Just Because

The new Honda Fit

New car at our house. Not, strictly speaking, needed. Shall I justify?

When Rom arrived in Canada in 2010, he immediately bought a car; I already had one. We both expected to use our own cars for daily commuting in different directions. He expected to be self-employed, but soon took a job with an employer. As it happened, his new office was near my workplace, so we commuted together in my car, and left his at home.

Later, my 7-year-old car engine failed because of bad repair decisions by the dealer. At that point I could have given up owning my own car and we could have shared Rom’s, but I balked. He had chosen a budget car with no options. I can’t drive without AC in the summer because I get too drowsy. I also don’t feel safe without power locks and windows. To top it off, I have issues around not having my own car. Earlier in my adult life, I had been dependent on others to drive me around, and I said never again.

Rom could have sold his car, and we could have bought a new one to share. But Rom was fond enough of his car to want it for running around on the weekends. Rom kept his Accent and I got a new Versa.

In retrospect, two things could have been different. Rom could have waited to buy a car until he got a job and knew what his driving needs would be. Or, we both could have bought cars that the other was willing to drive too, so that if we ever went down to one car, we’d both like it.

Next I had a work location change and ended up within walking distance of my library. Since I wasn’t able to drive him to work any more, Rom decided he didn’t want to deal with traffic or parking. He got a bus pass, and he’s been taking the bus to work for the past 4 years. This is a huge commitment on his part – it takes about 90 minutes each way, including wait times – versus a 40-minute drive.

I leave my car in the driveway except when I have meetings at other libraries. I have a few non-work commitments for which I drive about 4 times a week. Last year I drove 8000 km and Rom might have driven 1500. Rom’s car use declined to the point he was only going out once a week, sometimes only to “take the car for a run.”  He drove so little that he started having problems with the battery and tires. About a year ago, I started encouraging him to sell his car while it still had some resale value.

Things came to a head recently when Rom paid over $1000 for repairs that were caused wholly by disuse. We started talking about sharing a car. We had a good discussion about the amount of driving we do. Rom says he does not ever plan to take a car to work again, unless he changes jobs, and he is not planning to do so voluntarily. His driving patterns (or lack thereof) are well established – minimal shopping and errands on the weekends, and that is absolutely all. Similarly, my driving should stay the same unless I change work locations.

The logical thing to do would have been to sell Rom’s car and share mine. Both cars are paid for. We could have made a deal, such as splitting the ongoing costs of car ownership, or covering it proportionally, or just saying it’s my car and he can use it. Instead, we decided to sell or trade in both cars and buy a new one. Just because.

Here is where our unusual financial arrangements come into play. We both work full time, we both contribute an equal amount to household bills, and we keep the rest of our pay separate. We had each been paying to maintain our own cars. Now what? Rom was willing to pay 50% of the balance of a new car, even though he probably only does 10% of the driving.  I could have let him off the hook and said you can just drive “my” car when you need it.

Here’s how the final figures looked:

  • The sale of Rom’s car contributed 12% toward the new one
  • The trade-in of my car contributed 28% toward the new one
  • I paid the remaining 60% as the primary driver
  • Our insurance is the same as before and is paid up to the end of the year
  • I will cover the insurance and maintenance going forward
  • I will ask Rom to pay for new snow tires in November (it came with all-seasons)
  • If we take road trips together, we will cover the costs from our shared vacation budget
  • I am giving up my long-term savings for a year to pay for my share of the new car
  • We have already hatched a plan to save together for our NEXT car – I hope it will be more than 10 years from now!

If I change jobs and need a car daily, it would have little impact on Rom. If Rom changes jobs and needs a car daily, we have pledged to reassess the situation. I work some evenings and weekends, and in exchange, I have some time off on weekdays. I’m not sure if I could handle being at home during the day and not having access to a car. That raises all kinds of issues: I choose to live in the suburbs, public transit is inadequate, and although I am capable of planning errands in advance, I value the ability to make last-minute decisions.

All of this affects Rom more than me, since he drives so little. I am far more likely to go out with the car and leave him at home than vice versa. He doesn’t seem to have my hangup about being free to go anywhere any time. I hate doubling the time it takes to get anywhere by bus; he is used to it. He’s also quite happy for me to do the driving when we’re together. In fact, I’m already thinking I will need to prompt him to drive regularly so he doesn’t get completely dependent on me being behind the wheel!

