We Make it Work as a One Car Family and You Can, Too

Save money - and even save time

Earlier this year I became a fully licenced driver, and yes, I’m a bit of a late bloomer. My husband has doubled as a chauffeur for the first seven years of marriage, and our three daughters, aged six and under, are getting used to having their mom drive them around town.

Once I started driving, we had to decide how to manage two drivers with one vehicle. We knew that buying a second car was not an option, and when I sat down and factored in all of the costs associated with having two gas guzzling cars, I knew that we would try our best to stay a single vehicle family for as long as possible.

It took a bit of work to get used to sharing a car, but we’ve now worked it out so that life is much simpler with one vehicle for our family of five. Here are some of my top suggestions for transitioning to a one car family:

Find other means of transportation if you can

My husband works close enough to home that he can ride a bike to work when the weather cooperates. We invested in a good quality bike, knowing that the savings on gas alone would make it worthwhile. He now rides his bike to work most mornings, which frees up the car for me to use all day. It also means that I’m not wasting time and money driving him to work and picking him up.

Other times, my husband might carpool with a nearby colleague, or if he’s really in a bind he will take an Uber home. Options not available to him are taking the bus or the train, but these are also great travel alternatives, too.

Schedule your week together

We typically have a discussion on the weekend about our plans for the week, that way we can claim the car on days that we have something important to get to. If my husband needs to use the car for an out of town meeting, then I can plan accordingly. Likewise, if I need the car to get to an important appointment, then my husband knows he needs to ride his bike, or find alternative transportation.

Expect to drive more 

Our single car gets driven a lot, because sometimes our schedules don’t jive and we end up picking each other up and dropping each other off. Luckily, we live in a smaller city, and most of our appointments and travel is within the city. This week for example, my kids go to camp all day and need to be dropped off, and then, because I’m already out, I usually drive the extra five minutes to drop my husband off. It requires a bit more flexibility and effort, but it’s worthwhile if I can have the car for the day.

Get flexible with your schedule

Being able to be flexible with your schedule will make sharing a car much easier. There’ve been times when I pick my husband up earlier from work because I’m in the car with the kids, and he’s able to work from home in the evening. Other times, I’ve picked my kids up earlier so that it will jive with the schedule. It doesn’t happen often, but we are open to shifting around the schedule if we need to.

Enlist the help of others

Having lived without transportation for most of my adult life, I’m already used to asking for help to get places. Since having my licence I ask for help way less, but there’s times when will ask if extended family can help drive somewhere, or ask a neighbour to pick my kids up from school. I also offer drives to others, because I know how challenging it can be to have no vehicle and young kids.

If your situation allows for it, sharing a car is a simple way to save money, and it is absolutely possible for a family to share a single car.

The biggest challenge we’ve experienced with car sharing is deciding who is responsible for filling up the gas tank, and I don’t have any tips on figuring that out!


Brianna Bell is a writer and journalist based out of Guelph, Ontario. She has written for many online and print publications, including Scary Mommy, The Penny Hoarder, and The Globe & Mail. 

Brianna's budget-savvy ways has attracted media attention, and led to newspaper coverage in The Globe & Mail and The Guelph Mercury. In April 2016 Brianna will be featured in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less, alongside co-writer Brooke Burke. You can find Brianna's website at Brianna Bell Writes.