There are few places in the United States that you can live without a car. Depending on your personal situation, you may need regular access to a larger vehicle. However, using a large gas guzzler as your daily driver could cost a great deal in terms of gas, maintenance and insurance.

Owning One Car vs Two

How Many Drivers In Your Household?

If you live alone or only have one driver in your household, two vehicles can be justifiable if you have different sizes for different purposes. A 20 minute commute to your office can be managed in a small, fuel efficient vehicle.

If you love to go on long road trips during your vacation and need room for partner, pets, suitcases or camping gear, a larger vehicle at that time will be necessary.

For those who enjoy access to this second vehicle, it’s critical to pay your vehicles off quickly. Making two car payments at the same time for the convenience of having two cars can quickly cause financial strangulation.

A simple way to add that second car once you pay off the first is to look for a student car. If you have an SUV that suits you for long trips, start looking for that second, more fuel efficient car early in the summer.

Families that include two or more drivers will need to do a lot of coordinating to get by on just one vehicle. If one adult can work from home, take the bus or get dropped off daily, you may be able to get by on just one car.

However, regular household needs such as errands and entertainment will require planning. A regular maintenance schedule will also be critical.

couple buying a car

Do You Have A Spot To Store Your Cars?

Owning two cars often means leaving one out exposed to the elements. Rain, sun, snow and wind can all be hard on your vehicles. You may also be at risk for vandalism and theft if at least one car sits out all the time.

If you only have a one car garage and you need two cars for your household, you and your partner or fellow driver may have to do the driveway shuffle each morning.

You can avoid these hassles by parking one vehicle on the street each night. If you’re willing to swap vehicles on a daily basis, you can also just take whichever vehicle is easier to get out of the driveway.

It’s also a good idea to get honest about your maintenance habits. Do you get regular oil changes? Do you monitor your tires carefully or just buy new when you suffer a blowout? Do you have health issues that make changing a tire or walking for help a serious challenge?

There are people who are ideal candidates for leasing a car. You may also do well to just limp along on one older, paid for vehicle until you actually need something newer or larger.

car parked on the street

What’s Your Driving Record?

As long as both vehicles are paid for, you can cut back to just liability insurance on both cars. If your driving record is rather bumpy, you may be paying extra to insure a vehicle that doesn’t get much use.

If you’re also making payments on this vehicle, the cost of owning it can quickly outweigh the benefit of having access to a larger or newer car.

If you’ve ever had your license pulled for tickets, you probably had to pay quite a lot to keep your car insured. Until that’s off your record, drive something basic that’s hopefully paid for, or pay it off as quickly as you can so you can drop that full coverage down to liability.

Never drive without insurance. You never want to get into a fender bender that leads to handcuffs. Even if an accident is not your fault, having to admit that you don’t have insurance could impact your ability to legally drive for a long time.

woman receiving a ticket from police

What’s Your Financial Situation?

If you own more than one car, it is possible to earn some back by renting your car out to other drivers on platforms such as Turo or Getaround. You will need to buy extra insurance to cover your risks when there’s someone else behind the wheel.

However, if you have a fun vehicle that is popular with other drivers, your earnings can be enough to cover costs such as insurance or maintenance.

Covering your payment by renting out your vehicle will require a lot of coordination. You may find that you actually don’t get to spend a lot of time driving your fun new car.

If owning something popular, such as a Jeep Wrangler, is important to you, all the drop-offs, pick-ups and contracting work may be worth the work.

Do take the time to carefully consider what a new car will do to your credit rating. Many of us have taken some hard financial hits in the past couple of years. If your credit rating is low, the interest expense on a new car loan and the higher insurance rates can quickly cut into the joy of owning a new car.

If your current vehicle is running well but rather ho-hum, stick with the boring vehicle and save that payment money for a down payment on your dream vehicle. Unless your household really needs two cars, you’re generally better off with something that suits 90% of your household needs.

couple looking at finances

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