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#1
Old 07-28-2013, 09:01 PM
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Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Back in the Mitten
Posts: 2,031
Should we trade two cars for one?

My wife and I began working out of the same office a few months ago, so we carpool daily now. Our job does require some travel, but we can rent a car whenever we need to for work and get it reimbursed (as long as its work-related driving).

Wed like to trade our 2012 Kia Sportage and 2008 Saturn Astra for a used 2008-2010 Chevy Traverse (or similar) with 7-passenger seating. We have two kids now (Three years and one year ole), and sometimes we need to take a third adult on trips in our family car. Right now this takes either squeezing someone between the child seats without being able to buckle in or even sit straight or taking a second car; there is no comfortable way for anyone over 110 pounds to fit between the seats.

The Astra is paid off, which is nice, but its only worth about $6K as a trade in. We owe about that much more on the Kia than its worth we had to trade in a broken car we still owed on to get it, so its much more upside down than Id like.

Here are the pros and cons I see to trading both cars in for a bigger used car:
Pros:
  • Our insurance costs should go down
  • Maintenance costs should go down
  • Wed get a bigger car thats a better size for our needs
  • We could pay it off sooner than the Kia

Cons:
  • Wed only have one car
  • If one of us goes to the store on the weekend, the other is stranded
  • If something happens to the one car, theres no backup
  • Were getting an unknown with a used car
  • Gas mileage is far worse on a bigger vehicle

So, Dopers, any opinions on this? Has anyone successfully gone from a two-car household to a one-car household? Anyone done it and regretted it?
#2
Old 07-28-2013, 09:14 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2003
Location: Vegas
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wmulax93 View Post
Cons:
  • Wed only have one car
  • If one of us goes to the store on the weekend, the other is stranded
  • If something happens to the one car, theres no backup
  • Were getting an unknown with a used car
  • Gas mileage is far worse on a bigger vehicle

So, Dopers, any opinions on this? Has anyone successfully gone from a two-car household to a one-car household? Anyone done it and regretted it?
I have some observations about the cons list.

Only having one car seems like it's no problem for you, since you both go to the same place every day.

You can go to the store whenever you want. Just plan on doing it when the other person doesn't plan on leaving. It's a very flexible task.

Keeping a "backup" car is much much more expensive than the most expensive alternative, which is to take a taxi in an emergency, or rent a car if it's for a couple of days.

I've owned used cars all my life, until my most recent car. I'll never buy used again, because of the same uncertainty, or "unknown" that you mentioned. A not-insignificant amount of stress comes with driving a used car vs. a new one, in my opinion.

Gas mileage is much worse in a bigger vehicle. Another fair point.

To be honest, I'd consider trading the two cars one small new car, instead of a big used car. Depending on how often you actually need the extra space in the back, it might be better to just rent a big vehicle for those occasions, if it's something like 3 or 4 times a year. Of course I can't walk in your shoes, so I'm not sure whether that's a realistic option for you. YMMV.
#3
Old 07-28-2013, 09:31 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 6,061
What are the options in terms of mass transit and taxi service in your area?

My reaction would be to keep the Astra and trade the KIA in for a bigger car. To cut expenses on the Astra you might drop comprehensive/collision coverage and just have liability. How much would just liability plus license fees be for this car?

Or do the trade (KIA for the bigger car) and try an experiment: only use the big car as much as possible for a few months. Keep track of how much you end up using the Astra and if it is very little sell it.

While you two are currently working out of the same office what is the probability this will continue for the next few years?
#4
Old 07-28-2013, 09:41 PM
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Join Date: Jul 1999
Posts: 10,202
How walkable is your neighborhood? One very real issue is that with one car, if someone needs it on the weekends, someone else is stuck in the house with two small children, which can be a challenge.

