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?