Friday, April 4, 2008

One-car family?

Nearly three weeks ago our family car was totaled in a car accident. Since then we have quite easily slipped into functioning with one vehicle instead of two. While the professor and I have always verbally acknowledged that owning two cars is a luxury for us, these past few weeks have proven that being a two-car family, at this point in our lives, is most definitely a luxury. The experience is causing us to think and re-think.

There are several reasons why transitioning to a life with one car has been easy. First, we live in a small town so it's easy and quick to get around. Second, my husband's parents live less than a mile from us so it's quite convenient for the professor to ride to and from campus with his dad each day. Third, if my father-in-law is unavailable the university offers a free transit system shuttling faculty and students around campus and town; there is a stop at the end of our street. And last, aside from daily errands I am mainly at home thus freeing the car when and if the professor needs it.

With all of that in mind here are some other considerations. In addition to teaching the professor freelances so from time to time, without much notice, he has to break away from campus in order to meet with a client. This is a time when he definitely needs a car. In addition, Boo will be starting school in the next town over this August. With this comes a 15-20 minute commute; the professor will likely take him in the mornings and I will pick him up at lunch time. Again the need for a second car arises. And of course, there are times when no amount of careful planning and scheduling can change the fact that there are moments when we need to be in two different places at the same time.

As we await the arrival of the insurance payout on our totaled car we find ourselves thinking, praying, and analyzing. What is the best decision? Simply replace the family car while also keeping the professor's car... Sell his car and purchase one very nice, reliable car... Bank the insurance money and continue to use his car as the car...

Fuel consumption and gas mileage are important issues to us, as well as safety and long term reliability, not to mention the cost of the vehicle. It's a lot to consider. I expect that we'll end up replacing our family car while keeping the second car, but how thankful I am that we've been thrust into this one-car situation for a while. Through it we've learned that with careful planning, flexibility, and by working together we can operate indefinitely with one vehicle. How wonderful it is to know that we can take our time to shop for exactly the right car at the right price! We've also gained a deeper thankfulness for our transportation and we've affirmed that having a second car is indeed a luxury for our family.

The professor is in a busy season with presentations around campus, a tenure and promotions review, the end of the semester swiftly approaching, and a collaborative research project going on. His plate is full and car shopping is not top of mind right now. So, we'll continue to operate with one car for a while, thankful that we have the liberty to wait patiently for the right time to shop for the right deal.

Car images courtesy of Plan59.