The Snowflake That Broke The Camel’s Back: Becoming a Two Car Household

A few too many snowflakes may turn us into a two car family

Man…what a week it’s been.

Over the weekend we got drinks and dinner with some old coworker friends (one of whom now knows I have a blog haha). While we were there, I was talking to one of my friends about how being able to work from home is awesome.

We were expecting some rain late Sunday night, which would turn into freezing rain, followed by copious amounts of snow. 5 to 8 inches, they estimated.

The decision was made right there that I’d probably be working remotely on Monday to avoid the inevitable cluster that would ensue on Monday morning.

However, things didn’t look so bad come Monday when our alarm went off. It hadn’t really rained, and there wasn’t much snow. My excuse now gone, and no emails from anyone saying they were working remotely…the decision was made for me.

In to work we went, with me dropping Kristin off.

It Begins

Shortly after getting to work, I get emails from everyone I work with. They’re either working remotely or home sick (or both). Uuuugh what timing.

Those that made it in only did so for a meeting, which got rescheduled.

Around 9am it starts to sleet – it looked gross. Kristin and I were exchanging emails, trying to figure out what our commute would be like with the incoming winter assault.

Being a one car family makes these sorts of logistics tricky. There’s no easy way to manage it, but the less driving we had to do, the better.

Everyone – smartly – decided to bail before lunch. Kristin unfortunately can’t work remotely, but recommended that I drop the car off and then take a Lyft home. At least if one of us could avoid driving in the snow that’d be a plus.

It Piles On

Around 10:30, I drove to drop the car off and then hailed a Lyft, which seemed to take forever. The snow kept piling up in that time. Eventually my driver shows up and we make it back to our house. Kristin’s now on her own with the car waiting for her later. Hopefully she can get out early…

We ended up getting slammed with just over 13″ of snow, most of which fell between 10am and 4pm. Kristin was able to leave early, but not nearly early enough for how bad the roads were.

As she was leaving, she called me in a panic, unable to get the car to even move out of its parking spot. We (stupidly) didn’t remember to put a shovel in the trunk this season, so she’s got few options. Almost nobody’s around to help.

Some choice words were exchanged. We don’t fight often, but this call ended with a hang-up. And so did the next one. Among those words was a declaration…an ultimatum: we needed a second car.

I felt trapped. With no car at home and no hope of getting a ride to Kristin’s work, she was on her own.

Coming To Grips with Reality

And she had a point.

Having just one car can be inconvenient on a regular day, but it’s even worse when a snowstorm decides to run in your neighborhood. Not being able to even try and get to her was frustrating.

I knew she’d be fine if she couldn’t move the car. It might suck to sleep at the office, but it’s not unheard of at her company. That’s what my first thought was.

The second thought sucked more: what if she DID get the car out but couldn’t get home?

Quick Flashback

Story time!!

I remember one time when I was in college, I was coming home for Thanksgiving. There was a bad snow storm moving through the area but I was ahead of it. I was getting in pretty late, and my parents never stayed up for me – no problems.

So when I got off the highway, I decided to call one of my friends and see what he was up to. We hung out at his place, played some video games, and caught up. Since his parents were home (and sleeping) I decided to silence my phone.

Bad idea.

My friend eventually hops on Facebook and sees that apparently my brother is looking for me. He was at my parents place waiting for me – which literally never happens. So I get my phone out to call him and tell him to calm down.

27 missed calls. Tons of text messages and voicemails. Turns out he woke up my mom, and they called every hospital and several police departments along my route. They were worried I’d slid off the road and ended up in a ditch or in the hospital.

Sooo that’s kind of what was playing through my head. With no way to even venture out if I wanted to, I just had to wait until she made it home.

The Plan To Bulk Up to Two Cars

It’s been a long day and a half talking about the merits of a second car. On one hand I really, REALLY don’t want one.

Cars are wealth killers, and the longer we can delay getting a second one, the more money we’ll be able to save.

