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Old 07-02-2008, 10:59 AM   #1
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How many cars in your driveway?

There was a question posed in another thread asking if families really need more than one vehicle. It's an interesting question, perfect for a lazy evening around a campfire...but since we only have keyboards and virtual language, I'm up for the discussion here.

I'm 46, grew up in northern NJ, family of 5, Dad worked two physical jobs, Mom went to work when I was 10 at a nearby University in one of the offices. Until my mother went to work, we had one car. If my mother needed to do the shopping, she would drive my dad to work, run her errands, and then pick him up again. Once the kids got older, she'd send one, two or all three of us to the supermarket either on foot or with our bikes to pick up a few things during the week. When she got a job, we they got another car. That lasted for a while, until my dad switched jobs and was able to use a company vehicle (not a car, more like a delivery van). We went back to one car and the company vehicle. My brother got the family hand me down car when he was 17, Mom got a new car. (never brand new, new 'used'). When I was 17, I borrowed whatever car was available, putting in gas each time, till I was 18 and bought my own car. My sister did the same thing. Soon, we were a family of 5 with 5 cars in the driveway.
Each person had their own schedule to follow and gas was easily affordable. Back in the 80s, practically everyone with a license had their own car. As a society, we became accustomed to picking up and going whenever we desired. Why wait for public transportation when I can just get up and go at my leisure? Families grew in a direction that didn't necessitate combining schedules, looking for employment in public transportation friendly areas, arranging play dates for 3 year olds in towns miles apart, driving teen agers everywhere.

We all know what the current state of affairs is now. Gas is bordering on unaffordable to middle and lower classes. Teens and young adults who have part time 'date money' jobs can no longer to afford to buy gas at all. Families with kids in multiple after school activities use up the weekly gas purchase just taking kids to places they 'need' to go. Families who drive to summer vacation spots cannot afford the gas needed to get there.

Yet, we've cushioned ourselves into our lives with multiple cars quite deeply. We married and each spouse has jobs in opposite directions. We had kids and each kid has social obligations and clubs. We shop like we were feeding an army. Our teens want to date/go to the mall/have jobs after school.

Is it too late now to turn back to the way it was in 1950? I'm not suggesting the mother stay home... When does it become 'enough'? Can we simply change our lives, our livelyhoods because gas is so expensive? Would it be enough for a few families to change, or does the entire nation have to change?

I think of Europe...and the tiny cars they drive. I think of how they all take public transportation, or walk, or ride bikes. Is this way of life what it would have been like here, had we never had the boon we experienced in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s? Think about that. Europe was busy rebuilding after two world wars, everything was scarce and the price of gas was always exhorbitant. Here in the USA, we didn't have to rebuild anything here. We just grew and grew, industrially, scientifically, etc. It's clear we went in an entirely different direction from the rest of the world.

Long post, I know. Thanks for reading this far. In my house, now....my son, 22 years old, has his own car, purchased brand new. I have my own car, also purchased brand new. My daughter, 19 works in NYC, doesn't own a car, and commutes via public transportation into the city. I also work in NYC and take public transportation as well. Technically, that would free up my car for my son to use, which could drop us to a one car family. However, there are times when I want or need to be somewhere, and a car of my own is necessary. Does it matter then, if we have two cars, yet usually only use one? Would it be better for the country if people just made better use of the vehicles they have, rather than have to give one up, if indeed it ever came to that? Could we ever make such drastic changes?


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Old 07-02-2008, 11:08 AM   #2
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None are in the driveway...we use the garage.

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Old 07-02-2008, 11:10 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by VeraBlue View Post
I think of Europe...and the tiny cars they drive. I think of how they all take public transportation, or walk, or ride bikes. Is this way of life what it would have been like here, had we never had the boon we experienced in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s? Think about that. Europe was busy rebuilding after two world wars, everything was scarce and the price of gas was always exhorbitant. Here in the USA, we didn't have to rebuild anything here. We just grew and grew, industrially, scientifically, etc. It's clear we went in an entirely different direction from the rest of the world.
VB, you are being to kind to us Europeans. Yes, of course our car choice is usually drmatically smaller engined than the average US choice, but only CITY dwellers tend to be habitual PT users even here.

DH and I have made a concious choice to reamin a one car family. This works fo us because I don't work and he works in London. I DRIVE him to the train station on Monday morning and DRIVE to collect him on Friday nights. The rest of the time he uses public transport.

As it happens, I will be getting the train to London on Monday too, but somewhat grudgingly, because I know, even with our fuel prices making yours look lovely, I could drive to London cheaper than my Train ticket will cost. Even pay the congestion charge, and one hours parking, on my fare a lone, DH's fare will get us another few hours of parking at 30 pounds an hour.

The reason I'm taking he train is because it will be convenient at the other end, and, as I am saying to GB in t'other post, it will eventually be convienece and fiscal and financial presure that force the world to change again.

I drive a Ford Puma. He's a bit old and battered now, I had him second hand and 8 month old. I've driven across Europe and back, with the puddy cats and stuffed full of what I'd need while living there. HE IS A TINY CAR and I often gruble about what I must have been thinking getting sucha car when he's low on our rural roads and small.

We're hoping I can keep him on the road for another two years, then we'll look at choices.

