How To Live With Only One Car

The single biggest thing that helps you Mutilate Your Mortgage is making continually higher repayments. Not a once off at Tax Time, not switching to fortnightly payments or getting an offset. Make your repayment more and be consistent. That’s it! So today I’m addressing the number three top expense, how to live a happy life with just one car.

Now a few years ago DW and I had two cars. One was my ancient 1996 Mazda and the other was her newer, fancier (and MUCH faster) Mazda MPS. The newer Mazda was great fun to drive with its very fast acceleration up hills and on freeways however the older Mazda wasn’t the best. It was still going OK and was quite good by 1996 standards (air bags, power windows, cruise control etc) but was breaking down more and more. So I decided to see what could be done about reducing our expenses in the “car” department.

The easiest way to do this is to just remove one of the cars entirely. Obviously this had to be my older Mazda as it was costing the most and being used the least. However first we had to reduce our use of the cars to just one. I would always drive to work meaning DW wouldn’t have a car if we only had one. So over time I switched to catching public transport into and out of work. This, along with a few other minor timetable rearranges, made the older Mazda virtually unused and so I then started to consider selling it off for good as an honest possibility.

After reviewing how we used both cars it was pretty clear that about 99.99% of the time, we either both used the same car or one of us would remain at home while the other would go out for sport or something. But what about that other 0.01% of the time??? Sure, it didn’t happen often but it’d be a REAL pain in the ass when it did! And that’s when I realised something quite relaxing. The cost of keeping the extra car for that 0.01% time was SO much, that even if I didn’t count petrol, I could take about thirty $50 cab rides through the year and still pay “less” for transport! And seeing as I would never need THAT many cab rides in one year, I decided to sell that car off right then and there.

Minimum Cost: Rego ($700) + Insurance ($500) + Services ($300) = $1,500 (or 30 X $50 cab rides!)

Knowing that if worse came to worse and BOTH of us needed a car urgently at some time I could just call a cab and spend virtually any amount I wanted on it, and we’d STILL be better off financially took a big weight off my shoulders about the “what if” scenarios. What if we have two different parties at two different places? What if I have to pick up X and DW has to go to sport at the same time? It didn’t matter! All would still be good and as such, we’ve saved thousands over the years.

The Cost Of Cars

Most people know cars are expensive but I don’t really think they “know”. Some people spend $10,000 buying a decent second hand, practical car. Others take out $60,000 loans to buy essentially the same thing but prettier (and faster). But that of course is just the start. Over the life of a car you’ve got things like…

– Rego (~$720/year now)

– Petrol (say, 15,000km at $1.40/Lt and 8L/100km? = $1,680/year)

– Insurance (anywhere from $300 if you’re 50+ years old to $2,000 if you’re driving a turbo after crashing last year)

– Servicing (for a reliable, new car this can be $300/year or so including tires all the way up to who knows what for cars that blow their turbo)

This totals anywhere from $3,000 up to maybe $5,000 every year, PER CAR! Which is quite insane and clearly why Transport is usually the third biggest cost of a home budget after Mortgages and Food. Now imagine if you could live with exactly the same satisfaction as you do now… but be saving $5,000 every year for the rest of your life. That’s what we did and it’s what you can do too.

Not Just Money:

Now it’s pretty obvious that having one car instead of two is going to save you a good chunk of money but that’s not the only thing that’s great about having one car. Most people focus on the negative things like having to *gasp* actually be remotely organised when planning things but there’s plenty of positive things too.

One big thing is that most families have one good car and one bad car. Sure, the “bad” car might not be THAT bad, but it’ll still be older or break down more often or use up WAY more fuel than the other. Owning only one car has a big benefit of reduced complexity. There’s no need to have two spots to park the cars, there’s no need to fill up two cars, no need to organise insurance (and constantly shop around for a better deal every year) for two cars, no need to clean two cars, no need to service two cars and so on. As I said, our older Mazda wasn’t too bad, but it was always on my mind that it COULD break down again at any time. It might just be a dead battery or the air con failing but it still causes minor issues and comes with costly repair bills. So when that car left our lives a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders, now we only had to take care of and worry about the nice, new car that virtually always runs great.

