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Could you be a one-car family?

9 February 2016
3 minute read

One car family

With a tough year ahead of us, most South African consumers are looking for ways to save money. One way to cut expenses is for families that use two cars to consider downscaling to one. For those used to the convenience of two cars, the idea might seem impractical. There is, however, no denying the monthly savings, so it’s worth at least thinking about whether your family could get by with just one vehicle.

To work out if you are one-car ready, here are some of the questions you should ask:

What are the running costs of your second car? All the costs of running a second car need to be compared to the costs of whatever alternative you consider, for example carpooling, public transport or lift clubs for kids. Bear in mind, though, that your first car will be used more, so you will be paying more for petrol every month and for more frequent maintenance and services.

What are my weekly transport needs? It’s important to sit down as a family and look at every aspect of your weekly schedule to work out what alternatives could be put in place. You also need to consider how you can change your schedule to make downscaling a reality, for example working from home on certain days or scheduling all your meetings for one day of the week.

How will we manage the children’s schedules? Remember that kids have unpredictable and varied schedules. Will you be able to drop and collect the kids from school, get them to extra murals, ferry them to and from play dates, and generally meet their day-to-day needs? Can you set up a lift club or arrange after care to reduce the number of lifts needed in a week?

How will the person without a car get around? South Africa’s public transport network has improved and there are lots of options available for people without cars. It’s also possible to put a plan in place to share a ride to work or the gym with friends or colleagues, or arrange a lift club with other parents at your children’s school.

What is our emergency plan? Remember that the best-laid plans often go awry, so be sure to have a backup plan in place for things that go wrong. This can be as simple as making sure you have an Uber account, to having a friend or family member you can call in a crisis.

What one-car families have to sayWe spoke to two families who have made the transition to one car.

Peter says that having only one car didn’t work for their family at all, and as soon as they could buy a new one, they did. “It was horrible. Coordinating two schedules and life logistics put a huge amount of emotional pressure on our relationship. Racing home through traffic to hand Carla the baton so that she could race to yoga to soothe her frayed nerves was extremely stressful. We will never do it again.”

Ian, on the other hand, finds it easy to share the car and use public transport when they need to. “Claire drops me off in the morning, and I Uber home in the afternoon. The cost of the trip is about R50 or just over R1 000 per month. If you assume the monthly costs of owning and maintaining a modest second car add up to say R2 000, we’re saving at least R1 000 per month. Of course, this depends on how far you live from work – at some point Uber no longer becomes viable.”

The bottom line Owning two cars is a luxury. If money is tight and you can find a way to make public transport or carpooling work for your family, you can save money by downscaling to one car. Just be sure to do the maths, plan properly, and consider all alternatives before you trade in your second vehicle.

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