I Really, Really, Really Want A Car


By the amount of reallys in the post title, you can probably get an idea of how much I want a car. For some it might surprise you and for some, not at all.

For years, I've been writing on this blog about life without a car. How I manage. How I do things by bus, by foot, a combination of those things. I've written about why I'm fine not having a car, why I don't desire a car, what issues there may be with having a car, how I structured my life to not need a car.

And yet.

I really, really, really, really want a car.

So, the reason I was able to handle living without a car for so many years was because I chose to live in a place with a very good public transportation system. Frequent buses, very cheaply, directly, more or less, to where I needed to go. And my kids were homeschooled and all was fine, because we went on trips when everyone else was in school, so we never really needed to deal with the bus system when it was really full. And I was working from home very part time only. I had time, lots of it, on my hand.

But then my kids went to school. All my kids are in school in another city. Three out of four of them have rides there in the morning and back in the afternoon, and one takes the bus. And if they miss their ride in the morning, they either are stuck at home for the rest of the day, or I have to spend hours taking them to their various schools by bus. This isn't good at all.

Additionally, now that they're in school, any time we want to take a trip is during a time that everyone else in the country also has off, which means the buses are ridiculously packed, which either makes it a very unpleasant journey, or simply impossible. More on that in a second. Which means we pretty much don't go on trips. And it sucks.

But then, corona. And everything else.

So our bus companies have laws about how many passengers they can take per ride. Even when it's not corona time, since my stop is the second to last stop on the bus's route before it leaves my town, often the bus gets filled before it gets to my stop. And if the bus is full, they just stop by and don't pick is up. Period. 
When it's vacation, this happens all the time. When its rush hour, it happens all the time. The likelihood of getting a bus when you actually need it is very low if you're traveling at all when other people travel. This didn't use to be such a problem for me because I'm a late riser so I traveled during less peak times, or, when homeschooling, we chose to go on trips during the school day instead of summer vacation. But with the kids in school and wanting to go on trips during vacation times, or if I have appointments during peak time, I'm more or less screwed. Bus after bus after bus is likely to pass without them letting anyone on.

And then corona happened. 
To minimize the spread on public transportation, and to ensure social distancing is somewhat possible, they started limiting the amount of people allowed on the bus at once, which is about half the original number allowed on the bus.
You can imagine that however bad it was to travel during peak times before corona, its infinitely worse after. And not just during peak times. At pretty much all times. I took a bus at midnight and the bus driver wouldn't drive because too many people got on the bus. At freaking midnight! 

The only way to avoid this was to go to the first stop of the route. Which, in my town, is a 15 minute walk up hill, in the heat, to take the bus before it gets filled up. 
Only everyone else is doing that as well, so often even at the first stop, after exhausting yourself going that far, there's a possibility that the bus will be too packed to allow you on.
And then if you're in the city, there's the same problem coming home. So it doesn't matter what stop you're closest to, you will need to first take another bus to the first stop of the route, so there's actually a chance that you will be able to get on. But oh, that midnight bus that wouldn't ride because it was too full? That was at the first stop on the route.

And I haven't even gotten to lockdown yet.

However bad the bus issues are during corona, during lockdown, there's no buses on weekends, and during the week the buses run at half schedule?
Already very full buses.
Half amount of people allowed on them.
Half the amount of buses.

And lets not even talk about the germs circulating on the bus.

It's bad news.

Did I mention that my kids go from my house to their dad's house and back again using public transportation???? The switches were happening every day beforehand, but because of how terrible the public transportation issues were, we decided to switch to their dad days be all in a row so they wouldn't have to go through that too often, but even that wasn't so great and didn't really work during lockdown.

So during our first lockdown period, the kids were with me the entire time. It simply wasn't possible to rely on public transportation to switch them back and forth. We are now in our second lockdown, and the same is happening.

I mean, life without a car now pretty much is hell. And we have no idea how long this corona situation will last. It may be quite a while, since it'll take a long time until a vaccine will be ready, and then the likelihood of it working is still up for debate (especially since corona immunity doesn't last???).

And then I haven't even added up the time issue and the mental health issue and the money issue.