Another very important benefit is that having only one car promotes a much healthier lifestyle. We both walk more (to/from the station to catch the train and to/from the station to work) which is said to be one of the best things you can do for your body. I also enjoy that walking now too as I get to give the dog exercise as well as get some fresh air. It’s become routine and I’m sure will make me considerably healthier in the long term even if it seemed like a bit of a hassle at first. On top of that it means we’re in a car less often on average and considering driving is pretty much THE most dangerous activity people do on Earth (in terms of shear deaths it causes) I’d consider that a good bonus!

And finally there’s a few other extra’s such as it is all better for the environment (reduced resource use) and I find we now spend more time together while driving around. Instead of each of us hoping into our own cars and driving off in separate directions, we’ll both hop into the same car and get to catch on things which we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do. So all round it has done us both a great deal of good both financially and in general.

But I Could Never Do That!

Is what most people say when presented with only having one car. Or they might not even respond and just scoff instead. If you live in Florence, Italy and you can walk from one end to the other in 20 minutes it’s a little easier to be without a car… but in Australia it can take 3 hours of driving and you’ll STILL be in the same damn city! We space things out a tad more over here and cars, cars, cars is the result.

Now I’m sure you can very quickly think of many legitimate reasons why YOU could never only use one car but unfortunately they’ve all likely been solved by someone else meaning you’re just being a wuss. I get it. We used to have two cars and it was very handy and neither of us thought it’d be “good” to give one of them up. What about when DW goes to sport on Monday night and I don’t’ get home from work until 8pm??? What then Mortgage Mutilator!??? Well the answer is simple, change!

We couldn’t have dropped one of our cars if I was still driving to work all the time. Nor could we have done it if we didn’t organise our life around only having one car and doing things together instead of just running off on our own when we wanted. And it doesn’t have to be sudden change either! I transitioned into taking public transport to work over a month or two all whilst still owning two cars. After that the older Mazda was barely (but still) used so I tried to go one month without using it at all. I didn’t even try and I did it, so then I went two months, then three… then it became natural to just never use it which then just made me want to get rid of it even more.

Sit down and have a think about the main uses for when you use BOTH cars, then try and solve those situations one by one. Eventually you’ll be just doing your everyday thing and finding that you never seem to use that older car… it just sits there and costs you money. So you really should sell it!

And a year later you’ll wonder why on Earth everyone seems to have to have two (or more!) cars all the time… damn crazy I tell you! 


How To Live With Only One Car is a post from:!

For the newer readers... if you’re interested in learning more about being mortgage free in under 10 years, automatically and without cutting back on the things you love... You’ll probably like How To Pay Off Your Mortgage Early, Go From No Idea To Mortgage Free In Under 10 Years.

The benefits include: 1) How to pay off your mortgage faster than 99% of people with one hour a month of work 2) How to get rid of your debt and have the freedom to spend money on the things you love, guilt free 3) Clear outline of how to setup your expenses, mortgage and general finance 4) How offset accounts work and how to get the same result without being gouged by the big banks 5) How to cut through the crap and focus on the things that truly matter when taking down a mortgage 6) How to adjust the strategy so it works for you, even if you have kids, even if you only have one income 7) How to do all of these things and maintain a normal social life (and never be cheap).


Alex Shoolman

How To Pay Off A Mortgage Early - What if you could be mortgage free in under 10 years, automatically and without cutting back on the things you love?
Editor in Chief at Alex Shoolman - Learn how to improve your life with technology, see where it's going in the future and how you can take advantage of it.
Editor in Chief at Mutilate The Mortgage - We help people go from "no idea" to mortgage free in under 10 years.

  • Chris

    Why long gap between posts

    • To be honest I go in and out of the “writing mood” so that can hamper consistent posts. I also don’t like to repeat the same thing over and over and mutilating a mortgage is a rather simple equation to solve.
      I also don’t like doing “fluff” pieces so I only write something new when I think it will really, truly help people to know that information.
      If there are any particular topics you (or others) need help with that I haven’t already covered, let me know and I’ll hopefully be able to help though!