That said, we have a small child and one car. It's very manageable because there are any number of parks, grocery stores, the library, etc. within two miles. I take my car to work every day and my husband walks the baby the park, the library, etc. They make a day of it. You may well have more of that sort of stuff than you realize: when you have ready access to a car, "walking distance" shrinks to about 100 yards. Things I used to think were five miles away are less than two. You do need a good stroller that is well suited to the type of walking you will be doing.
#5
Old 07-28-2013, 10:34 PM
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Location: Back in the Mitten
Posts: 2,031
We have a 15 mile commute to our daycare, and another two miles from there to our office. Pubic transit and taxis aren't an option where we are for where we need to go.

As far as keeping the Astra and getting rid of the Kia... we're $6K upside down on the Kia. That's one of the major points of this whole thing; the Astra would be offsetting that in a trade-in. Plus, with two young kids, two adults, and a stroller, where do a week's worth of groceries fit in an Astra? How do I, a 6-foot-tall man who usually drives, not crush the legs of the little girl sitting behind me in that tiny-ass car? We've used it for commuting before; it sucks.

As far as the walkability of my neighborhood goes, we just got (literally last week) an off-brand grocery at the corner, about 3/4 of a mile from the house. While it's nice for picking up milk, it doesn't have a good selection of produce. Plus, we have a Meijer within a 15-minute drive, and that let's us take care of ALL of our weekly shopping - groceries, clothing for the kids, cat litter, and anything else that's needed. I like to minimize it down to that one trip weekly if I can.
#6
Old 07-28-2013, 11:16 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2012
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Wouldn't it be better to just sell a paid off car and then use the cash down? I have never traded a car and have never known anyone that got as much for a trade as they could have easily sold it for. It actually makes me upset when friends and family trade cars in because they always get less than I personally could pulled out of my pocket and given them that day.
#7
Old 07-29-2013, 05:34 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Montana
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Quote:
Originally Posted by actualliberalnotoneofthose View Post
Wouldn't it be better to just sell a paid off car and then use the cash down? I have never traded a car and have never known anyone that got as much for a trade as they could have easily sold it for. It actually makes me upset when friends and family trade cars in because they always get less than I personally could pulled out of my pocket and given them that day.
I generally agree, but this is often easier said than done with a relatively new car like the OP's where financing is likely to be involved. Getting a bank to finance a private party transaction is a pain in the butt if you have decent credit and may be close to impossible if you don't. I bought a fairly new truck this way and it took about three weeks between me telling my bank "hey, I need to buy a truck" and getting the guy his money.
#8
Old 07-29-2013, 06:27 AM
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Join Date: Jul 1999
Posts: 10,202
Quote:
Originally Posted by wmulax93 View Post
We have a 15 mile commute to our daycare, and another two miles from there to our office. Pubic transit and taxis aren't an option where we are for where we need to go.
I think the issue is if they are an option for where you don't need to go: for once-in-a-while weirdness where there is some sort of conflict. It's almost a psychological as well as a practical thing: if you've always had your own car that you can use on demand, it feels wrong to call a cab and pay someone. But in reality, $50 for a car ride three times a year is nothing compared to the cost of maintaining a second vehicle.

Quote:
As far as the walkability of my neighborhood goes, we just got (literally last week) an off-brand grocery at the corner, about 3/4 of a mile from the house. While it's nice for picking up milk, it doesn't have a good selection of produce. Plus, we have a Meijer within a 15-minute drive, and that let's us take care of ALL of our weekly shopping - groceries, clothing for the kids, cat litter, and anything else that's needed. I like to minimize it down to that one trip weekly if I can.
The issue, IME, is not whether you can walk to the grocery store because you need stuff. It's if you can leave the house if your spouse has the car and the one year old is restless and the five year old is being a brat. Feeling stranded in the house with kids is rough. Being able to put the baby in the stroller and walk anywhere-the park, a junk store, the library, McDonald's--really makes one car a lot more sustainable.
#9
Old 07-29-2013, 08:13 AM
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Join Date: May 1999
Location: da UP, eh
Posts: 13,089
We're a one-car family for half the year. I have a convertible that's garaged 4-6 months a year. Other than that, we get along with one car.

Mr. Athena and I both work at home, but for a while I worked downtown (a 10-minute drive). That got a little old, but we made it through 2 years not dying for another car.

