Debtless One Car Living: How To Save Money And Help The Environment

Take a moment.  Think to yourself.  How can I save money and at the same time help the environment?

Answer: Cut down on your car expenses. (duh, it’s literally the name of the article.)

A recent survey found 70% of American’s, including Republicans, said that they want to “aggressively” combat climate change. How can we put our money where our mouths are located? Slash those tires expenses when it comes to automobile transportation and helps save the world, well at least do our parts.

Spend less on car payments

The average American is in crippling debt from student loans, credit cards, and increasingly car debt. When it comes to car payments the average American is dolling out a whopping $551 per month for the hunk of metal that sits in their driveway 85% of the time.

What could happen with that car payment money

Well, let’s do the math

Average monthly payment- $551

A Penny Learned assumes 8% return over 35 years

You’ll have $1,230,507

I hope you like your car, you could be a millionaire without it!

Who wouldn’t want to become a millionaire and that is only with giving up your brand-new car!

Roll in Style with a nicer car

living with one car, one car family

Who wouldn’t want a nicer car if they could afford one?  If you have two cars, consider getting rid of one as this frees up extra cash for you to upgrade your other car (and maybe get better gas mileage as well).

Nicer Car Scenario- More Math

Let’s review this situation on how one could upgrade their car

Your first car value- $4,000

Your second car value- $6,500

If both of your cars are sold, you could upgrade to a single – $10,500 car

Nice upgrade! You no longer are made fun of in your shaggin wagon and can upgrade to that nice sports car that you always wanted.

Don’t ever take less than book value when selling your used car, here A Penny Learned experts tell you how to get the most money selling a used car.

Nicer, newer cars are often more expensive but also may break down less often, resulting in less upkeep and repair cost.  Plus, you could select a car that gets better gas mileage as well, saving you green!

Fewer insurance payments

The average American spends nearly $1,000 annually on car insurance per car. 941.65 to be exact. Now double that if you have two cars.  $2,000 annually on an expense that you cannot eliminate without eliminating your car.  What was that… you can eliminate it?  Sell one car!!

Using the same math as above, $941.65 ($76.22 invested monthly) over 35 years at 8% equates to over $170,000!

Or even if you don’t want to invest that extra cash, $76.22 per month could go a long way for most folks.  That can singlehandedly fund your daily Java Chip Frappuccino addiction every other day.

Car insurance saving is often an aspect that is not considered when contemplating the move to one car living.  We do love our car insurance provider but we would enjoy giving them as little money as possible (plus, they are always there when we need them).

Help save the environment

Did you know, the average passenger vehicle emits 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year?

Many cities and countries are even banning the use of cars all-together due to how inefficient transportation is on a per-person basis & the astounding emissions that occur.  Norway is leading this charge as by 2019 no cars will be allowed in its city center (same with Madrid) and by 2025 fossil fuel cars will be illegal to sell.

If you have two cars and eliminate one, you eliminated your personal car usage by 50% (you don’t need a Ph.D. in mathematics to figure that one out).  If one person makes a change it helps the environment by lowering emissions.  Walk, take your bike, work from home (if possible), and help us all breath a little easier.

Help keep yourself healthy

It is common knowledge that those who work out live longer and healthier lives.  But did you know those who work out also make more money?

An average of $25,000 more money!

Most of us know that moving our bodies is good for them and especially as opposed to a sedentary lifestyle.  Owning & using our cars less can, in turn, make us healthier and may even help us live longer.

Here is a list of non-vehicular alternatives

  • Biking
  • Walking
  • Jogging
  • Roller-blading

Losing your car may increase your need (by necessity) to move your body more frequently, which results in more money, an increase in your zest for life, and self-confidence.  Nice side-effects while saving dough.

Alternative means of transportation

If you need some wheels but don’t have access to your car, there are others such as public transit. Even further, if you run into a situation where you do truly need a lift then Lyft & Uber as possibilities.

Collectively say it with us- “But aren’t Lyft and Uber expensive,” we are glad you asked!

Lyft/Uber break-even analysis (we promise this is the last mathing in this article)

  • Monthly savings without a car payment (see #1)- $551
  • Monthly savings on car insurance (see #2)- $76.22
  • Average Lyft per mile cost (primary research, 20-mile trips)- $1.75 per mile

Here we can calculate the break-even point at 358 miles or about 18 20-mile trips!  If you drive less than that then Lyft/Uber will save you money!  We truly love the convenience, who doesn’t love a personal driver and the luxury of not having to park!

Let’s say you don’t have a car payment, as not everyone does, does it still make sense to get rid of your second car?

Mathing time (okay, we lied)

  • Monthly savings on car insurance- $76.22
  • Average Lyft per mile cost @ $1.75 per mile

You can take two twenty-mile trips @ $70 with Lyft and still remain in the green.

A short-term fix where you need a car day after day but only for a short time there are car rental services such as Turo.

Lyft & Uber are really affordable in comparison to car payments & car insurance depending on the utilization rate of your car(s).

Less decision making

Has this scenario ever occurred in your household?

“Honey, which car are we going to take?”

“I don’t know, but if it’s the red one we have to move the car seats.”

Yuck.  Almost as bad as deciding where to go for dinner.

Studies show that we make over 35,000 decisions daily and that many successful entrepreneurs cognitively ensure they spend less brain power on unimportant ones?

Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerburg, Dr. Dre and even Barack Obama have clothing habits that allow them to only wear the same style of clothing, and in some cases even the same color to reduce decision fatigue.

Only having one car allows you to spend your precious brain power on important things such as your job, or even more importantly, Trivia Crack.


Cutting down on car usage is not a cure-all for your budgeting needs.  But it is a place that cutting back is a possibility when many would not even consider it.

I have a wife and two small children and we survive on only one car.  It is a beat-up, 2003 Honda Pilot, but it gets the job done.  We have to share each other’s planned schedules throughout the week, so it encourages us to communicate more often.  Our solution in tight spots is for me to take an Uber/Lyft to work, doctor appointment, or wherever I need to go when she needs the car. It works for us.

We can save loads of money and are also able to do our small part in helping the environment by only have one car. 

Let us know if you are considering the switch what is your largest hurdle?  Have you already made the switch, how is your personal experience with only one automobile for transportation?

One comment
  1. My family and I make one vehicle work! It’s not always the easiest, and I feel like a 16 year old when I have to make plans around everyone’s schedules, but it has saved us a decent amount of cash, plus who doesn’t want to help preserve the planet? Thanks for the witty, informal, read.

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