Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The end of the one-car-family dilemma

Saturday was a typical day for a homeschooling family with multiple children: two different activities scheduled in two different places at the same time.  Looking back at my old calendar from the non-liberated minivan days, we were in two (or more) different places at the same time quite frequently.  Back then, Minivan-Mom might have lamented about our one-car-family dilemma, not to mention having only one able-bodied parent to play chauffeur.  I probably would have dropped 3/5 of the kids at the earlier activity, driven the other 2/5 to the later event, driven back to collect the first three, swung around for the two, and finally driven home.  After all, the two activities were each less than five miles from our casa, and only two miles between each other.  A 16-mile roundtrip would have consumed only about one gallon of gas.  

The benefits: 5/5 of children attend activities while Handi-Dad rests quietly at home
The costs: stressed mom, carbon emissions, $3.50 in gas, no assistance for Handi-Dad at home 

Still, I would have commended myself for a job well done:  keeping activities <5 miles from home, combining trips, keeping costs low, and still not giving in to the American two car family standard.

Prepping a hole for tree planting
Not so for Carfree Family!  After a year of being liberated from our one mini-van, we’re proficient with mass transit mapping and travel via TriMet.  Handi-Dad has been transformed into Carfree-Dad, 120 pounds lighter, suffering less pain, happier, reconnected with nature and himself, and more involved with the family.  On this Saturday, Carfree-Dad enjoyed participating with 2/5 of the kids at their activity, while Carfree-Mom reveled in planting trees with the other 3/5.

The benefits: 5/5 of children attend activities, unstressed parents, quality parent-child interactions, low carbon emissions (busses run on bio-fuels), outdoor enjoyment, increased physical activity
The costs: $10.50 in bus fare, 20 minutes extra travel time each direction

If you’re not already convinced that the carfree scenario wins out in the cost-benefit comparison, here is additional food for thought:

The $10.50 bus fare is really less expensive than $3.50 in gas, considering the other monetary costs associated with owning a car.  This may be important information if you are weighing monetary costs more heavily than environmental costs.  

The 40 minutes total extra travel time is exaggerated considering the total time Minivan-Mom would have spent chauffeuring between activities.  It also counts for less when considering the travel time spent walking to and from bus stops, which was multi-purpose for achieving physical activity and fresh air time goals.

The value of quality family time, increased physical fitness, decreased stress, and being outdoors : PRICELESS.  Going carfree has been not only the end of our one-car-family dilemma, but the beginning of more joyful times ahead.


  1. I like your cost-analysis and savings measures here man. The truth really is that one-car family is achievable. We have just been blinded as a society by those cheap tricks that most dealerships and bank re-financing schemes present in our faces. But good job on your consistent stride. Keep it up! car hire uk

  2. I, personally, don't believe that having only one car for the whole family is such a great idea. It brings a lot of stress especially if different family members has their own agenda for the day. There are several used cars in Salford which are sold for a good price. I think having at least two cars for a big family will be a huge benefit.

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