Really, we don't have that much of a problem with it. No kids, so that's one thing different, but honestly it's not *that* hard to deal with. Like you mentioned, the big difficulty is when one of us needs to take off for a few days, mostly work-related. In that case, we rent cars. Even if the company isn't reimbursing us, a few days of car rental is WAY cheaper than a car payment.

Heck, we can't even justify buying a new car. Our main vehicle is 13 years old. But we put so few miles on it - about 2K/year - that we just can't get our heads around another car payment, especially since it runs great (though it's starting to look pretty beat up).

There are occasionally situations where one of us is stuck at home while the other has the car, but we usually work it out.
#10
Old 07-29-2013, 09:37 AM
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One thing is that keeping a second car doesn't have to be that expensive if you don't drive it much. The trick is getting an older car that you don't have to insure for anything other than liability. With most cars, doing the periodic maintenance on a calendar instead of the odometer means basically two oil changes a year. I have an old SUV that transitioned from daily driver to backup car and it basically costs $30 a year in registration, it adds about $100 a year to my insurance and I would spend $60 changing the oil twice if I didn't do those myself. So basically less than $200 a year, although YMMV depending on how registration and insurance is in your area. I think in a given year it usually pays for itself compared to getting a rental car when stuff comes up, and is way more convenient.

So, to the OP, what I would do (keeping in mind I generally don't mind wheelin' and dealin') is sell or trade the Kia and get the Traverse and then attempt to sell the Astra to a private party. Once it sells (if it sells) use $3-4k of the proceeds to buy a decent 10-15ish year old car to be the spare.
#11
Old 07-29-2013, 10:19 AM
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We were a single car family when my husband and I both worked at the same location. We maintained that status for another year after I moved on to another job and it was annoying but workable.

Based on your schedule you should be fine for now but I would recommend using your savings to increase your emergency fund until it's at the point where, should your employment situation change, you can afford to pick up a second car relatively quickly. Nothing worse than needing a new job and being unable to search in a reasonable area due to transportation limitations.
#12
Old 07-29-2013, 11:33 AM
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Join Date: Mar 1999
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Posts: 9,039
You have multiple kids, how active will they be in extracurriculars? We definately needed 2 cars when the kids were ages 4-15 just to get them to various practices, study groups, games, plays, recitals, etc. Sometimes two cars didn't seem like enough since we had 3 kids.

I live in the 'burbs with no access to public transport.

Last edited by Doctor Jackson; 07-29-2013 at 11:33 AM.
#13
Old 07-29-2013, 11:57 AM
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Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 16,504
At 2 different times in our 26 yr marriage we intentionally went down to 1 car. Our main motivation was to avoid the costs of insuring/mainting/registering a car that got used regularly. Also, early on we had only a 1-car garage/driveway. We did it for several years when our family was just getting started, and then again about 15 years.

It worked out just fine. It DID, however, require coordination. You have to mentally get used to not having a car at your disposal every moment of every day. Your cons mention being "stranded," or no alternative if it breaks down. Well, with planning, you don't need to feel "stranded." Hopefully there are some things the carless folk can do in/around the house, or within walking/biking distance. Hopefully you live somewhere where you can increase your errands done walking/biking. And you can always use a garage that provides loaners or rent a car during repairs.

I echo the observations that you can rent a second car on the rare occasions you are unable to coordinate use of the one vehicle - or a larger vehicle than your one, for far less than the cost of insurance/upkeep.

Sounds like you guys' finances are a little tight. IMO, going from 2 cars to 1 is likely to be one of the biggest things you could do to improved your balance sheet. But - as with most savings - you have to acknowledge that you would be giving something up in exchange. Congrats for even thinking this way. It shows financial maturity/responsibility far too many folk lack.
#14
Old 07-29-2013, 09:50 PM
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Posts: 5,248
Sell the Astra and put the money toward paying down the Kia. The Astra is out (or soon to be out) of warranty. The Kia still has warranty left. Either way you are making a payment. If you find that you really want a different car after that, then you won't have any negative equity on the Kia and you can trade it.
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