On the other hand, it’s got some advantages. For starters, my schedule frees up a lot. Kristin can actually take lunches away from the office when days are bad. And in situations like Monday, neither of us would feel as helpless.

So our plan – I think – is to tough it out for the rest of this winter, and then deal with one car for the summer as well. Inclement weather shouldn’t be a concern then, so AWD won’t be missed. (Sidenote: Don’t try to discuss the physics of AWD vs. just getting some good winter tires, I know all about it). When the fall comes around, we’ll be in the market for a second car – probably a small SUV.

Since this will be Kristin’s primary vehicle, I’m leaving all of the research to her. We’ll agree on a general budget and exchange a list of ‘must have’ things, but the ultimate choice will be one she arrives at.

As much as I want to save the money, there’s no denying that having two cars will help. It’ll free up my time a bit. Since I drive Kristin to work and pick her up, our schedules are bound together.

The biggest way this causes a headache is if I’m working on the blog after work and need to stop what I’m doing to pick her up – sometimes right away.

I’m caving and we’ll get a second car eventually this year, but a lot is still up in the air.

We don’t know what we’re going to get yet. We definitely aren’t seeing eye-to-eye on a budget yet, either, but we’re working on it. Things are still early, and we’ve got time to figure out what we want. I’m sure there will be more disagreements, more fighting, and some heartburn on both sides.

At the end of the day, though, I think this is one where convenience, emotions, and safety win over pure numbers. What say you?

Question:

In light of the topic, any small SUV’s you’d recommend, or steer clear from?

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16 Comments

  1. Sounds like a stressful evening – I can imagine my partner and I having one of those exact same arguments and that kind of situation!

    I think you’re making the right choice by waiting until you get another car though – it’s easy to rush into decisions after a bad experience, but you may have had the most inconvenient time to have one car already :)…but if you can afford it in the future, then why not!

    1. Haha yes it’s been a stressful week for sure.

      If we can wait on it that’ll be good. Part of it too though will be dependent on if we can get by with our work situation; if we get jobs that are in opposite directions, for example.

  2. I feel like the conversation on having a second car is similar to the rent vs. own your home discussion. What works for you may not work for someone else. I could buy two older, luxury, cars but my wife insists we have one new, fairly reliable car just to be safe.

    The obvious response, especially for winter driving, is get a Subaru! I would also recommend a used Toyota Rav4 or an older Lexus RX SUV. Both are fairly reliable. I would stay away from used BMW, Mercedes (I’ve owned both and work on them myself) or Audi unless you have a warranty to go with them. I’m not a huge fan of Acura’s or Honda’s because they’ve had significant transmission issues, around the 60-80K mile range, in the past. Feel free to email me if you want to talk about other options.

    1. Yeah, Kristin had an Audi before and has vowed to steer clear of German cars since then haha.

      Neither of us have ever driven a Subaru before but researching the Forester now…

    1. Don’t let this story persuade you! Haha 🙂

      Honestly I think if one of us used public transit or worked from home it’d be a lot easier. I think this was kind of the catalyst, but it is inconvenient at times. Just trying to weigh the pros and cons of only having one car…

  3. Subaru Outback with all wheel drive. Put snow tires on for winter. It will bring peace of mind when your wife is driving it through the storms.

    You are still young. A second car will not break you. It may delay your FI, but at least you will be still be married. Ha ha.

  4. A second car definitely sounds worth the investment for you. Avoiding those disaster scenarios and having a good relationship are worth the cost in my mind – what’s the point of all that money otherwise?

