Paycheck Chronicles

Why We Have Too Many Cars


I've always thought that having more cars that drivers was kind of silly. Okay, maybe if you have a farm truck, or an antique sports car. But for most people? Silly.  The world has a way of challenging indefensible beliefs, and now we are a three car family for only two drivers.

Why? Oddly, it is economics that causes me to be spending more to have three cars. Our last PCS move involved six people, plus the cat, doing five days of driving across thousands of miles in the family truckster. Once we arrived, we started looking for a second car as this just isn't a one car per family type of area. As it turned out, both my husband and I got new* cars for this tour. I picked up a tiny-yet-five-shoulder-belt hybrid to eliminate the need to drive the 17 mpg family truckster on my daily mom drive routine. I drive about 400 per week, just with the regular just shuttling kids around, and the super efficient hybrid saves us a ton on gas, more than enough to justify the extra insurance and purchase price. We're not giving up the big truck, because we need something that seats six and we appreciate having something larger for visitors or carpools.


Our increased insurance costs are relatively low. We don't have collision coverage on any of our cars, because they are all old, low-value, and don't have loans. We dropped the rental reimbursement coverage because we've now got an extra car. Our insurance bill is approximately $30 a month higher with the third car, or $360 per year.


What about maintenance? It pretty much averages out. Since we're not driving the big car, its maintenance costs have fallen considerably. The maintenance on the two cars together has been just about the same as it would be on one car being driven consistently.

Registration Fees

This could be a deal-breaker, depending on where you live. Fortunately, our location charges extremely low registration fees on hybrids. It costs $15 per year to register the extra car. If the registration costs on the extra car were several hundred dollars, the overall equation might be different.


Here's the real savings. Our gas runs roughly $4 per gallon, and the smaller car gets around 50 miles to the gallon compared to the average 17 miles per gallon of the smaller car. Over 100 miles, that is a $15 difference.

Here's the math:

Purchase price of car: $3500

Extra insurance: $30 per month or $360 per year

Yearly registration: $15

Weekly Gas in Truckster: 400 miles/17 mpg = 23 gallons X $4 per gallon = $92

Weekly gas in Hybrid: 400 miles/50 mpg = 8 gallons X $4 per gallon = $32

Weekly savings on regular driving: $60

In a year, the gas costs on the hybrid are $3120 less when computing regular weekly driving around town. However, even one or two longer voyages increases the savings dramatically. The first month we had the car, I drove my daughters 1000 miles, each way, to summer camp. Over those 2000 miles, I saved $300 on fuel by driving the hybrid. While I've not again made a trip quite that big, it isn't unusual for us to go 100 miles back and forth to the military hospital, or to the airport. As noted above, it's $15 saved on each 100 mile trip.

All totalled, I calculated that we paid off the purchase price of the smaller car before the first year of ownership was up. Since then, it's been pure savings. We save at least $200 each month by having the extra car, and most months include some sort of longer trips that increase the savings. I'm not saying that having an extra car is a good choice for everyone.  There are probably only a few families for which is makes financial sense.  I am saying that sometimes you have to break your preconceived ideas to find the right solution for your family.

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