Tuesday, March 18, 2014

To car or not to car: that is the (current) question

I've really been wanting to buy a car these past few weeks. There have been a few moments of frustration that have resulted in my sitting down on Craigslist and searching for a nice little used Prius for several hours. I am tired of trying to bum rides for the four of us when we are going to a farther away activity than we can bike to. It would be really helpful in the summer for going camping or traveling in Wisconsin, for taking the kids to their swimming lessons, for going to Costco when my friend Eleanor moves away. But on the other hand, if I am going to buy a car, I want to buy something reliable, eco-friendlyish, and comfortable. After our last not-so-great car-buying experience, I am nervous to do the process all over again. It was stressful enough before we had a crap experience (though looking back, perhaps it wasn't that terrible... we lost a few thousand dollars in the course of a year but we did get a car that moved us across the country twice and helped us move and settle in to our Madison life), but now I am hesitant and nervous and I don't know how people spend so much money on a whim. But we have more money now and could easily pay cash for a decent enough car. But we don't have the prospect of a future salary of any kind and what happens if it needs repairs? I hate the idea of paying taxes and registration and insurance and all of that expense that comes with owning a car after not having those expenses for over a year.

I have also been thinking a lot about the ethics of driving lately, and with the death of two men cycling in Utah at the hands of a driver, I am terrified of being behind the wheel again. And at the same time, I am scared to bike my kids long distances to the nearby state parks in the summertime, though biking in Madison is much safer than Utah by leaps and bounds, there are still some scary sections of the city and biking is still dangerous at times with careless, fast drivers who do not know how to share the road with cyclists.

Tim does not care either which way. He is fine driving the Community Car, and still does not like the financial and moral obligations that come with owning a vehicle. He thinks we can camp in our backyard or the nearby state parks by bike. I agree with him on so many points, and that's why the decision is all the more difficult. I don't want to go spend $10,000 without him fully on board... and even if we did go buy a car, I really have no idea what we would buy. We are pretty sure we are going to be a two-kid family for forever or a long time at least, and so we do not want to get a mini-van. We love the idea of a hybrid but they tend to be priced much higher than a non-hybrid. I've been looking at Honda Fits and the smaller cars but if we do end up moving by car that would not be nearly enough space. I still love Subarus, but am nervous about getting another one. I love the Prius V but it's way out of our price range, and we don't really want to finance. If money was not an issue, and we could buy whatever car we wanted, this is probably what I would buy:

Or we could keep up with the car-free-ness for a few more years (keep saving the money that comes from not owning a car) until Tim or I have a real job and then buy whatever new, cool, awesome electric family car is out there on the market. Or we'll get jobs in some awesome Danish city where cars are a thing of the past. 


  1. You guys will figure it out together. No one knows what you need and when more than you. We were in a situation where we had to choose practicality over theoretically withy the tiny house. Hard decision but so glad we chose the convenience and practicality this townhouse provides. (We hope to sell the tiny house this year and use that money to buy a place)
    We love our Prius. We've put a lot of miles on it and it has a few quirks now but it is a great car. If you are looking for bang for your buck though, a Hyundai accent is the way to go in my opinion. They are cheap but reliable. I kind of wish we would of just kept ours and paid it off instead of going between the Jetta TDI and then the Nissan Quest and then the Prius. But hey, you learn from experience right... Biking around this part of California is scary. People are not aware of bike lanes at all. I need to go to city council this week and speak up. Matt is a great cyclist but he has yet to commute to work because there are so many intersections he would be at risk.

  2. Here is going on the same dilemma in these week...

  3. Our cars cost us 370 and 900 dollars to fix this month. Sometimes owing a car is a pain. That bein said I don't know how I'd cut my reliance. I think you guys have done amazing this last bit living without a car but I totally understand why you want one. If you decided to hold off for a little longer you could maybe rent one for your camping trips this year. You'd probably have to pay for their insurance but it might be fun.

  4. I will take you to costco if you stick around :) but yes I understand. You guys are awesome and whatever you pick will be great.

  5. Patrick bikes to work and he did actually get hit by a car that turned into him. Luckily he was just scraped up. A lot of people bike where we live and I love that but it makes me kind of nervous to drive sometimes. There are definitely pluses and minuses on both sides. We don't use our car as much right now since we opt to walk or bike a lot, but I love knowing we have the option. That's cool that you have community cars.