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Transportation & Land Use

How becoming a one-car family is like winning America’s Funniest Home Videos

America's Funniest Home VideosI can’t imagine there’s a soul in this country who hasn’t caught America’s Funniest Home Videos at least once. But if you haven’t watched it, here’s the general gist: Americans send in funny videos (that usually involve someone falling down or getting kicked in the crotch) and the lucky family with the funniest one wins $10,000. That’s a pretty good deal. But what if there were a way to get your family a pot of money without getting a football to the groin?

There is such a way: become a one-car family.

Yesterday, I sold my Toyota Prius (Blaspheme! I know!) and received about $10,000. My very-soon-to-be-wife and I now only own one car—hers—which is a Honda Civic. Every weekday, we carpool to downtown Minneapolis where she works, and I catch the 94 Express bus to the Fresh Energy office in downtown St. Paul. And so far, the benefits are numerous.

  1. Fifteen extra minutes of togetherness in the morning. As professionals with active social lives, it can be surprisingly hard to find time to talk for that many minutes in a row. Problem solved.
  2. Only one car to dig out when it snows. This is especially critical on snow emergency days!
  3. Never forgetting to move our bowling balls and shoes to the other car on league night again. Because we used to alternate weeks of driving to bowling, each week would mean moving all of our bowling accoutrements from one car to the other. Forgetting would mean we’d each have to pay $2 for rental shoes and use unfamiliar bowling balls. For serious bowlers like us, that’s rough.
  4. Saving over $2,000 a year in gas, insurance, and maintenance. The Prius was fully paid for, so we’re not counting any loan payments we would have been making. Nor does it reflect all the money we’ll save on parking. We’ll use the savings to take a trip to Boston, where we’ll use their excellent transit system.
  5. Learning the bus system. I am now much more aware of when and where all the buses by my house go. This is more a necessity than a benefit, but I still love it. It makes me feel smart.
  6. Never having to worry about where to park. I enjoy my new worry-free life.

Of course, not all cars are paid off, and not all cars fetch $10,000. But how many of the above benefits does that negate? Exactly zero. The money is only a potential benefit. If we looked at it in America’s Funniest Home Videos terms: just because you didn’t win the grand prize doesn’t mean you don’t have a hilarious home video.

Still, our new life isn’t all peaches and bourbon. There are a few drawbacks to being a one-car family.

  1. You know when you crash into a car while you’re parking but it’s okay because the other car is yours? We’ll never experience that again.
  2. There probably won’t be any more “you go west, I’ll go east, and we’ll meet in China” road trips.
  3. All this extra money is making it hard to fit other stuff in our pockets.
  4. We did not actually get to appear on America’s Funniest Home Videos. (This alone made us reconsider the downsizing, but eventually we decided we’d survive.)

Is there a way to get your family a pot of money without getting a football to the groin? Yes. Become a one-car family.

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