You Don’t Need a Car When You Work from Home

In 12 Reasons Why Your Next Gig Should Be Work-at-Home, one of the 12 reasons I listed was that you don’t need a car when you work from home. Most of the others were intangible benefits, like having greater control of your time and creating a better work/life balance. And though eliminating the need for a car was #12, it was the most beneficial from a standpoint of improving your cash flow.

You Don’t Need a Car When You Work from Home
You Don’t Need a Car When You Work from Home

This isn’t a new theme on this website. I also covered How Much Can You Save by NOT Owning a Car?, to spell out the impact owning a car has on your finances.

But it really is true, you don’t need a car when you work from home. And it’s not just a theory I promote, but the reality of my current lifestyle. My wife and I are living quite happily with just one vehicle. My wife works outside the home, but the single car arrangement is working for us, primarily because I work at home as a freelance blog writer. Working from home, I have no need for my own car.

Most days, my wife takes our car to work. If I need it for some reason, I’ll either drive her to work, or plan my trips around her work schedule.

It’s working for us, and I think it can work for anyone with the ability to work from home. I’ll confess upfront that there are some drawbacks. But on balance, those are heavily outweighed by the advantages.

The Cost to Own a Car has Skyrocketed in Recent Years

When most people analyze why they seem to struggle with budgeting, they mostly focus on groceries, entertainment, restaurant meals, healthcare costs, utilities, and cell phone and cable services.

They do their best to avoid taking on what is for most the single biggest expense they have, which is housing. And in most cases, the same is true of car expenses. But on closer analysis, it may well be that car expense is even more costly than housing in many households.

According to AAA the average cost to own a car for 2019 is $9,282 per year, or $773.50 per month. No matter how you may try to justify it, it’s a lot of money.

And just as important, most households have two or more cars. If we double the totals above to reflect two cars, we’re looking at $18,564 per year, or $1,547 per month. And that’s only if you have something that qualifies as an average car. Many people drive luxury imports, fully loaded pickup trucks, or premium SUVs. The costs are even higher.

The concept of one vehicle for every adult in each household is well entrenched in our culture. Statistically, there are about 272.5 million motor vehicles in the US and slightly more than 255 million adults. That actually puts the ratio at slightly more than one car for every adult (it’s 1.068 cars for every adult, to be exact).

It’s likely that commuting to and from work is the primary reason people need cars, particularly one for each adult member of the household.

It would help every household budget substantially to get by with a single vehicle. And when at least one adult in the household can work from home, that can become a reality.

You Don’t Drive or Don’t Own a Car

Though it’s fairly rare these days, there are some people who don’t drive. It’s likely most such people live in urban areas, and rely primarily on public transportation.

But a daily reliance on public transportation, particularly for commuting to and from work, can be almost as expensive as owning a car. It’s also not always convenient. For most, it requires walking a long distance or getting a ride to the nearest train or bus station. And if you have to walk, foul weather is a real problem.

But there are also people who don’t drive because they’ve lost their driver’s licenses. This can happen if you accumulate too many point for traffic violations, or are involved in a drunk driving situation.

In either case, if you have the ability to work from home, not being able to drive wouldn’t be a serious issue. As well, your reliance on public transportation would fall dramatically.

You’ll Eliminate the Time Spent Commuting

Back in the days when I commuted to work, this was one of my biggest irritations. I usually made a point to work closer to home, to minimize the drive. But living in large metropolitan areas, like the New York and Atlanta areas, distance wasn’t always the problem.

In most cases, it was traffic. If you can make a 20-mile commute in 20 minutes or so, time isn’t as big a factor. But if it takes you 40 minutes to drive 10 miles, it’s an entirely different story.

At that point, it’s not just the amount of time you spend in your car, but also the stress. I don’t know anyone who enjoys driving in heavy traffic. Not only is it aggravating, but it greatly increases the likelihood of getting involved in some sort of fender bender type accident. You can even think of those as being a variable cost of owning a car, and one far more likely to happen in the typical heavy traffic urban commuting situations.