ETA: second cars of course can be occasional, and prudent if you already own it and can tax and insure it cheaply. You can possibly insure it on a low milage deal, saving there!
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Old 07-02-2008, 11:19 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by bowlingshirt View Post
None are in the driveway...we use the garage.

Our lives all go in different directions. Now that my husband has a company car we still have his other one to pull the work trailer that is sometimes needed for mulch, moving furniture, or things like that. All total we have 4 cars for 3 people. The 3 cars are definitely needed, as public transportation is not that easy to get to where we live. I don't know how we would do it if we each did not have our own car. Gone are the days when my mother would drop my father off at work and pick him up on the days she needed to go grocery shopping or had some sort of appointment.

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Old 07-02-2008, 11:24 AM   #5
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My van and the DW's Accord. Both used. The only thing I buy new are bikes, and that's a rarity anymore.

I like driving my own vehicle, having the seat where I left it, the radio programmed how I like it, etc.

I could wake up 2 hours early to drive her to work, but then she would have to wait 3 more hours at work for me to pick her up. She actually works two towns over so the gas situation isn't really an issue for her.

There are, however, people who commute very long distances every day. Those are the ones really getting hit. Hopefully many of them can carpool.

I'm pretty sure the SUV boom/fad is over now. Remember seeing all those new Hummers on the road a few years back? They're all in used car lots now. Thats all I saw while shopping the past month or so. Some delerships wouldn't even take my Durango as a trade in because they were overloaded with SUV's. I tried to get 2 grand for it, but had no bites. I just pulled the plates and parked it at my office.
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Old 07-02-2008, 11:25 AM   #6
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We just got a second vehicle for our family after a year with only one. I am a stay-home mom to a preschooler. My husband has a long commute to work- he drive 54 miles each way. But because I am able to stay home, we were able to make it work with just one car this past year. It was difficult however, as we have been accustomed to having separate vehicles.

I think our society is just not set up for one vehicle per family. First, we have the sprawling suburbs built up around our cities which makes long commutes a necessity- until public transportation is provided in the 'burbs, that is. For now, I can take a train into the NY or Stamford or another city near me, but I still have to drive to get to the train station.

Then there's the issue of getting the kids to and from school and social/afterschool activities. Now that my preschooler is old enough to start kindergarten in the fall, I just bought a car of my own again- a 2008 Chevy Malibu- no more SUV's for either one of us- only smaller, more economical cars for us. Unfortunately the times when we could let our kids walk to school or the store are gone. The streets, even in "safe" neighborhoods just aren't safe anymore.

So, even with only one parent working outside the home, it has been tough to do with only one vehicle. Not to mention that the cost savings isn't as much as you'd expect because there is more wear and tear put on that one car and therefore more maintenance costs.

I think we can all use our cars more efficiently and that will be our family's plan for the near future. I don't think making the change to one-vehicle per family will come easy for us, especially without more alternatives to using our own cars, like more public transportation or reliable ride-sharing or car-sharing.

Interesting topic, thanks for putting it out there.
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Old 07-02-2008, 11:27 AM   #7
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Since dh works 1 hours away from home, we each have one. (but they go in the garage) Oldest son will be 16 this fall, so there may or may not be another set of wheels. I don't want to give up the third garage, since that's where I keep my tools (yes, my tools) but, at least we have a lot of driveway space.

(But with these gas prices, thank goodness the grocery store is a quick walk away!)

PS - I STILL see Hummers EVERYWHERE! I'm assuming these people have money trees growing in their back yards.
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Old 07-02-2008, 11:27 AM   #8
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Not sure if I'm really in the best position to fairly answer this....

We have 2 cars, but my wife works from home and the second car (old and completely paid off) mostly sits in the garage other then infrequent trips to the vet, the dentist, etc. We probably put less than 1000 miles a year on it. (which is maybe 3 tanks of gas.... on a 12.5 gallon tank)

Then there's my vehicle which is a discount lease through my employer. It gets used for most everything we do.

So yes, in a pinch we could probably make do with only one vehicle without too much trouble.

Edited to add:
I don't think the issue is the owning of more than one vehicle per family as much as what the vehicles are and how they're used.

A perfect example is my friend. He lives 15 minutes from work (by car).... Does he *really* need the 4x4 F-150 that gets about 14mpg for that drive? No. But that's a perfect example of what I see on the road every morning. Big trucks blowing by me at 80-85 miles per hour... Getting 12-14 miles per gallon, if they're lucky.

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Old 07-02-2008, 11:30 AM   #9
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That we use? 1. In different stages of restoration / repair? 4-5.
We don't need the 2nd, for us it was a waste.
When my husband owned his own semi, he drove that all day. I don't go anywhere much during the day with the kids, but we only needed 1 car for that.
Now that he is driving someone else's truck, we share the 1 car still, because he works overnights. I only work the days he doesn't. It doesn't make for much alone time, but we'll just deal for now. It'll be more fun when the kids are grown anyway. :)

We probably should have another for overnight for me while he's gone, in case I need to run a kid the the ER or something, but I'm not terribly worried about it. My FIL is looking for another something for us to have around, but I'm not in a hurry.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.....
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Old 07-02-2008, 11:32 AM   #10
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4 in driveway, 3 in garage, husband's got a little problem with cars same as me with butterdishes < but at least, they're cheap!

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