Do we need a car?

One of the first thoughts we had after finding out we were pregnant (and adequate freakouts and screams of joy) was “do we have to buy a car?”

Neither Chris or I have ever bought or owned a car, and therefore have successfully lived the urbanite-car-free lifestyle for the last 8 years. Vancouver is a relatively easy city to do this in, since you can walk almost anywhere in under an hour. Plus the invention of car share programs like Car2Go and Modo has made the need to own a car (with our lifestyle) basically unnecessary.

BUT, with a baby (and ultimately a child I will drive around to soccer practice) on the way, do we need to cave and buy a car as it is an inevitable fate?

We really don’t want to buy one as although I know it offers great freedom, I also don’t see it as an investment and more of an endless money pit on wheels. But if it’s a necessity, then we want to make the right decision. Here are our current thoughts:

Buying a New Car: The fact that your investment goes down an average 27% the second you drive your new car off the lot instinctively tells me not to buy new, but I am also open the possibility that buying a new car could be a smarter decision because of warranty, loan rates, freedom to sell it or if we plan to have it for over 10 years. However spending a large sum of cash or taking out a loan while prepping for the arrival of a baby (plus worrying about our house payments while I’m on maternity!) is not a very enticing option.

Buying a Used Car: Ideally spending a few thousand dollars on a used car and owning it outright is the best financial deal. But like buying a house, the fear we’ll buy one that has a million things wrong with it and sink tons of money into it is legitimately scary. There is no simple way to guarantee that won’t happen, so it will take a lot more research to figure out how to ensure that, and if that game plan is as really good as it seems.

Leasing a Car: A new set of wheels every few years and lower monthly payments is enticing, but not owning it at the end and always having car payments doesn’t feel like a great deal. If we planned on NOT having a car at the end of the lease term then I think it makes a lot of sense (it would just be like a long-term rental!), but if we are going to need a car for another 10 years, it doesn’t seem like the best deal (at least according to this Globe & Mail study).

Sticking with Car Share: Do we stay committed? Can it still be convenient if you need a car last minute and you have a baby with you? How would a car seat even work in a car share? I think we could make it work while the baby is still small, but once the kid is 5 years old, will we have to buy? And if that is the case, should we just buy the car now, or is holding off for as long as possible worth it? (Ideally in 5 years we’ll have self-driving cars that run without gas, so why buy an un-eco-friendly gas guzzler now?!).

Is it possible in this day and age to continue to use car share programs once you have kids, or do we have to suck it up and buy a hunk of metal? And if we DO have to get a car, which route do we go – new, used, or lease? Would love to hear any thoughts or guidance! And as I research this topic in much more depth (like I did for the home buying process), I promise to share whatever wisdom learned here on Grown-Up Party.

And so begins a new series: Car Virgins.