  • Jan

    It would be great if you did an update post on how you are personally track with your goals. Even though you think you might be repeating yourself with the same old ‘formula’ it is always good to get a good kick up the a in terms of mortgage repayments

    • Noted!
      You are correct in that I don’t really like to repeat myself (especially when I can just link to it all in a previous post) but perhaps it is time for an update :-)

  • Tim

    would enjoy seeing your opinion and views on doing a similar savings technique to a deposit for a home instead of links to previous ones.

  • Tracey

    I ‘appreciate your very sensible post about being a single car household. We have only ever had one car and we’ve so far made it work for 11 years. My husband rides his bike to work most days and when he needs to, catches a lift with a colleague. I’m a stay at home mum with 2 small children, one at school, so I need the car during the day. (Husband is a teacher at a different school so he can’t do school runs and take the car). We have paid off the car that we have and might upgrade to something slightly larger in order to be able to fit an extra passenger, but otherwise we don’t have too much trouble only using one car. If you want to save money in your budget, it’s definitely worth considering.

    • Yup, even if you don’t drive that extra car 1km all year, it’ll still cost you around $750 for rego, $500-$1,000 for insurance depending on your age, car type, location etc and then probably another $300 or so for servicing (unless you’re badass and can do that all yourself). So Minimum $1,250, max $2,000+ per year and you haven’t even driven it any where! Crazy.

  • Is

    We would dearly love to manage with one car, but unfortunately it honestly wouldn’t work. My partner works at many different locations and needs his car available 24/7 for on call work. I home educate the kids, and with different activities they have every day, their education and social opportunities would be hugely curtailed if I didn’t have a car. But I agree, cars are a terrible money sink. I keep telling the kids that they should avoid owning a car for as long as possible.

    • When we first moved into our house (each with a car) it too would have been impossible (or at least very annoying) to do with just one. Most of the work though is not done AFTER you get rid of the second car, it’s actually done BEFORE hand. Reviewing you life and figuring out how to live with just one car. On call work is a tough one to get around however at the very least your partner should be able to claim that car as “all business” which helps a little. Even if you can’t go one car only, do try and reduce it as much as possible. Best case scenario is you were wrong in your original evaluation and worst case is you manage to cut down on your driving a bit. Win/Win either way :-)

      The other thing to keep in mind is that the main reason most people can’t do without two cars is because unlike most places in the world, you have to make it quite a bit of a focus here when buying a house to make sure you’re adequately close to trams/buses/trains/etc. Otherwise you end up 10km from the closest anything and THEN have “no choice” but to drive. Real Estate agents aren’t wrong when they say “location, location, location”, it’s just that you should ensure your location is “near work, near groceries/shops and near family/friends/activities”. That way the next time you move house, you ensure you’re within walking/biking distance of virtually all of your places of travel.

  • Ranil

    Have to say, great article and over all good advice through out the site.
    I have almost paid my mortgage with in around 10 years for a house worth around 4.6K and after reading this post, happy to say I have done most of the things mentioned in these articles, and it works !

    Good advice to all the fools out there, spending like crazy….

  • Shauna

    Excellent article.we are at this very point weighing up getting rid of the second car.Whereas I used to need it for my job I have since left ,I maybe use it twice a week .By selling this car we could pay off our other one then freeing up money for the mortgage.Having grown up in a family that didnt have a car at all i know you can survive without it…its just as you say,changing the way you do things.It really is a no brainer.

  • Karena

    Tough one! Would be interested to see if your view changed if you had kids.. I’m a minimalist and very frugal and paying double payments on the mortgage but one car just not an option for us with us being out often at same times plus kids school and activities. My kids live 60/40 between parents (40% me) and I’m now 35 mins from their school. Having said that me moving earlier this year to semi rural From expensive suburbs I was able to cut off $100K From the mortgage , leaving only small mortgage well worth it I believe incl the driving still , not to mention life style allowing us to live on one wage and me working when I choose to.. And my house & Car Insurance dropped a lot.. Plus to me I’d loose my independence greatly.. Having said all that I totally agree it’s a money sucker and it was a no brainier in your situation, but I think we all have our breaking point, mine is my car. Yet every other area of life I’m top notch in frugality & mindful spending/saving