13 Reasons Suburban Families Only Really Need 1 Car (Yes, We’re Serious)

We all love our cars, but there are benefits to cutting back on the number of vehicles in your garage.
Updated April 11, 2024
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Family happy in a car

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We Americans love our cars, and we've built our society around needing a car to get around. 

But owning a car is expensive, and not every family needs more than one. This is especially true for those families who work from home or live in urban areas that make car travel difficult. 

Here are 13 reasons why paring down to just a single vehicle might be worth the trouble — and how doing so can help you get ahead financially.

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Insurance will be cheaper

Geber86/Adobe man going over home finances

Auto insurance costs rose 17.8% between July 2022 and July 2023, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. So, insuring your vehicles is becoming more expensive.

Going from two cars to one can help you significantly save on car insurance costs and it can simplify your renewal periods. 

You will spend less on gas

rh2010/Adobe woman paying with phone for gasoline

You probably won’t halve your gasoline expenses by getting rid of one car. After all, you’ll still need to go to many of the places you do now in two cars.

However, you could significantly reduce costs by consolidating errands or walking or even biking to some destinations. This is even more true for those who live in areas with nice weather year-round.

Registration costs will fall

shurkin_son/Adobe Woman engrossed in paper-related tasks.

If you downsize to just one vehicle, you will cut the registration costs you incur. This can save you a couple hundred dollars or more per year, depending on the state you live in. 

Plus, you will eliminate the headache of having to remember to perform this chore more than once annually. And, if your vehicle is older, you might be able to cut out getting an official vehicle test every year at a certified auto shop. 

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Your garage will have more open space

peshkova/Adobe modern garage interior with car

There are a lot of better uses for garage, driveway, or carport space than parking an extra car there.

For example, you could use the extra garage space to organize rarely used household items, such as holiday decor. 

You might even make a few extra bucks by renting the space out for storage on a peer-to-peer app like Neighbor.

Ridesharing/carpooling is an option

Snapic.PhotoProduct/Adobe Uber driver driving a car with male passenger

Carpooling is a great option for the everyday commute, driving kids to school, or trips to the grocery store. Toss a few bucks to the driver for gas, and you’ll still probably come out ahead financially.

For rides to the airport or other one-off trips, there are rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft to get you where you need to go.

You’ll get to use the HOV lane

chat9780/Adobe cars stuck in a traffic jam

If you carpool and offer to occasionally drive others, you’ll qualify to drive in the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane a lot more often.

That means you can bypass traffic jams with ease and get to your destination quicker when you ride together.

Having 1 car encourages you to stay home

Andrey Popov/Adobe happy family going through photo album

You might have to stay home more often if your household has just one car. If you’re trying to save money or pay off debt, this could be a good thing.

Less access to on-demand transportation means fewer trips to the store, which means fewer impulse purchases. You also may be less likely to go out to eat as often as when you had two cars.

You might get more exercise

milanmarkovic78/Adobe senior man riding a bike

When a car isn’t an easy option, biking and walking become much more appealing.

This is less practical for those who live in harsh climates and rural areas. However, many others can combine exercise and errands when using a bike or their feet for transportation.

An e-bike can be a good solution for those who want to bike rather than drive but have more miles to cover.

You can reduce or avoid car loan interest

Andrii Zastrozhnov/Adobe Woman holding letter

If you have a loan on a second vehicle, selling it could save you quite a bit of money now that you no longer have to pay interest on the loan.

Having just one car payment — or possibly using your savings to eliminate that loan altogether — can represent significant savings.

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You’ll have fewer depreciating assets

Nattakorn/Adobe man saving money in glass jars

Cars lose value as they age, which makes them depreciating assets.

From a financial standpoint, you want to eliminate depreciating assets if you can. Dropping down to just a single car helps you do that.

The kids will become more independent

Viktoriia/Adobe classmates going into school bus

With fewer transportation options, children in families with one car are often forced to be more independent. Some may walk to school or take the bus rather than having a parent drive them.

When a child forgets a paper or lunch at home, they’re left to deal with the consequences of their choices, since Mom and Dad can’t rush to deliver the forgotten items. That can be a good life lesson.

You will be forced to become more thoughtful about errands

Dragana Gordic/Adobe woman shopping in a grocery store

Becoming a one-car family definitely takes some planning. Errands and appointments may have to be moved to the weekend, or times when there are fewer transportation demands.

The adult with the car may become responsible for picking up groceries or other needed items on the commute home. 

Fortunately, this means more economical driving and less driving overall, cutting down on gas, wear and tear on the vehicle, and time spent in the car.

You can trim maintenance costs

highwaystarz/Adobe customer looking at garage bill

Nothing ruins your day like a flat tire or hearing a troubling, new sound coming from your engine. New tires, oil changes, replacing wiper blades, unexpected breakdowns — the cost of these items adds up quickly.

When you have just one car instead of multiple vehicles, maintenance costs go down significantly. This allows you to add money to your savings instead of spending more cash on your car.

Bottom line

Monkey Business/Adobe Happy family in a car

Having two or more cars in a household is convenient, but it’s worth asking yourself what price you’re paying for that luxury.

Although one car for each adult seems to be the norm, challenging that standard can help you save money and grow your wealth

If you’re considering becoming a one-car family, run the numbers and see how much you can save.

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Author Details

Jenni Sisson Jenni Sisson is a freelance writer and editor who focuses on personal finance, real estate, and entrepreneurship. She has been published in Business Insider and The Ways to Wealth. In addition to writing, Jenni hosts the Mama's Money Map podcast to help fellow stay-at-home moms on their journey to financial freedom.

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