But with the high cost of housing, there are many people spending inordinate amounts of time commuting to and from work, due to the need to live 30, 40, or 50 or more miles from where they work. A 40-mile, 40-minute commute may be a lot less stressful than spending the same amount of time on a 10 mile commute, but it’s still a ridiculous amount of time sitting behind the wheel of a car. And you have to do it all over again at the end of the workday.

That kind of commute extends your workday

It can add nearly two hours to the standard nine spent on the job, turning it effectively into an 11-hour day. That translates into less personal and leisure time, less time with loved ones, and even less time working on ventures to earn additional income, if you’re motivated to do it.

Creating a work from home situation can eliminate the commute that extends both the time and stress involved in a typical workday.

There Are More Options for the Carless than there has been in Years

The development of ride sharing services in recent years works nicely for anyone who’s looking to either cut down to one car per couple, as my wife and I have done, or even eliminate owning a car altogether.

Most metropolitan areas are fairly well served by ride sharing services, like Uber and Lyft. By signing up for one or both apps, it can function as an alternative means of transportation when you don’t have access to a car. And if you only need it infrequently, and prefer door-to-door service, it can work better than public transportation.

No, it’s not a perfect solution. Ride sharing services do cost money, and there are extensive rural areas where it’s unavailable. But if you live in a metropolitan area, as most people do, it’s usually available.

If you don’t have access to a ridesharing service, you may be able work out your own. If you have one or more friends or family members who have a car and are willing, you may be able to pay them to act as a ridesharing service for you. It could be a more comfortable arrangement for you, allowing you to operate without owning a car. But it can also be an opportunity for your personal driver(s) to earn some badly needed extra money.

You’d be surprised what kind of arrangements you can work out just by asking around. Though you may feel like you’re imposing by asking people you know to act as your “wheels”, it may be just the opportunity they’ve been looking for to pick up some extra cash.

Final Thoughts

Right now you may be thinking Yeah, that’s just great, but I don’t work from home. And I get that, because I spent at least half my work life commuting. I used to dream of being able to work from home, until the time that I started actively pursuing making it happen. And I’m here to tell you that you can do it to. Maybe not this month, or this year, but you can make it happen eventually if you make it a future priority.

If you’d like to work from home, but you haven’t been able come up with ways to make it happen, please read How to Create Work-at-Home Gigs to Free You From Your Cubicle Forever. It can be done, because I’ve done it twice in my life, and am actively doing it now.

The truth is, there are many opportunities to find either a work-at-home job, or to create a work from home business. It’s mostly a matter of making it a goal, then implementing strategies to move you in that direction. Sooner or later you’ll get there. And once you do, you’ll wonder what kept you from doing it before. I know I did!

Are you working from home now, or do you have a plan to make it happen in the future?

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18 Responses to You Don’t Need a Car When You Work from Home

  1. I like the idea of only 1 vehicle for a couple but not yet realistic for hubby and me. Id think it would also be easier if you lived in an area where you can walk to alot of places. Work still dictates I get in Black Betty (my black Jeep) each morning.

  2. Hi Ruth Ann – It’s certainly not for everyone. But I suspect more people could do it than actually do. I also think it’s possible to plan a future work at home situation that would open the door. This morning I mentioned getting a beater as a 2nd car, and my wife shot down the idea down. She feels we’re doing just fine with one car. She’s generally right. The hardest part is the transition from two to one cars. But once you get that behind you, it’s a lot easier. It’s amazing what we can get used to.

  3. Basically, Kevin, you are putting the point across that owning/leasing a car with the extra cost of insurance is not a necessity provided you have certain conditions, like working from home, which is a smart idea, especially in that kind of circumstance. Most everything can be ordered and delivered straight to your home and being home makes it easier to receive them. The trick is to make sure your budget reflects this. I think most people like the atmosphere of interaction with others, too much, that they need that stimulus to be creative, but then, working from home is not their forte. I, personally, am retired from work, but I live in an area, where I have access to fairly reliable public transportation as long as I know the schedules, both weekdays and weekends. If I have to travel to do an activity, I usually plan to do so on weekdays which has more options. Now if I was to move to a more rural setting, I may have a different view especially if the few options for stores and banking were too far to walk to. I believe the state you live in, New Hampshire, gives incentives to residents who move there to work from home, I guess a positive for working for home workers. Compared to my area, most of New Hampshire is rural to me.

