The easiest way for a couple to simplify their lives and help the environment, while saving thousands of dollars a year, is to ditch their second car.
When our 15-year-old Escort died last November, we didn’t replace it. We’d been sharing it and our seven-year-old Prius with our son, who moved to Providence in June. There had been times when that Escort was our only car, and we wanted to see if we could get along with only one again. It’s been easy, but only because of other aspects of our lifestyle.
First, we live less than a mile from the center of Amherst. We rarely take the Prius on a trip to town, usually only when carrying something large. Most of the time, we walk or ride bicycles into town. We find it more pleasant to observe the scenery or talk to neighbors while walking, which takes about 12 minutes, or biking, which takes about five minutes. And no parking problems!
Second, we don’t have jobs that require long-distance travel. When I worked at the newspaper, I sometimes had to get somewhere at the spur of the moment, and having a second car sure helped (though I often was able to bike wherever I needed to go). Now that I’m retired, the bicycle is my main form of transportation, and even taking it the 3.5 miles to my weekly shift at the Amherst Survival Center is a snap.
Third, we don’t lead complicated lives. We don’t travel much, and can meet most of our needs locally. What about when I have an appointment in Springfield at the same time Betsy needs to get to Greenfield? It just doesn’t happen.
Fourth, we are both in good health and I run six days a week, so bicycling is a workable option. I recognize that for some people, including those who live far from their workplaces, this is just not feasible.
Several people I know use Zipcar when they need a second vehicle. That’s an excellent alternative for people with busier lives, but for us the number of times a year when a second car would be convenient just isn’t enough to justify the annual fee.
When you consider the cost of of having a second car in terms of gas and oil, registration, excise taxes, maintenance and repairs, inspection, insurance and depreciation, you can save a lot of money. And because you inevitably drive less, and because there’s one fewer car on the road, with all the energy it takes to build it and maintain it, you’re helping to lower our emissions level.
There have been few moments when we’ve regretted having only one car.