budget, it may be smart to get "an emergency backup" car. When the Honda goes to the big junkyard in the sky, our backup car will be all ready to take over the #1 space in the garage.

What about you? One car, two cars, or none? How does it work for you? Are there conflicts over your present arrangement? We'd all love to know.

By Bob Lowry