  4. Hi Maria Rose – You’re right that I’m trying to make a point. It’s that anyone who can pare down to one car per household should, and you can create the opportunities to do it. Every statistic I read points to economic conditions tightening for the bottom 80%, and maybe even the bottom 90%. We have to find strategies to deal with that, both by increasing income and by cutting expenses. Sometimes clipping coupons and cutting out cable TV and restaurant meals isn’t enough. We need to cut expenses that constitute “meat”, like housing and cars. It might be more pleasurable to make cuts in the bigger costs to enable more spending on the “little things” that make life more enjoyable.

    I get what you’re saying about the social interaction. When I get out of the house I seek that out. I’m notorious for talking to strangers, meeting with friends, and blabbing on the phone and by text and email. That’s how I add the social aspect to my otherwise cocooned existence. It actually works for me. But like I always say, you can get used to anything. We often underestimate the human capacity to successfully adjust our circumstances.

  5. One thing I noticed about this city. Since it is older, it has a ton of homes that were built 100 years ago and half of them have store fronts attached to them.
    Nobody had cars so they created a work enviroment to where they didn’t have to travel to get to a job.

    If your willing to think outside the box, If you own your own business then buying a mixed use building to live and work in is a option.
    This is what I did. My business is on the first floor along with an apartment, which my mother n law lives in. I live on the second floor in a three bedroom loft type that I converted.
    Nobody wanted these buildings and it was run down so I litterally got it for nothing. I paid 60,000 dollars for this entire building. Over 5000 square feet in total.
    Wrote a check for the whole amount and I owned it outright.

    Yes, I have put about 100,000 into the place since but it has been done over time. So I figure this, I now own a mixed use building in downtown that has doubled or tripled in value over the last five years.

    There are buildings all over the country like this. Especially in the older cities. Before the old argument comes up about , you can’t raise kids there. Yes you can. I did. Three of them and they are well adjusted and don’t have brian damage. Like everybody who lives in the suburbs believes.

    So if you can do it this is a very real option if you own a business and would be willing to live and work in the same building.

    I have no use for a car. I don’t need it. Last summer I started riding my bike to the golf course. That was the only thing I needed a car for.
    It is 14 miles round trip. I lost thirty pounds in the process and I wasn’t heavy to begin with. I was 200 at the start of the summer and I lost too much weight. That was a added benefit.

    We do have one car.

    Most things cn be done but the expense hasn’t gotten painful enough yet for most people to change their thinking. It will.

  6. Hi Tim – Your story is a perfect example of the kind of out-of-the-box thinking I’m trying to promote on this website. I’ve even written an article about buying a house with income potential. A rental unit is certainly one option, but business potential and the potential to produce food are others.

    The problem we have today is that life has become both sanitized and highly conformist. Both mindsets are heavily encouraged by suburban living. One of my fears is that the average person has lost the ability to think outside-the-box. They’re so busy conforming they can’t see any other way to live or earn a living.

    When we were living in suburban Atlanta during the financial meltdown, I watched as several people in my neighborhood lost their modestly priced homes in foreclosure. We had already sold our house and were renting, which afforded us the ability to be spectators during the foreclosure crisis. But I watched so many people lose their houses because they couldn’t imagine life without it. Even when it became obvious they couldn’t afford to stay, they continued hanging on waiting for a miracle.

    That groupthink works against people in serious trouble when circumstances run counter to the conventional wisdom. We be a stronger society if more people would think the way you have, and look at the opportunities that exist in unusual places. But as you say, most suburbanites would never consider living in the neighborhood where you do.

    It goes without saying that the whole concept of one car for each adult in a household is part and parcel of the suburban lifestyle. If you’re wedded to the concept of suburban living, the idea of owning just one car is outside your paradigm. But I suspect as the economic pressures continue to mount, more people will make these kinds of choices out of necessity. For me and my wife, we prefer to do these things on our own terms and in our own time. But since we basically have always lived outside-the-box, it isn’t hard for us. My parents modeled that early in my life. There were a lot of things we did without, and just learned to live with it. That probably makes it easier for me than it is for people who grew up in the pure suburban lifestyle and don’t know any other way.