It’s been just a few days, but it feels strange to see only one car in the driveway. We will have to check with each other daily and plan ahead more, such as “I was thinking of going downtown Saturday afternoon – do you have anything going on?” It has occurred to me that if I go somewhere and lock myself out of my car, Rom can no longer scoot over and deliver the spare. But there is roadside assistance. Worst case, Rom is out and I get a call from my family asking for help – but really, Rom doesn’t go out! And we are all pretty well connected with backup options. So we’ve done it; we’re now a one-car household, and all it took was for me to have 88% ownership, HAHA!

What is the car situation in your household – how many – if any? who pays? any plans for a change?

See also: A Car Story Part 1  and A Car Story Part 2

29 comments

  1. It’s always interesting to learn about different ways couples divide financial responsibility. Thank you for sharing.

    My spouse and I combine our incomes and pay bills out of one pool of money, which I manage. Our vehicles (we have two) are completely paid for (no financing/bank liens) and both titles are in my name. My husband has been out of work since August 2015, but uses “his” car (they are both “ours”) to commute to the community college for classes, to run errands, and to visit friends. My car is used primarily for work, and as the newer and more comfortable of the two, is the one we take on dates and outings.

    We were a one-car family for two years when we were newly married. Circumstances demanded it at the time, and we lived in an area that had walkable mainstays (grocery store, coffee shop, library, pharmacy) and easy access to public transportation. We have discussed downsizing into one-car-drive again, but given our current living situation, it would be a huge sacrifice. We live in a rural area, the closest grocer is seven miles away, our doctors are a 45-minute freeway excursion away, and bus service is sparse.

    I’m hoping that the older of the two vehicles will last another two years. (Based on mileage and maintenance, that’s a reasonable expectation.) Our goal is to save enough money in the meantime to be able to put at least 2/3 cash down when it’s time to replace it.

    And on a side note: I completely understand the sense of disempowerment that comes with not having access to a vehicle. It’s a blow to one’s autonomy, to say the least. If we ever do go back to having one vehicle, it would only work for me if it was, for all intents and purposes, MINE. I don’t do well depending on others for transportation. Having control of my own movements, and the timing of them, is critical for me.

    • I’m glad you understand! I grew up in a more rural area with once-daily bus service, and have often been dependent on others for transportation, and I just can’t/won’t do it any more. I was never a person who thought their time was valuable, but I am not very willing to spend 90 minutes on a bus. Your car planning sounds like it’s going well.

  2. This is SO interesting – my parents have been a one car household for SO long. Dad (until this calendar year) worked in the CBD and caught the train. The fifteen minute walk is easy enough, but he’d also coordinate his departures and arrivals for lifts as required (rain, or laziness!). They coordinate with activities, and they will use public transport to get around issues. Dad’s also VERY patient, so will wait places, and Mum’s less patient, but with warning and a book, she’s ok.

    This year, they both changed jobs. Dad is now NOT in the CBD, but a short distance by bus, and Mum works at a school that is a train ride away. With the new school, she went from some days a week getting the bus, to everyday getting the train. (Coincidently, my father moved to work where my mother was working in past years!). Mum has long been working towards more public transport, and the challenges (marking to bring home, weather, errands and work outs after work), but it seems she’s been chipping away at it for years, and now the car is in the driveway all week! I’m pretty darn impressed with them to be honest!

    • That is admirable! I really wish public transit was quick and convenient where I live. I suppose I could move to city centre but of course there is the noise and expense. “With warning and a book” – I like that!

  3. Although we pool our money, we are also going down to one car as a trial run along with moving to a new location. It will take some getting used to and may not work out unless we find Uber and Lyftt to be a good fit and my husband really buys a bicycle and uses it a lot as he says he will do. Our decision was simply logistical as the 2 of us couldn’t drive a rental moving truck and 2 cars across the country and didn’t want to drive a truck towing a car. We sold the older of our 2 cars and we’ll see how being a one car couple works out. It will save us money for sure. BTW, I love driving my Versa hatchback and hope you really like yours.

