A bit less than 2 years ago, we became a one-car family. It was very scary but thanks to whatever force you believe brings good fortune we were all physically ok and so were the people in the other vehicle. I just hope no one else has to sit boxed in by stopped cars on both sides and in front watching in the rear view mirror as the car behind them doesn’t notice that *everyone* else has stopped. Waiting to see, and feel, what would happen next was not fun and it took a long time to get my children’s shrieks to stop echoing through my head at night. ‘Nuff said. Anyway the result was that we needed to buy a new car.
Why Do We Need Two Cars? Isn’t One Car Enough?
We actually lived for about 6 months with only one car. Our employment is fairly close by and our children walk to school. We rented a car, using the reduced rate available through our employer, for our summer vacation as the car we had was not long-trip worthy.
In the late autumn, though, things started getting a bit annoying. Walking the few kilometres to music lessons through the dark rainy night was uncomfortable and crossing the major road a bit stressful. (Safety tip: carry LED-flashlights and move them around a bit towards oncoming and left-turning traffic at waist-level till you’re sure they’ve noticed PEDESTRIANS are out and about when they don’t expect it.)
Trying to be at two hockey arenas at opposite ends of the area at the same time was also not working well. And it wasn’t great dropping my husband off at a college for his night-school course just in time to race to the rink with the children, then head back out near 11 to pick him up again.
None of this was impossible but it was horrifically inconvenient.
And our “surviving” car was the 1998 Corolla. Not exactly the most luxurious up-to-date model for winter road trips across half of Ontario to visit the grandparents. Definitely not an easy vehicle to pack for 4 in winter including sporting equipment and holiday presents.
So we decided to replace the written-off Camry.
What Kind of Cars Have You Owned Already?
Trying to decide when and where to buy a new car is always good for starting conversations in the lunch room. Everyone has an opinion, sometimes a very strong opinion!, about what someone else should buy. After all, it doesn’t cost THEM anything and it’s easy to be an authority when you’re not putting your own savings on the line.
My husband enjoyed these discussions for the most part. One time, though, he was caught off guard. A colleague asked him to list, point blank, what cars he had already owned.
This colleague, like many others, rarely kept a car more than 5 years. He also loved expensive European brands. His income was about the same as my husband’s and so he knew we could buy, frankly, whatever we wanted.
So my honest husband started listing them out:
- a Tercel
- a Corolla
Wait, could he include what cars his wife had also owned? If so
- a Corolla
- a Camry (the one that was written-off)
Yep. In over 30 years of driving, he’d had 2 cars, one of which he was still driving, and I had had 2, one of which I should have still been driving.
And for us, the fact that the most recent 2 of those cars had come equipped with Air Conditioning meant they were beyond luxurious.
The car-loving colleague nearly died laughing.
But it’s true. If the Camry hadn’t been toasted, we wouldn’t be car shopping for about another 4 years. And we would have thought seriously about whether we needed 2 cars at that point because the one car left would have been the larger Camry.
Why We Might Consider Buying a Luxury Car
We have friends who need the ego-stroke that driving a luxury car gives them. Different cultures do shape us. Everyone who matters to them does judge them based on what they drive and they need the physical manifestation of their success to feel at peace.
We are very fortunate that our culture was almost the opposite. Expensive cars were looked on more as a weakness or a compensation for other deficiencies than as a mark of success. So we won’t be buying a luxury car to meet anyone’s need to measure or rank us.
We have relatives who bought a luxury car because of a disability. They literally tried dozens of models of vehicles to find something that would allow this person to cope better. It makes a tangible difference every day in that person’s ability to travel with reduced pain.
That seems like a good reason to me to spend a bit more.
We are also very fortunate that so far we don’t suffer from a similar disability. We don’t find an appreciable difference in the comfort level of a Camry and of a luxury model.
Why We Won’t Consider Buying a Luxury Car
The single biggest reason why we won’t buy a luxury car is the cost. And the reason that cost matters is actually what we would rather do with the money we save by not buying that car. If we had the money to spend on a luxury car, we would prefer to buy a regular car and donate the savings to help people who can’t afford a life much less a car.
We’ve seen the need in our own community: people who are homeless due to mental illness and intolerable family conditions; people who have homes but whose families are stretched to the snapping point with the costs of dealing with a family member’s disability; people who work tremendously hard but who barely make enough to pay the bills and buy food; there’s an endless supply of people in our community who suffer.
We’ve also seen the needs in other parts of Canada. It fascinates and appalls me to see a steady stream of ads on TV begging us to give to charities helping abroad that never mention the need right here in Canada. They imply that poverty, illness and desperation are a function of skin colour or continent. That’s so untrue. There are conditions in parts of Canada as bleak as in slums anywhere else in the world.
And we have seen the needs in other countries. We’ve travelled in countries where there is no universal health care. We’ve seen what happens in places where the population is so huge that safety is considered irrelevant: Why protect the workers if you can just hire a fresh batch tomorrow and discard the broken and mutilated remains of the workers of today without any penalty?
Can the $20 000 – $40 000 we don’t spend on a luxury car cure these social ills? No. But it can help a few people find a few days less unbearable. It can buy cleft palate milk bottles for abandoned children; it can buy books for a community without a library; it can pay for a prosthetic arm; it can pay for addiction treatment; it can buy a tract of land to let a few small creatures survive for another few years.
Should Everyone Give Up Their Luxury Car?
Of course not. Just like I don’t look like everyone else, I don’t expect to think like everyone else. Each of us chooses what we spend our money on and what we value. I don’t begrudge other people’s right to spend it on a beautiful car or one that features every design optimization known to mankind. There are reasons why that person wants that vehicle and they are every bit as valid as why I don’t.
But for us, we’re spending our money as we prefer. Before winter solstice, we bought a Camry to replace the one that was lost. It’s not as well made as our last car and the upholstery is an odd colour. But it works well and we’ve used it for one road trip to the Maritimes already.
And we gave money and time in ways that we hope will make a difference in a few people’s lives.
Now when our ’98 Corolla eventually runs into trouble we may have another test run at the one car family scenario. Personally, I hope that won’t be for a long, long time. It’s fun having a car each.
I’m sure I’ve missed some other reasons why luxury cars matter (or don’t.) Please share your own approach to car ownership (or non-ownership) with a comment. It’s interesting to see what “drives” us!