  7. It comes down to what is important to you. Cutting out bigger expenses is really what makes the difference. Like what you said to Maria Rose.
    Clipping coupons and cuttig out cable or getting a cheaper cell phone plan can give you some temorary relief but it doesn’t make a big enough difference in the long run.

    If you can cut or find a way to eliminate these expenses then it starts to make a bigger difference. Because I have no mortgage and car payments I don’t pay attention to sales, coupons, if gas prices go up a dollar.
    We deal with the little things everyday and if we can eliminate the stress of worrying about day to day small things it goes a long way to our overall level of less stress.

    Nobody looks at those things, like homes and cars the way they look at paying 50 more cents at the gas pump. They just accept it like it’s normal.

    Real cuts and change of lifestyle cuts are what really make the difference in the long run.

  8. This is a more personal post about this but I think it ties into the overall theme.
    Let me describe my year expense wise.

    I had to pay 11,000 dollars for two kids to get braces. That’s out of pocket.
    My van died in July and it needed 4,000 dollars worth of work. Since it was old and had a lot of miles I opted to buy a different car. I have a connection in the used car business and managed to get a great deal on a nice car at 6,000 but it needed 2500 dollars worth of work. So that set me back 8,500 but I have a great car now with very low miles.

    Then two moths later my roof finally gave way. It was very old and on a very old house. Turns out it had five layers of shingles on it and a layer of orginal cedar at the bottom. That was a complete tear off at the cost of 16,000 along with that I had to have a chimmney rebuilt at 2500 at the same time.

    I had a pipe burst in my wall and had to shell out another 1500 in repairs after we had to rip a wall open.

    This stuff happens to everybody eventually. I remember thinking how do other survive this. With car payments and house payments on top of all this.

    Thank god I was able to pay for all this but if we are homeowners or car owners to not plan for these disasters is financial suicide. So clipping coupons, and cutting cable is not gonna get it done if this is all we worry about.

    That was a 39,500 dollar year. That’s life right there. Going from one problem to another. With some good mixed in there somewhere.

  9. My mother in law used to have this saying. This is the life, everytime something happened that I had to fix or some other thing would happen. It used to drive me nuts when she said that. I always felt like she just excepted some kind of low lifestyle.

    I know now what she meant by that.

    If I can do it anybody can. 10 years ago I lived in a 400,000 dollar home in one of the nicest neighborhoods in the city. I had all the trappings. SUV etc etc.
    I never saved enough. I still saved but it wasn’t mearly what I wanted. I have never had debt but a good chunk of what I made was tied up with maintaining a lifestyle.
    Everytime something would happen I would have to scamble around some to get it fixed without incurring debt.

    I got tied of living like that. We sold everything. Bought a run down building in a marginal fringe area. Go rid of the gas guzzler and basically changed our whole life in a year.

    It was painful and took some getting used to. It paid off big in the long run.

  10. Wow, that’s a lot going on in one year, expense-wise. Your story about all the house repairs is why we don’t own a house. We’ve owned two in the past, and I’ve heard all the war stories about big time expenses. I’d rather rent, and not have the big outlays. The other thing I’ve seen again and again is just what you went through, that after one system craps out, another one goes. Very typical! A home repair friend said if you own a house you should budget $300 to $600 per month for repairs and maintenance. He said most people don’t, and that’s why you see so many houses slip into disrepair, especially as the owners move into retirement.

    On the car front, we own a new used car (3 years old, with 24,000 miles – 17,500 when we bought it). It was well below the brand new price, but still new enough that we’re unlikely to have major problems for a few years. In all that we buy on the big picture side, I always try to factor the cost of maintenance into the picture. In recent years that’s really been paying off by giving us more money to save.

    I’ve learned what you have, that if you keep your basic living costs low (though mine aren’t as low as yours) you’ll have more money and flexibility to do the things you want to do. I want to be able to save money, but I don’t want to be a miser either. I see a lot of people being that way and it’s just not a happy or healthy way to live. We have to have some enjoyment to offset the many bad things that happen.

