Can You be a One Car - or No Car - Family in the 'burbs?
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If you live in New York City and own a car, you’re in the minority. In 2012 just 1.4 million city households—less than 47%—owned cars. Manhattan ownership was the lowest, at just 23%, followed by Brooklyn at 44%. For comparison’s sake, national car ownership hovers around 92%.
But move to the ‘burbs and, no doubt, a car is in your future. The average household actually has 2.28 vehicles—more than 2 cars per household—so it’s very likely it won’t be a car, but cars that will be lining your new driveway.
However, many city dwellers are apprehensive about becoming “driving” families post-move. Can you be a one-car family? What about a no car family? Here are some things to think about:
Can you walk to key spots around town like the train station, grocery store, parks and schools?
If the answer is “yes,” cutting back on cars could be doable. Communities with active downtowns can also help cut back on your driving time—chances are even in the city your go-to spots are within walking distance. Take that close-to-home mentality to the ‘burbs!
Can you and your spouse get in sync in terms of commuting schedules?
Walking to the train not doable? See if you and your spouse can get in-sync when it comes to commuting. Driving to and from the train together will likely eliminate the need for a day-to-day vehicle, rendering your “station” car your one and only. What’s more, with annual parking permit fees in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars—and some with years-long wait lists—if you can cut back to one car, you’ll save money and plenty of headaches.
Can the kids get where they need to be without you shuttling them?
Many area ‘burbs offer bus service to and from school for kids as young as 3. Some even provide “extended” shuttle services for after-school activities, sports practices and daycare programs. If your town offers these valuable transportation services, you may be able to avoid adding an extra car to the mix!
Does your childcare require transportation?
Hiring a nanny? Does she have a car that can be used during the day to get your kids where they need to be? Or are you bringing in an au pair, who needs access to a set of wheels? Or is daycare your preferred route, with either bus service or schedule pick up times?
Childcare can play a major role in your household vehicle situation. A nanny with a safe, reliable car can help parents get by with one—just plan to subsidize the cost of gas and basic wear and tear on her car. Bringing in an au pair will likely mean you need to provide her access to a car so, chances are, two cars are in your future. Other options like daycare, neighborhood “shares” or after-school playgroups and carpools can definitely work within the one-car framework, though, and can be great options for families looking to keep cars to a minimum.
What do your weekends look like—and what will they look like?
Got more than one kid—and more than one hectic weekend schedule? If your Saturdays and Sundays will involve taking kid 1 to soccer practice on this side of town, and kid 2 to dance class in the next neighborhood over—then back again—two cars may help you maintain your weekend sanity. While neighbor carpools and carefully planned out schedules can be helpful, getting everyone where they need to be when they need to be there can still be a challenge—but with two cars you’ll have the flexibility to hit the road anytime, any place.
So can you do it with no car? Possibly. Some communities are truly walkable and, given a home in the perfect spot within a reasonable walk to the train, grocery store, restaurants and other core amenities could be doable—but only for so long. As your children get older they’ll naturally have more activities out of the home as well as playdates throughout your town and beyond. While you can navigate the occasional car-less situation thanks to local taxi services, child care providers and friendly parents and neighbors, you’ll most likely wind up needing your own set of wheels to keep up with your family’s go, go, go lifestyle.
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