Becoming a Two-Car Family

Becoming a Two-Car Family

Since the fall of 2008, we have been a one-car family and have been able to maintain it all this time. That’s 8 years. Bonus was that we kept the smaller of the two cars we had at the time.

We’re in the process right now of becoming a two-car family and my feelings are all over the map. Excitement for the ease it will bring us is mixed with worry about how it will change my positive habits that I have developed by needing to take the bus, the train, to walk and bike more, and to compromise.

Before we bought our one-bathroom, two-bedroom house, I read somewhere that having more than one bathroom decreases a family’s ability to compromise. I liked that reframe. We initially thought we wanted a two-bathroom home but liked the affordability of the smaller one we got. Wanting two bathrooms had developed from sharing small apartments with tiny bathrooms, which I didn’t feel I had much of a choice in. But I chose the house fully and completely, and I honestly can say now I really don’t mind still having one bathroom. It really has helped me to compromise.

The same has been true for the car. We chose to become a one-car family 8 years ago, and were proud of it. Moving to the midwest that year from San Francisco was a shock for me. I was used to using public transit and walking because driving was often such a headache. So making a choice like that here, in a place where the car is king and public transit isn’t super, was an ego boost. I felt capable and resourceful and tough. We were. We’ve both sustained some bike falls, missed transit connections, slogged through snow and rain storms while under dressed, and dealt with a grungier side of the general public that being in a car inherently separates you from.

Having a child has changed things a bit. We made some tough choices about childcare based on having only one car but needing to share drop-off and pick-up. We made choices about jobs in part based on ease of access by bike, foot, or bus considering the childcare factor. But we were able to make it work, for the most part. When Car2Go hit the market, it made our lives a whole lot easier. I still bike and bus more than half the time, but if I’m running late or have a lot to carry, I’ll just grab a little car and pay between $4-6 to get to work with ease. Car2Go has been our low-cost, low-commitment solution between being a one- a two- car family.

We have a few reasons for looking at buying a second car. The car we own is quite small, not fancy, and a bit loud, and so road trip vacations are uncomfortable. It’s a 2004 model and has over 150,000 miles; I like to think it has another several years in it, but who knows? But I have to admit that the biggest factor is that we are less and less willing to make personal sacrifices like delayed transit time, inclement weather, and inconvenience.

I paused mid-sentence as I wrote that just now. I feel totally guilty about admitting that last reason. I justify with myself that I will still bike most of the summer, and I really do have intentions to keep that up. I just really hope a second car doesn’t make me lazy. I still want to have a scrappy and flexible edge and I don’t want to get soft and easily flummoxed. When I’m waiting for a train and it’s delayed, I first feel annoyed, but then I quickly get perspective: I tell myself, hey, I’m outside instead of stuck in traffic, it’s only a few extra minutes, and it’s way cheaper. I definitely don’t want to have to deal with traffic more than I do. But I’m afraid that my middle-class-and-approaching-40 lifestyle changes are provoking some inner conflict because I do want the ease and reliability a second car will bring. Sometimes, but rarely, the closest Car2Go is up to a 10 minute walk away, and sometimes that’s just kind-of annoying. 

I’m deeply conflicted. It helps, though, that what we’re looking at are used Prius C’s. Because you can’t get much further from an Escalade values-wise than that.