One Less Tank

I am about to do something considered radical by most of the people I know. I am going to turn my back on the American concept of convenience, where nearly everything I want and need can be obtained within minutes; where I can, on impulse, take a road trip; where I can haul masses of consumer goods from bulk stores. I am getting rid of my car. Okay, so maybe that’s a little dramatic. Plenty of people use public transportation or bum rides from friends and family.

However, the average American household still owns about 2 cars. That’s 268 million vehicles guzzling gas and burping fumes, demanding land for highways, and taking masses of materials for manufacturing and maintenance.

I come from a long line of superfluous vehicle owners, though. Cars were just as much for collecting and weekend waxing as they were for getting from here to there. Growing up, I never saw a car paid off and kept. They were always traded up for another bigger, faster, shinier model. Gas mileage always lost to horse power. All the better to tow RVs and boats with.

Most of my adult life I’ve had older cars that were in meh condition. Once I finished college in my early 30s, I was able to get a better job and could finally afford a better car. It was totaled a couple of years ago by a jerk who was texting and driving at the same time. When I replaced it, I got a lightweight SUV with 7 seats to accommodate my kids and their friends/dates when we all went somewhere as a family, and to haul around extra things I needed for my side gig.

When I bought it, I spent a lot of time researching how to buy a good quality, lightly used car, without getting ripped off. I qualified for a low interest loan and headed off to do my shopping. No matter how hard I tried, though, I couldn’t find a hybrid or electric vehicle within my budget. I was really disappointed, but decided to minimize driving and that the next time I bought a car, it had to be better for the environment.

Flash forward 2.5 years, and it’s been amazing having a reliable car that I could jump in at the drop of a hat. However, my kids are mostly away from home and my side gig no longer requires me to haul stuff around. I also don’t commute to work. I have a bigger car than I need, and still owe about $10k on it. Plus, even though it has the best gas mileage of the vehicles in our home, it’s still not eco friendly.

We have three other vehicles in the house: my mother-in-law has her 25 year old Jeep Grand Cherokee, which she uses daily to get back and forth to work; my husband has a 10 year old Ford Ranger he uses daily to get back and forth to work, and my son has a 10 year old Ford Focus he uses daily to get back and forth to work and school. For a 4 person household, it’s a lot of cars. We have a bus line that comes near our home only twice a day. To get to a more frequent line, we would need to walk or bike at least two miles along a very busy road with no sidewalks or shoulder, so that’s why everyone has a car.

As I seek to minimize my belongings, and expenses, allowing me more time to take care of my health and have energy for the things that are important to me, the car inevitably came up on the list. I won’t lie, I love the convenience and comfort of my car. It’s a smooth ride, I can fit everything in it I need, and it’s there anytime I need it. But I can absolutely sacrifice that to save an estimated $450 a month in payments and insurance, and that’s not even counting gas and maintenance. It also gives me satisfaction knowing that I will be contributing less to global warming.

I will still be borrowing my family members’ cars from time to time, or bumming a ride to the bus or train line. However, impulse trips will be mostly gone, and I will be consolidating trips out. This is good for our planet as well as my budget.

Have you reduced the number of cars you own, or taken steps to reduce the number of trips you make? How about carpooling? Can you replace a less efficient vehicle with a hybrid? Please share how you’re getting where you need to be, with less environmental impact.

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