Mr. T and I went nearly 9 years of marriage with one car. When we had our third child and then we had two kids in two different schools, things got trickier. Mr. T bike commutes fairly often and we talked about him doing it full time, but there was a time trade-off. He gets home about an hour later when he bike commutes and is only home for 1.5-2 hours with the kids before bedtime. We weren’t quite sure what to do. At the same time we were facing this predicament (November 2014), my cousin told us she was moving and they would sell us their 2010 Subaru Forester below trade-in value, so we bought it. 2015 was our first full year with 2 cars, so how much did it all cost us?
Car #1 – 2004 Nissan Sentra – Given to Mr. T in college by his parents who bought the basic model with cash for $10,000 – 118,000 miles.
- Registration: $170 (good for 2 years)
- Tire changeovers: $98
- New Headlights: $37.68
- New Windshield: $218 – a rock hit the windshield so hard on the highway, it shattered glass in the passenger seat. Luckily, no one was in it.
- Oil Pan heater: $35.93 – apparently they don’t sell an engine block heater for this model, so this is the best we can do (since we live in Alaska and all).
- Maintenance: $404.31 – The car just died after dropping our daughter off at school and was out of commission for a week until it was fixed.
Car #2 – 2010 Subaru Forester – Purchased for $17,000 cash from my cousin – 45,000 miles
- Registration: $170 (good for 2 years)
- Insurance: $743.78
- New Battery: $72.99
- Maintenance: $758.56 – This particular model of car is known for burning oil, apparently. It was an ongoing issue we knew about when we bought the car. I had the foresight to ask the Subaru dealership to change the name on the car ownership to my name (rather than telling them I bought it and having them subsequently open a new account under my name). This made the warranty still valid when the engine needed to be replaced. Even though the engine was covered, all of the maintenance surrounding it was not covered. Look closely at charges. They tried to charge me for a battery (which I had just replaced) as well as several other charges that were unnecessary and not asked for. I got this bill down from over $1200, so that was a win. Ironically, this happened the week the Sentra died – so we took our kids to school in the bike trailer for the week (luckily, this happened in the spring when it was warm outside).
- Total Gasoline: $1,056.47
- Total Parking fees (for trips to the museum downtown): $13
- Car Washes (we pay for these in the winter when the car gets so dirty, it makes all the kids dirty getting in): $54
TOTAL Cost: $4,423.64
This was an expensive year for car costs, so it’s a good year to analyze the value of the cars in our lives. I don’t expect the Sentra to die annually (this is only the second time, historically, it’s ever needed to be towed in over ten years of owning it) and I also don’t anticipate needing to replace the Forester’s engine again. But automobile costs always arise and it’s impossible to predict when or how much they will be.
This is a perfect example of a freedom now vs. freedom later discussion. We thought long and hard before leaping for the second vehicle. Every time we spend money, we ask ourselves: “Is this purchase worth the delay in freedom later?” For us, having two cars is worth it. It allows Mr. T to work a flexible schedule with the ability to make it to school events for the kids, run errands on the way home from work, and get home for quality time with the kiddos before bedtime. As a stay-at-home mom, having no car at home means I’m stuck when the weather is too cold or I have too many kids home to fit in the bike trailer. Having a car means I can take Penny to school across town, come home, take Florin to preschool, come home and work while Lui naps, and then pick Florin up and wait for Penny to come home on the bus (the morning bus leaves 2 hours before school starts, so we choose to drive her so she can sleep in an extra 1.5 hours!). I also have the freedom to pick sick kids up from school, etc. Having the Forester is also great for Alaska. Note that we don’t even have to get winter tires for the Forester because of its 4-wheel drive. It handles great in the snow. And we can much more easily fit our coolers of fish and all of our camping gear for our annual dipnetting trip.
Having children does not necessitate a second car. We successfully had 3 children for nearly a year with just one car. It was only when two kids ended up in two different schools that we even talked about the possibility of two vehicles. For us, Mr. T having over 250 hours more with our children annually is worth the cost of the second car.
What is your transportation situation? Have you analyzed all the costs?