As someone who is supporting my kids as a single mom, my time is precious. My energy is precious. My resources are precious. Walking to the start of the route plus the time the extended route takes is at least an extra 35 minutes of my time on the way to the city, plus the energy it takes. On the way home, it adds an hour to my way. All this is time that I cannot be working or recharging.

Then there's the jobs that I can only do if I have a car to get there, because I simply cannot get to them via public transportation, or public transportation comes so rarely that it is unreliable. This includes my foraging classes, painting apartments (which I've started doing for pay), and some small scale takeout I've been doing.

For this reason, I've been renting a car as needed. I figured renting a car each time would be much cheaper than owning a car, since cars are expensive here, but part of the expense in owning a car here is extremely expensive gas, which I anyhow need to pay for when renting a car. But I was doing that, even though the price added up.

And then the summer came, and the price of the car rentals went up, because they were in demand, and I realized that I could barely justify the larger expense of the car rentals, so I didn't rent a car the entire summer (other than our one trip camping) so I wasn't able to take on a lot of jobs.

My dad who is a frugal master, and my best friend Michelle who is also amazing at frugal calculations, both commented to me that with the amount of times I was renting a car, I should look into buying one.

And now I'm really considering it.

Because without a car, life is really untenable, especially with corona, especially as a single mom.

I was afraid of the costs, but I found out that I could buy a used car for 1/4 of the price I thought it was. And that the cost of maintaining a car here isn't as expensive as I originally thought.

So now I am facing some tough decisions.

Do I get a car?

I need to add up how much I've spent on a car over the last year and see how that compares to owning a car. 

I need to calculate how much more money I'd be able to earn if I had a car, and factor in my mental health and those benefits as well.

I have lots of thinking to do.

But I can't make any decision yet, because certain things are coming up in the future that might severely negatively affect my finances, and I can't make a large financial decision until I know what the results will be.

But I really, really, really, really want a car.

I'm praying that this can become a financial reality for our family.

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


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  1. Get. The. Car.

    Our lives changed when we got a car. We could go places without having to take two trains and three buses. No more needing to ride a bike 40 minutes. No more slogging through the rain. I mean, these things still happen, because it's my husband's car and he's often at work, but if we plan things properly it's much, much easier.

    I've even started contemplating whether I want to get a car, too. The math is a bit tricky with this one; most of my trips are within easy cycling/walking distance, and public transit is back to normal and very good, so it's not really necessary. But there are occasions when I do need to go further, and I would like to do things like take my kid into the countryside, but that's a terrible reason to get stuck paying for a car.

  2. Praying that you find that car. Yes, it sounds like you need one. I hope things work out financially...

  3. I'd say go for it, if the numbers add up. As you say, your time is very precious.
    We were carless for years, living where public transport is good, but then moved to somewhere without good public transport where a car was a necessity. Our car is not flash and is no bigger than we need but I've been grateful for the freedom to go on trips etc. In my country second hand car ownership is the norm, and we plan to run this one for as long as possible then get an EV.

  4. I have a car. Often, I have the option of taking the bus (nearby) to the grocery or to church (bus lets me off nearby).
    Having said that, COVID has changed things. Bus = more germs = more sickness! One of my neighbors has been making (albeit expensive) face masks for the last six months, which I freely hand out to anyone who visits me.
    I support your plan to buy a car!

  5. I think that’s more than a want:it’s a need! I hope you’re able to get one.

  6. Good luck on your car search. I hope you find a reliable one. Make sure to do your research before purchase. Check for recalls and overall review of the car. Great post, thanks for sharing.

  7. Do you think someone around you would be interessted in sharing a car? Maybe this will be easier then doing it alone! (Of course it would have to be someone close and with different time-needs as you, but MAYBE there is someone. :))
    And I agree that Corona has made it quite difficult without a car. I live in a small village and felt quite standed while the trains and busses were not traveling regulary. And the commute to work feels very different then it used to...

  8. Do you have citicar (car sharing) in your area? they're relatively cheap and very convenient. access to pick up/drop off and payment terms are much easier than a regular rental.
    They don't charge more during vacation or peak times either.

  9. Having a car makes it easier to buy groceries in bulk too! And it's easier to take advantage of any free furniture, etc, you spot when you can snag it right then. Plus - it's not a forever decision. You can try having a car for a year and if you decide that actually no it isn't quiiite worth it, you can always sell it at that point to recoup some of your expenses.

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