    • I’ll be interested to hear how you do. I traded in my Versa for a newer Fit – I think it will last longer in the climate here. I could have kept it until it was “dead” but maybe I was looking for an excuse to buy a new car.

  4. Interesting, especially since I might be car shopping soon, unfortunately.

    We have three vehicles: my 17-year-old Honda Civic, his 98 Civic and his 2010 (I think) Ford F 150 truck. The truck was left to him by his father when he passed and that’s all he drives but so far he hasn’t wanted to let go of the Civic, but he says maybe soon. Although he also said that last year. My Civic still has less than 130,000 miles on it, which is very low for its age, but still it’s getting to where the repair bills and inconvenience is getting annoying. So I’ve been thinking what I might want. Still, I haven’t had a car loan in 14 years and I love it that way!

    We keep finances completely separate so we each pay for our own vehicles. Public transportation is far from convenient here, so I doubt we’d ever seriously consider having just one car.

  5. Margie in Toronto

    I’m a city girl and have never had a drivers’ license (had a motorcycle one for a bit). I have always used public transit and the occasional taxi. I live right across the street from a subway station so it’s really the easiest way to go and I doubt my taxi rides for the year would even come close to one month’s car payment, never mind gas, insurance & maintenance.
    There are times, especially on the weekends when it would be nice to just take off on my own but somehow it’s never really been an issue – if I wanted to go somewhere I always found a way.
    Friends do have cars and are generous in offering to take me for big loads of groceries etc. but only occasionally do I take them up on it (I’m very independent) and as payment I always stump up for gas money or buy lunch if we are out for the day.
    More and more of my friends who are city dwellers are going this route.

  6. No car, no parking, only jams in traffic and an excellent public transport system (bus, tram, canal, metro, train). We bike everywhere, or rent a car when we need one. But then, we are inner city Amsterdam so not quite comparable.

  7. Joan

    I’m driving a leased Ford Focus. I was so frustrated by the lousy product and worse service on my previous car that I switched from GM to Ford and tried my first lease instead of buying.
    I am sort of in Rom’s position since I don’t put many miles on the car. But this is Michigan – and public transit is non-existent so I need one. I rent a carport in my complex but I don’t have a garage to protect an old car in the winter. I need to have a car I can count on start when I turn the key and it helps that I won’t be keeping this car long enough to incur a lot of maintenance.
    I’ve read good things about Hondas and the Fit is a good looking car. Unfortunately, the Honda dealership in my area is owned by the same family that owns the nearest GM dealership. Their (lack of) service gave me fits and I’m not going to give them another chance to make me crazy.

    • Hi Joan, You must be dedicated to driving a North American car. I have never leased, but I joke I will lease a Mini Cooper when this car is done 🙂 I agree the experience at the dealership makes such a difference!

      • Joan

        I live in the Detroit suburbs. We tend to buy the homegrown product.
        I’m not sure about the leasing. I’m balancing cost of the lease against the convenience of a newer car.

  8. I like the independence having my own car gives. We have good public transport here and I’d rarely drive to the city. Also we’re 5 min walk to restaurants, public library, supermarkets and doctors. Mr S has been walking to work for about 4 years. But we still have our own cars.

    Mr S is actually between cars at the moment as he has traded in his last car for the last Australian built V8. He likes powerful cars!!!

    We really only use his big car when we do road trips. Economically, it makes no sense for us to have that car and environmentally it is bad. But he wants it and I am happy to support his dream. (Well not happy but tolerant. The car is very expensive Let alone to just sit in the drive way for weeks.)

    We’re actually a three car household as my youngest has his own car which he uses quite a bit. But not to get to work as he walks and not to get to uni as he catches the train. My oldest doesn’t want to get his licence. He lives closer to the city and uses lots of public transport access. Or Uber, if the trains have stopped.

  9. Fascinating glimpse into your financial household. We keep our finances totally separate from an account perspective, and each just pay bills that match our income (we make almost exactly the same as each other). When we went to buy the house, we both liquidated our savings account. My husband had slightly more than I did, but I’d been doing all of the other savings (boys college, paying down mortgages, etc). At the end of the day, the money is both of ours. From a transactional purpose, he prefers to keep his own account. It all works out.

