1949 ford pickup with grandpa standing beside it

We own 3 vehicles, maybe it’s not FI, but I don’t care

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Whenever the topic of financial independence comes up there is always talk about minimizing your top 3 expenses – housing, transportation & food.  Cutting your transportation cost may include going down to a one-vehicle household or getting rid of your vehicle altogether. But that decision focuses on the math and not the mindset.

For us, going down to one-vehicle household would have made us miserable.  

Not only do we have 2 vehicles, but we are a 3 vehicle household.  Owning 3 vehicles fits with our values and if it means we have to work a bit longer before reaching our financial independence number then so be it. 

I’m more concerned with being mindful with my money than trying to cut any and every expense on a race to achieve a goal.

The 1 Vehicle Conversation

I will admit, the idea of saving more money and going down to one vehicle did cross my mind at some point.  I kept hearing how getting rid of a vehicle could accelerate our path to financial independence (FI).  

Hubby’s vehicle was coming up due for some major maintenance so I started crunching numbers.

I had numbers figured out and a plan of how we could go down to one vehicle and take Ubers everywhere or carpool when possible. 

After I presented my plan to hubby he thought I was nuts (more nuts than usual).  

You see whenever I hear an idea I often jump all over it without really thinking it through.  Hubby is the perfect balance for this.  He often brings me back to our reality.

Hubby thought this was another one of my hair-brained schemes to deprive us in order to save a few hundred dollars.  He was not having it.

Even though the numbers may have “made sense” the impact on our lifestyle would have been inconvenient. The math worked, but the mindset didn’t.

A Word on the 3rd vehicle

Before I get into breaking down our vehicle decision and the lifestyle impact, I should probably take a minute to explain our vehicles.

Hubby drives a 2006 Honda and I drive a 2013 Chevrolet.  Both are SUVs and both vehicles were bought brand new and we intend on driving them until we can’t anymore.

Our third vehicle is my hot rod.  

I own a 1949 Ford pickup that my grandfather bought brand new.  When I was 14 my grandmother gave it to me after my grandfather passed away.  

Then my dad and I spent the next 2 years restoring it.

1949 ford pickup with grandpa standing beside it
My grandfather and his pickup

This pickup was the first vehicle I have ever owned and I used to drive it every day back and forth to high school.  To me it is a sort of family heirloom.  One that I have no plan on ever selling.  It will eventually get passed down to my kids.

Cost of a 3rd vehicle

And realistically it doesn’t cost that much.  We have room to store it all winter so that doesn’t cost us anything.  It’s not great on gas but I’m also not using it as my regular commuter.  

When it comes to my hot rod I’m a fair-weather driver.

As for maintenance, my dad and I do the majority of that ourselves. Yes, there is a cost for parts, but now that we have recently finished restoring it the ongoing costs are minimal here.  

Note – I drove my truck unfinished for more than 15 years. It wasn’t until I could fully afford it did I finish the restoration.

Because it is a hot rod it has special insurance that only costs me $239 a year.

I am very lucky to own this vehicle and it is very meaningful to me.

It is more of a hobby expense than a transportation expense. For those reasons, I’m not going to include the cost of our 3rd vehicle in the consideration of 1 vehicle or 2.

Cost of 2 Vehicles

Being the numbers nerd that I am, I have tracked all of our expenses for years.  So I know that the cost of 2 vehicles last year for us was $7,372.88. Because we plan on driving these vehicles until they are no longer road safe I’m not going to consider depreciation.

ExpenseCost
Honda Insurance$1001
Chevrolet Insurance$1343
Maintenance (Total annual cost for 2)$2393.24
Gas (Total annual cost for 2)$2635.64
Total$7372.88

The purchase cost of the vehicles is a sunk cost because we have already paid for them in full. So no going cost to include.

If we half the maintenance and gas costs and add them to each vehicle’s insurance cost, the Honda costs us $3515.44 and the Chevrolet costs us $3857.44 a year to own.

Time Cost of 2 Vehicles

Convenience and time are 2 values that directly relate to us owning 2 vehicles.  

When it comes to convenience I’m going to focus on our daily commutes.  This is the most consistent use of our vehicles and therefore easy to track.

Being a mom I don’t want to spend any more time commuting to work than I have to.  I would much rather spend extra time with my little one.

So let’s look at the time cost of 2 vehicles, or rather how much extra commute time it would cost to go down to one vehicle.  

If we went down to one vehicle I would probably be commuting via public transit during the winter months.  During the warmer months, it would be closer for hubby to bike so let’s say he bikes in the warmer months.  The reason I would be taking the bus is because there is no public transit option from our neighbourhood to hubby’s work.

Here’s the breakdown of the time cost:

 Time Cost (one-way)
M Vehicle commute30 minutes
H Vehicle commute15 minutes
M Bus commute60 minutes
H Bike commute30 minutes

As you can see not having 2 vehicles would cost us twice as much time.

As a teacher my contract is based on 200 working days a year.  That means that on average I commute for 200 hours a year if I’m driving myself.  

If we went down to one vehicle, let’s say I take the vehicle half the time and ride the bus the other half.  If that’s the case, then I’m commuting for 300 hours a year.

Hubby’s working days are more difficult to determine due to the shift work.  But for explanation sake, let’s use the same 200 working days a year.  

Driving every day to work would, therefore, account for 100 hours of commute time a year.  If we went down to one vehicle and he drives for half of those and bikes for the other half, his total annual commute time would be 150 hours.

Breaking down the hourly costs

The hourly cost of owning 2 vehicles ($7372.88/300) is $24.58 an hour.  

If we went down to one vehicle it would be the Chevrolet.  I’m not 100% sure on what the total cost of one vehicle would be. But here is my estimate.

ExpenseCost
Insurance$1343
Bus Pass (6 Months)$582
Maintenance (half of total)$1196.62
Gas (3/4 of total)$1976.73
Total$5098.35

The three-quarters gas cost is because although our commuting would decrease, that is not the only time we drive our vehicles.

The total cost of going down to one vehicle would, therefore, be $5098.35. But that number does not take into account bike maintenance.  So in reality, that number could be higher.

Going down to one vehicle is a savings of $2274.53 a year.  

But “costs” us 150 more hours of commute time.  At a rate of $24.58 per hour our extra commute time “costs” us $3687. 

In this case, having 2 vehicles actually saves us $1412.47 a year of our time. Unfortunately, we don’t get paid for our time like that so the savings are on paper only.

Aligning our spending to our values

So now that we have talked about the math, let’s talk about the mindset.  

We are a multi-vehicle household with 2 full-time jobs and a little one.  Going down to one vehicle would be very inconvenient. Although I work a somewhat regular 9-5 job, hubby is a shift worker.

If hubby is at work with the vehicle it becomes a lot more difficult to get around with a little one in tow. 

Now here is where the FI fanatics will say that the inconvenience is worth the savings.

But, I will gladly work a little longer if it means the convenience of owning 2 vehicles.

The extra time we will be working will be when our little one is in school. As a teacher I will be on the same schedule as the little one at that time. So choosing to work an extra year or two will not impact the time that I can spend with her.

Our choice to own more than one vehicle is about our lifestyle now.

Is it the most FI thing we could be doing? Maybe not.  

But there are things that you can do to help keep the costs of owning 2 vehicles (or 3 if that’s your thing) down.

How to Save Money Owning More than 1 Vehicle

How to save money on cars

Final Thoughts

For me, the whole concept of financial independence is aligning your spending to your values and being more mindful with your money.  In that case then yes, owning 2 vehicles is FI.

I’m aware that there are people on their FI soapboxes that will disagree with my decision to own multiple vehicles.  They will state that I’m not truly pursuing FI and definitely not part of the FIRE movement. 

But I have no ambition of retiring early. I know that with my personality I will always be working in some capacity – even if it’s just working for myself on passion projects.

As for not pursuing FI, well that’s just semantics.

We have worked really hard to align our spending with our values.  Do we spend more on vehicles? Sure. But we spend a heck of a lot less on other budget categories than most. At the end of the day if that’s not FI, then I don’t really think I want to be part of the FI movement.

I want to be part of the inclusive movement of people aligning their spending with their values – the group of people who are being more mindful with their money.  Because if we are being mindful with our money than the rest will take care of itself.

What is the point of feeling deprived in order to pursue a goal in a way someone else dictates you should?

So I say, as long as you’re aligning your spending to your values and being mindful with your money, who cares what anyone else thinks.

I’m a 3-vehicle owner and proud of it.

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16 thoughts on “We own 3 vehicles, maybe it’s not FI, but I don’t care”

  1. Wow, a hotrod, huh? So cool!
    I agree with you – time is more important and if it costs you more time, then it is not worth it.
    I currently drive a work car so am saving up to buy a used car when I eventually retire. So my living expenses will increase! But I do need a car – public transport here sucks

    1. Latestarterfire – a work car sounds fancy. If you buy a used car and don’t finance it you will find that although your living expenses will increase, it won’t be too crazy. Just remember to shop around for insurance – haha.

  2. We owned three vehicles for a while.

    The extra was my fault.

    Want to know what’s worse? The second was the same car, except for color and a few options.

    How crazy is that?! Wait, it gets better. I work from home! I probably put 500 miles on a car/year.

    My excuse was that they’re …collectible? -Ish? Yea.

    We all have our crazy little hobbies and quirks. FIRE isn’t going to be a perfect zero to done path and sometimes we’ll hold on to these little failings. The important part is getting *most* of it right.

    Thanks for sharing a little insight and reminder of my car craziness. Cheers!

    1. Chris – always happy to meet a fellow 3 car owner. If you have 2 that were the same car then it must have been a good car – haha.

      You are absolutely right that FIRE isn’t a perfect zero to done path. I prefer to enjoy the journey than rush through it anyway.

  3. I have to agree that it’s important to look at an individual situation. We’re lucky – I’m working from home and we live in a town where I can access anything that I want or need by walking here. However, if I was also working outside the home and had to be able to commute, there is no way that we could manage as a 1 vehicle house without going crazy! I think people need to remember that happiness and well-being are more than just being financially independent. Your mental health need to be a priority too!! After all, what’s the point, if you’re not happy?

    1. Britt – if I was working from home full-time it would definitely be easier to get rid of one of our vehicles. But you are absolutely right, if you’re not happy – what is the point?

  4. We have three cars for two drivers also. But we drive them all. One is hers, one mine and one we use to pull our fishing boat and off road vehicle on trailers. They are 2006, 2008 and 2011 vintage. We could be driving 2020 Escalades or Mercedes rides, we could easily afford to pay cash for them, but seems like a waste to do that. One caution, there is no reason to expect your kids to share your love of that antique rod. To them if will probably be just an old vehicle. If you give it as a gift you should allow and expect them to sell it.

    1. Steveark – You are correct there is no reason to expect that my kids will want my hotrod. That same thing has happened in my family before. If my little ones don’t want it then I may either sell it or pass it on to someone else in the family. My grandfather had 17 grandchildren so there are lots of options.

  5. Anyone looking to save money needs to do it at a pace that they’re comfortable with, with expenses on items that they value.
    You largely need the two work cars, and the third car is as you put it a family heirloom. Sure, you could sell it – but it’s the type of thing you’d want back once you’re fully financially independent anyway. It would be like selling grandma’s ring for the money, but then wanting it back because you love it. No point depriving yourself of something you truly value and love!
    A good lesson for people looking to FI/RE and not drop out part way through their journey!

    1. HisHerMoneyGuide – even though it is important to save at a rate you are comfortable with, I think there is some benefit to stretching out of your comfort zone as well.

  6. We are a one car household. It works for us for now. I can totally see why some households need more than one car. If it saves you time, it makes a lot of sense.

    1. Tawcan – I’m envious of people who can do a one-car household and make it work for them. But what we do works for us right now so we will stick with it. If our situation changes, or we reach financial independence then we can re-evaluate.

  7. Wow nice picture of the car! So many memories, that’s a wonderful gift.

    We are a two car household and it works ok for us so far.

    Also nice website theme update!

    1. Thanks, GYM – that picture of my grandpa with the truck is one of my favourites. And thanks for noticing the theme update – thought it was time for a change:)

  8. We all do and have things that others will say are not “FI”. When it comes down to it, there is no right or wrong path to FI. We have to pick the path that works for us and align with our values.

    I rather take a slightly slower path to FI and enjoy the process than be so extreme in frugality.

    1. Andrew – I totally agree. I too would rather take a slow path and enjoy the journey to FI than to deprive myself with extreme frugality. That may work for some, but not for me.

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