How to Live as a One-Car Family

I sold my Toyota Matrix in January of 2018. We’ve been living as a one-car family ever since. We’ve reduced our vehicle expenses but cutting down on fuel costs, insurance, tags, parking and maintenance. Luckily we weren’t forced into selling my car. It was just a choice that made financial sense for us since we were on the road so often traveling in our van. And since then, we’ve realized that we don’t actually miss it. In this story we’re going to break down some of our top tips for how to live as a one-car family.

Choose your homebase wisely

If you’re planning on living as a one-car family it will make life a lot easier to live in an area where you (or the rest of your family) can get around without a vehicle. Maybe that means that those without the car can walk, ride a bicycle, carpool or even take public transportation. Though many people’s first thought is that you must then live in a big city to be able to do all of those things it’s not true. We’ve spent a good chunk of our time as a one-car family in Asheville and it’s hardly NYC or San Francisco. It’s much smaller but we can walk to our favorite coffee shop and bike to other places around town.

Make sure you have buy in

If your partner or spouse doesn’t want to (or can’t for logistical reasons) give up their vehicle (or reduce the family fleet to one), your plan might not get off the ground. To successfully live as a one-car family you’ll want to make sure that everyone who will be impacted is on board. But that doesn’t have to do with cars as much as it has to do with relationship dynamics and that’s a completely different blog post.

Keep the car that makes the most sense

a van near Devils Tower
We sold the car and kept the van (and bikes) so we could have adventures like this one near Devils Tower!

When we downsized, we sold a car that was really, really good to us but that had over 200,000 miles on it. We took good care of it and were happy to get $5,000 for it on Craigslist. The vehicle we were going to be relying on for is our current vehicle, our van Two! You can read tons more about it as well as the Wayfarer Conversion Kit we put in it. If you’re considering becoming a one-car family, think carefully about the vehicle you’re going to keep and the one you’re going to sell. You might want to consider mileage, age, how many passengers it can hold…


You knew I was going to say that didn’t you. Haha good on ya! Planning is totally necessary if you want to make it work with just one car in the fam. We’re just a family of two but it often requires communicating (dare I say over-communicating?) our plans to one another so that we can get to appointments on time. We’ve managed to make it work and so far it hasn’t been super inconvenient. In fact, it’s actually been the opposite. On more than one instance it’s been really sweet to get dropped off and turn around to see my person waving to me from the van. How do you make that happen? Plan!

Consider the alternatives and stay flexible

Sometimes knowing there’s a backup plan can make things seem a little less scary. And knowing that there’s a backup plan to your backup might help calm even the most anxious person wanting to downsize.

Below we’ve listed out the alternatives. Next to each item is the frequency with which we’ve used them.

  • Carpooling (a handful of times in one and a half years)
  • Walking (often – several times a week)
  • Biking (some before my bike was stolen)
  • Uber/Lyft (some – maybe once every two or three months)
  • Rent a car when necessary (once in one and a half years)

Test drive the lifestyle

Before going all in and getting rid of your vehicle so that you are a one-car family, consider testing the lifestyle out for a week or so. Though your car is still parked in your driveway, see if you can’t manage with just the one. If it seems to easy to just hop in and go, park it at a friends house during the trial period. Though initially it might be a little strange, you might just find that you don’t even miss it! I have moments where I see an old Matrix on the road and I get a little nostalgic but overall it’s worth the money that we save!

How to live as a one-car family recap

Living with just one vehicle isn’t practical for everyone. Before doing it, it was one of those things that I never even considered. I’d had my own car for over 23 years! Now that we’ve been at it for a while though, I can’t really see us owning a second vehicle (at least for a while).

Have you downsized to live as a one-car family? Are you considering doing so? We’d love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below.

Authentic Asheville is a team of two: Erin McGrady and Caroline Whatley. We are freelance web designers, photographers, writers and content creators and we are currently accepting projects.

Published by Erin McGrady

Erin McGrady is a filmmaker, photographer, and writer exploring Asheville and beyond. My work focuses on sharing about LGBTQ safe spaces, camper van life, and the outdoors.

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