    We have three cars. One is an Audi that’s part of the recall, so we are likely going to get rid of that, and our BMW (12 years old) & get a Leaf. We also have a 20 year old Lexus that we have kept because we assume we will ski again and/or we used for probably 30 trips for our move. It’s not worth anything to sell, so it stays.

    • We have our money in two different accounts and have unequal amounts to spend because we have different priorities for personal spending. As long as the bills get paid fairly and our longer term savings are up to date, it’s a non-issue. You have a nice car collection, and I think you’re right – once a car depreciates enough to have little resale value, you might as well just keep it until it goes!

  10. Barbara

    We have one car (11 year old Subaru Forrester). I’ve never driven but we live in an inner
    suburb where everything I need is within walking or cycling distance (which is just as well
    since most Australian cities other than Sydney or Melbourne have pretty dire public
    transport). We don’t rack up a lot of mileage on the car other than trips interstate (flying is
    expensive and we always prefer to have a car when we get there).
    The Subaru has been a good car but eventually we’ll have to replace it. We had our last car
    for 15 years so it’s not something we enter into lightly! My husband, who’s the driver, has
    absolutely no interest in cars so we’ll probably end up with whatever is short enough to
    fit in our weirdly short driveway.

    • I wish I had absolutely no interest in cars and they were just a conveyance from Point A to Point B, but I like cars a lot! However, I have decided that I will never pay for a luxury vehicle since I don’t care that much. I guess I just admire them rather than wanting to own them all. Subarus have a good reputation. I think their latest Crosstrek SUVs look good. Foresters are classic 🙂

  11. We are a 2 car as we work in different places at different times. I would take the train but they closed the line and built a supermarket on the old station! Not very forward thinking. I don’t do busses or coaches as I end up getting off with travel sickness. We have one joint account for general spending, one joint account for bills only and a third for clothes allowance. We have pooled our money since we met at art college and put both our grants into a joint account. Works for us.

    • I am glad we can get away with one car for the time being, although it could shift in a moment if we had job changes.

      • We will drop to one car when we retire I expect. At the moment we can live with one car most of the time but have need of a second for work and occassional use – shame that we couldn’t get together on our street and have a ‘pool’ car for occassional use – then we could all be one car owners and the road would be free of parked cars – everyone down our street has 2 cars at least!

  12. Fiona

    Wow – that is a big move – especially knowing your love of independence with your own car. How is going so far?

    I am so in favour of ‘one car households’ on so many grounds, yet it often seems so impractical and difficult to achieve…but is it? I will forever be grateful (in one way) that Mr D had his licence ‘issue’ last year and we had to transition to one car & one driver for 6 months. After a short time the second car was gathering dust and I realised we could easily get by without it. Sure, we had to work together a lot more but the issue of having one driver as opposed to one car created the real burden with jobs and errands.

    Now? We’re back to 2 cars again and can I say…it’s one of those things where the availability of the 2nd car creates the need! We have been doing awful things. We leave at slightly different times in the morning, meaning we are driving to the same workplace taking 2 cars, with 2 sets of fuel, 2 sets of wear-and-tear and worst of all…2 very expensive sets of road tolls (about $45 per week each.)

    It is crazy. I need to take courage from you Dar and actually bite the bullet and sell my little red car, before it depreciates back to nothing!!!

    • I was always in favour of one-car households “conceptually” but not in real life! I think independence is essential, as you know. It is going well so far. Rom has only used the car once while I was out, but we share the driving on weekends and we both like driving the new car; it has a good road feel. I don’t expect any conflicts about who uses the car. Rom is more likely to get pulled over for driving too slowly and obstructing traffic, than speeding 🙂 He will now have more personal spending money since he isn’t paying car insurance or maintenance, which is fine by me. Although I hope it doesn’t take the form of more guitars in the house since he already has a room full (I joke that his limit is 6 and he has to sell one to buy another!) I think there is a difference between having a one-car household in which you have control (such as during your 6-month trial) and having only one car that was formerly owned and scheduled by your spouse – in my opinion it would go on feeling like his – but maybe if he gets to keep his choice of car, it will be more successful!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: