Monday, January 7, 2019

What's It Like Being a 2-Car Family?

There's something personally satisfying to me about using all of something. I'd die before throwing away a peanut butter jar without getting out the absolute last of the contents with a spatula.

Likewise, I'm a fan of using things to their maximum capacity. We filled the bedrooms in our house with 5 children, and I was pretty satisfied that when you added Phillip and me, that took up all the space in our 7-seater minivan.

And then we got pregnant.

Our big family of 7 fit perfectly in our minivan, and then we got pregnant. We knew we were going to love having 6 kids, we just didn’t know what to do about outgrowing our minivan! Though it might be a little unconventional, here is the large family car solution that worked for us. #bigfamily #largefamilies #familycar #2carfamily #6kids #unremarkable

Of course we were thrilled about adding to our family, but it definitely made our car situation a problem. We debated for several months about what to do.

I asked my blog's Facebook page for advice, getting everything from buying an 8-seater SUV to installing a bench in the third row to add a seat. I admit spending a few months drooling over the Nissan NV in all its 12-passenger glory.

In the end, though, what we decided to do was: nothing. 

We kept the two cars we had (a commuter car for my husband, a minivan for me) and simply made them work. Our whole family can't fit in our 7-seater minivan, so we're a 2-car family and have been for two and a half years now.

I'm confused. Why wouldn't you want a vehicle that could fit your whole family?


I like to get the maximum value for my money, so going into debt to buy a car with ONE more seat seemed sort of silly to me. Especially since both the commuter car and the minivan were paid off already.

We also toyed with the idea of getting a larger full-sized van, so we'd have room to really stretch out, carry tons of luggage, or give rides to the kids' friends.

But thinking about driving a 12-passenger behemoth around all the time, even when I only had one or two kids in the car, seemed terribly inefficient to me. Also, parking would be harder. And our gas mileage would be terrible.

The convenience of being able to fit us all in one vehicle, whether in an 8-seater or a full-sized van, didn't seem to outweigh the financial and practical reasons not to.

But don't you need a bigger car?


95% of the time we drive the minivan, it's just me and the kids going somewhere while Phillip is at work, and we still fit perfectly.

Oftentimes though, we don't even fill up the minivan. The kids are involved in more extra-curricular activities now, and there are some days when all the kids aren't even home at the same time. Or they're old enough to choose to stay home while I shuttle someone to soccer practice and back.

Even before we had to, Phillip and I usually took two cars, anyway. If the whole family went to the school band concert, we still drove separately because my daughter needed to be there early to warm up. Or we took two cars to church so some of us could stay for choir practice and everyone else could go home. 

It honestly isn't much of an adjustment in day-to-day life.

Is it ever annoying to take two cars everywhere?


At first, driving caravan-style on family outings was weird. I missed sitting next to Phillip on the way there, and if we go anyplace that charges for parking we need to pay twice.

But I got used to it. Most of the places we drive as a family aren't far so driving alone isn't a big deal. Even with driving two vehicles and paying double parking fees, we still spend less in gas than if I drove around a lower-mileage vehicle 24/7.

The only time it's really annoying is when we go on longer trips. Driving an hour or more in separate cars gets boring, but I'll admit when we go camping or on vacation we need the extra space in Phillip's car to pack all our gear, anyway.

The only thing we can't do now is road trips. When the kids were younger drove 25 hours across the country to visit my parents every couple of years, and we're obviously not doing that in separate cars. We could rent a big van, but that costs as much as flying so now we fly.

A few times a year when a parent comes to visit, we have to get creative because we don't always have enough room in the car.

Would you go back and buy a bigger car if you had a do-over?


I suppose if we went WAY back to 2008 when we bought our minivan, getting one that seats 8 instead of the more conventional 7 would've saved us some trouble. But since we didn't have a definite plan for our family size and I was only pregnant with #3 then, there really was no way of knowing.

However, if I went back to a few years ago when we already had the minivan and decided not to trade it in for something bigger, I wouldn't change that decision. 

Our current car situation may not work for us 100% of the time, but it works 95% of the time. Not having a car loan and not driving around a gas-guzzler when it's not necessary is worth the 5% inconvenience to me.

Will you ever upgrade to a vehicle that fits all of you?


When our oldest gets her license, we'll probably add a third car. Most likely she'll be driving Phillip's current commuter car and he'll buy a new(er) one for himself. 

She's only 14 now, but we're already so spread out taking what feels like a million people to a million places at once, she'll need to be able to drive herself (and hopefully some siblings) to school and activities sometimes.

We plan to drive our minivan into the ground, and by the time it dies for good, our kids will have started moving out of the house (don't talk to me about it, I'm not ready) so not having enough seats won't be an issue.

We don't know of too many other 2-car families, but that's okay with us. We don't know a whole lot of other families of 8, either! 

Driving two vehicles around all the time might not be a perfect solution, but it's what we decided makes the most financial and practical sense for our big family, and we're making it work.

Click to Share:
Unremarkable Files

14 comments:

Rachel G said...

When my baby sistwr was born, my family outgrew our 8-seater here, but we were a one car family. My parents only owned the one car. So if the whole family needed to go somewhere...one person squished in. There aren't backseat seatbelt laws and sometimes families of five all pile on a moped here, so nine people in an eight-seater is hardly cause for scandal. Angel and I share a car, too. It takes a lot more schedule-juggling, but mostly I just stay within walking distance of home while he's at work.

KatieS said...

When we had our sixth, we had the 7-seater mini-van but none of the kids was old enough to sit in the front seat so we had to get a new family car. We opted for a new-to-us 10 passenger sprinter van and love it. There are some challenges due to the height, but overall it has served us well and will be ours until it falls apart!

Mom of Six said...

We are in the same boat (two vehicles, I mean).🙄 We bought an 8 passenger van when our 6th was on the way, only to find out we were expecting twins last year! Really hard to give up the road trips, not that we regret our two tiny cities one bit.

Mom of Six said...

I meant cuties, not cities. Also guess I'm Mom of Eight now.

AnneMarie said...

This is so interesting to read! I really appreciate the fact that you guys decided to make things work with a minivan and a commuter car-growing up, my parents and I could never understand all of the families we knew who drove those huge 1-2passenger, gas-guzzling vans. Yes, it's cool to fit everyone in the car together, but it doesn't seem like the most practical thing in the world.

We currently have one car, so when we bought our house we made sure to land in a neighborhood that is close to SOMETHING I can walk to with the kids during the day. It would be nice at times to have two cars, since there's juggling of schedules with my husband's work and me needing to wakeup the kids (if they sleep later than usual) to take him to work if we want the car for a day, but the idea of paying for another car and more on gas and insurance doesn't appeal to me much. Though whenever I get pregnant again, we'll have to spring for another car since our tiny one can't hold 3 car seats in the back (unless I guess we want to get rid of our carseats and buy super narrow ones, which would be an expense? maybe...hmm.)Not pregnant currently, so we have time to figure it out which is good. I love our city, but I honestly wish it wasn't so necessary to own a car when living here!

Jenny Evans said...

Darn those stringent seat belt laws in the US!

Jenny Evans said...

I just got home from picking up my 12-year-old at school. The younger kids stayed home napping with the 10-year-old watching them so it was JUST ME in the car on the way there. I don't speak for anyone else, but being so in love with efficiency like I am, I just don't think I could stomach driving around ALL BY MYSELF in a full-size van. It's bad enough in a minivan!

Also, we did the exact same thing as you for many years: Phillip and I shared one 5-seater car until I was pregnant with #3, which is when we bought the minivan because not everyone could fit. It seemed plenty big at the time!

Emily Gibbons said...

Exact same situation here, though we have seven kids with an 8-seater minivan and little car. We were pricing bigger vans when I got in a car accident with the commuter car. So until we pay that one off we're doing the two car thing. But it's just like you say. Also, I really like that both our cars fit in our garage so we don't have to scrape in the winter! We rented a van for our trip which wasn't as expensive as flying would have been. Thanks for your take on it. I needed that. Perhaps we won't buy a big van after all.

me said...

We only had one car for ages. Husband would walk or ride bike to work, while I would get the minivan and kids. Once we hit 6 kids, my husband replaced the 2 person bench seat in the minivan with a 3 person one. Fit all 8 of us nicely. And when #7 arrived, we didn't get anything new. We just went to different church times and made it work. We rented an extra car for a long trip.
However, when #8 arrived we had to finally give in and buy another car. We thought about a big van, but the gas mileage stinks! It's cheaper to drive two cars (esp ,as you know, you don't always need all the seats). I like going on vacation with two vehicles because, although the drive might be hard at times, the space and flexibility rocks. Last year, we went out to visit family. My husband could take the small car and my son off for college visits while I took the rest of the kids to the ocean and kids museums.
We now have 4 cars now - one good used minivan bought last year, and the first minivan (over 20 years old now) that we use for riding around town and for whatever teenager might be home and driving. We keep thinking we'll get rid of it but it still works and it comes in handy when other cars need work. The other minivan that was a workhorse for a wile (only 170,000 miles on it!) but will be my husband's camping car mostly now. The little sedan we bought went with my daughter to college for a while, but after needing major repairs, it is back home. I'll use it for work to save miles on the good minivan.
Only the 20 year old car was new when we bought it, and the others we bought at auction, so we try to be thrifty. My husband does a lot of the repair work (thanks YouTube!) We will be back to only 2 cars soon (there's a limit to the amount of resurrection my husband can do or wants to do--esp. when the Blue Book value of 3 of our cars is less than $400!) . Two cars and not a big van works for us.

The Lady Okie said...

This was super interesting to read! I had no idea you all did this. I love it so much, and it's encouraging to me actually as we consider baby 3 (I know so much less than 6 haha) and the logistics of that. Thanks for sharing!

Jenny Evans said...

We drove our first car into the ground and sold it to a junkyard for $200 who towed it away.

And yes to YouTube! Phillip uses it to do almost everything on our cars, and basically fix everything else in the house, too.

Jenny Evans said...

If you're on the fence at all about buying a big van, I would definitely recommend doing the two-car thing for a few months to see how it feels (not that you have a choice right now, but even if you did I'd say the same thing!) It might not be worth it to some people, but it is to us.

Kassie said...

This post is helping me feel like I am not so crazy after all. We are a seven-seater van and commuter car family, currently pregnant with #6 (due at the end of February). Rather than run out and buy another vehicle right away (which we would have done a year or two ago, before trying to be more frugal) we have decided to at least try the two car tango for a while. I already know I will miss the road trips (my brother lives seven hours away and we have done frequent long weekends there). I wish we had held out for an eight-seater van when we were adding #4 five years ago.

Jenny Evans said...

You know what they say about hindsight.