    We only have one car for our family, which works fine as I get the train to work – I would fight very hard to avoid a second car, but thankfully my wife is on the same page as me. Also, we don’t have too many snow-storms down here in Australia…

    1. Yeah it’s definitely worth it, I think at this point it’s figuring out our budget and what we want. You’re right – the point of saving money is to be able to spend it on things we need and want, and this I think is turning into one of those things…

      Sidenote, I think you’re my first commenter from Australia, yay! 🙂

  5. We are considering a second car in the future. RN one of us has to do day pick-up/drop off but that works for our current jobs. My husband works close enough where he walks to work, but it’s still a 25 minute walk so I usually pick him up in the evenings. If the job location changes, we really need that second car. We might be years off from this decision, but I’m researching in preparation and hoping to get a good deal on a used SUV.

    I do agree that after a certain point, convenience/safety wins over pure numbers. A second car would mean my husband gets home earlier and spends more time with our baby before bed. QT is important, and I’d pay for that.

    BTW my first choices would be Subaru Outback or Nissan Rogue or a Mazda crossover SUV. But my dad used to work for Subaru and owned one in the 80s. He did complain that fixing it up was “painful” since parts are more expensive than say for a Nissan. That’s the part I need to research — I can rent one of these cars for a weekend and see how I like driving it, but I don’t know the first thing about car repairs costs for these vehicles! We currently own a Volvo station wagon, and not every place services volvo so that’s a bit of a pain.

    1. I used to be able to walk to work and it was great. It worked out perfectly just having the one car because Kristin was able to take the car and I would just walk or take a Lyft if I needed to get anywhere. Then I got laid off, and got a new job elsewhere. Still could take public transportation though so I did that for a few months. Then when we moved, that stopped.

      Researching now is definitely a good idea, but I think if you’re that far off I wouldn’t spend too much mental bandwidth. There will be a lot more information on the newer vehicles (ones that you may be looking at, used, when you’re ready to purchase) once they’ve been driven for a bit.

      Thanks for stopping by and the recommendations! We’ve been looking at Mazda’s actually, and a Forester. Good to know on the maintenance part of it, we’ll definitely keep that in mind.

  6. I am of the mindset that if you use something regularly and it either gives you great joy, or you are willing to pay for the convenience it provides, it is money well spent.

    The FIRE community, unfortunately, can be very close minded on certain subjects. Memberships and cars are especially taboo. I have cut some subscriptions out of my life since finding the FIRE movement, but I do keep my Audible membership. I listen to audio books all the time. When I am cleaning. When I am cooking. During my commute and breaks. I get a lot of value out of the regular expense.

    If you and your wife feel you will get regular value and joy out of buying a new car, I say go for it.

    But good idea holding off on buying it right away, to determine whether or not the decision is based on heated emotions. Cars are expensive. If you can only think of two incidents where having two cars would have been convenient, it may not be worth the monthly costs for insurance, maintenance, and gas.

    1. I think some subscription services are well worth the money. The issue is when you have them and you don’t use them. Sounds to me like that Audible membership is definitely getting used!

      The car still gives me heart-burn mostly because I would personally be happy with a $15k car, so anything ABOVE that seems frivolous to me. But alas it won’t be my car to drive, so I think Kristin deserves to have a bit bigger say in the matter. 🙂 It’d definitely be convenient every day, though. Right now I have to go back out and pick Kristin up, which takes 45-60 minutes out of my evening and totally breaks up my flow. Avoiding that interruption would be really helpful for me I think.

      1. That is a great point you bring up: time savings. 45-60 minutes every weekday adds up quickly. (I really want to say it’s crazy, but I get wanting to save money in every way possible. So I can empathize with the temporary insanity.)

        Now that you won’t have to pick her up everyday, you can use that additional time to pursue other things. Such as income producing hobbies. Could help to offset that additional money Kristin wants to spend on the car. 😉

        1. Yeah, it’s not an insignificant amount of time, AND it totally gets me out of my groove. If I’m in the middle of writing something awesome, I have to leave. Honestly I don’t even write as much as I want during that time because I don’t want to get my time broken up. I can use it for other stuff like scheduling my social media stuff and following up on email, though.

          Even if that extra hour I could do something small, anything would help off-set that cost – definitely hadn’t thought of it that way before 🙂

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