  11. On the funny side or not so funny side. I hear it from Dave Ramsey all the time. Murphy’s Law.

    I proved a point with my wife. The Braces were a want. Somehow she convinced herself she wasn’t being a good parent if she didn’t do this. I needed braces as a kid and my father said no. He said when I was old enough to pay for it myself then I could do whatever I want.
    I never did it. I don’t need it and it never affected anything. The kids didn’t really need them and I told her it really wasn’t an emergency.
    I told her once you spend that on a want. She made an emotional decision. Murphy’s law takes over and sure enough, it did.

    It wasn’t a real emergency. That’s where people run into trouble. They don’t know how to separate the two. My Roof started leaking. I had it planned to fix next year but my time table and what actually happened are two different things. I had no choice but to fix it. Out of four roofers, we actually got to come none of them would repair it so I could get to spring. They all said I had to replace it.

    People do it all the time with cars. Ever notice that people go and buy a new car after a major repair. They make an emotional decision based on that.

  12. On the buying a car after a major repair topic, I’ve seen that. To me, that’s when you keep the car a while longer. After all, the major expense has already passed by then. I see that with houses too. People renovate, then sell shortly after. It’s like they do all the renovations then decide they don’t want to stay after all. Or maybe they OD on the fix-and-flip shows on HGTV. Ironically, the new owners move in and replace the brand new carpets and window treatments. Makes no sense to me, but then I’m not wired that way so it won’t.

  13. 3 to 600 is a lot per month but probably over the course of a year pretty realistic.
    Especially if you own a older home. If the systems I listed below are more than 10 to 15 years old you are going to need to have them upgraded or there life is coming to a close. Not so much electric and my plumbing is a pex now so I’m hoping it’s a long term solution.

    This was the last of the major issues. I have a entire new heating and cooling system. The building has been re plumbed from top to bottom. The electric has been completely rebuilt with new panels and wiring the Roof is a month old.
    Some window replacement is next.

    This is why I have decided not to ever move for good. I’ll snow bird down the road.

    These four systems are the major ones to look at when buying a home. Like I said, I knew going in. That is why I paid so little for the building.
    I have put about 110,000 into this building in three year.

    People spend to much time looking at paint colors and carpet when they look at homes.

  14. I’ve heard it advised to budget 1-2% per month for maintenance on a house. On a $300,000 house, that’s $300 to $600 per month. It’s seems reasonable you’ll incur at least $30,000 in significant repairs within 10 years of owning an average house. $60,000 seems more reasonable on an older house with older systems.

    Not including those estimates in your budget understates the true cost of owning a home. And of course, you’ll never see that cost factored in when you’re working with a real estate agent. When you factor repairs into the mix, along with the reality that with the higher standard deductions, you’re no longer to get a tax break for owning, the case for buying a house weakens considerably. The whole benefit rests on a future higher price.

    But you’ve done it right Tim, buying a lower priced house and renovating it, as well as operating your business out of it. That gives your house true economic value, rather than just a play on higher values.

  15. Hi Kevin, owning a car can be an expense I agree. But I know for myself, after being without one once my old reliable car of 13 years died of old age, I am so grateful to finally have another one. I could have fixed her and hung on to her as a classic, but at that time, it was a choice I did not have. I now finally own a 2006 Hyundai Elantra for 2 years and hope she sticks around for the long haul. Hated buying a used car as I have always had a new one and kept it going until it died of old age. Anyway, did the bus and walking and riding with others and to be honest, was totally depressed. Now my car may sit outside and not move for a few days, but just knowing it is out there, is an awesome feeling for me. Working from home is not for me as I was never into that way of living. But it is an option for people like yourself and glad to see it is working for you guys. Thanks for sharing your life’s journey with us and it has been about 3 years since I visited your site. So glad it is still up and running and I am heading to see what else has been posted. Keep blogging. All the best to you and your loved ones. Angela

  16. I totally agree with you only having one car in the family. You’ve got too be saving quite a few dollars in your budget. Being that you can work from home is a bonus. Working from home today seems to be catching on. Nice job with the article.

  17. Hi Beau – Yes with the pandemic it’s catching on as a matter of necessity. I always thought a lot more people could be home based than there were, but it looks like employers needed a reality kick in the pants to make it happen. One of my coronavirus predictions is that more people will be home based, which I think will turn out to be better for both employees and employers. Both will save time and money. And you’re right, it is saving me a lot of money in my budget.

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