First Person: My Family is Part of the Decline in Driving

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Although it makes sense fewer people were driving during the Great Recession due to unemployment, experts say they are baffled by the continued decline. A recent article by CNBC cited a report by the Federal Highway Administration that indicated the number of miles driven in the first half of this year dropped. Experts expected motorists in the United States to clock more miles since more people are working or going to school. However, Americans seem to be falling out of love with driving. My family has had a radically different attitude about car ownership since the recession. We view an automobile as a major expense. We opt for the financial freedom of owning fewer cars instead being financially strapped by automobile expenses. Having fewer cars has driven us to be more organized and thoughtful about our trips. In our family, we own two cars between four people over the age of 18.

Living near a college

One of the advantages of living near a community college is the fact that my children can ride their bicycles to classes. We save money not only by them living at home, but in terms of gasoline and car maintenance. When he didn't want to ride his bicycle last semester, my younger son was able to get rides from classmates who lived nearby. When he had study sessions at a nearby restaurant, he could walk home.

Saving on car insurance

We are motivated to share a family car because of the high cost of car insurance. My younger son, who is 19, has delayed getting his driver's license. Once he completes one more semester and begins a job hunt, he will get his driver's license. Until then, he just has to make sure there is a driver who is 21 or older in the car since he has a learner's permit only.

Juggling multiple car payments

I remember a time when most individuals had to make a car payment. My family made a vow to never have more than one car payment even if we had more than one car. Our car wouldn't be paid off for another 2 years if we paid the minimum. However, I plan to accelerate payments so it will be paid off within the next six months. We may or may not purchase another vehicle depending on my son's job situation. Having another vehicle means one more car to insure.

Telecommuting part of the week

While I do need a personal car for my job at this time, I may not need one in the future.

My husband has the flexibility to telecommute part of the week, which means our additional car used to just take up garage space. It makes more sense to wait to purchase another car only when we are sure about our work needs. My younger son isn't very interested in driving a car even when he gets a full-time job. Interestingly, the Volpe study cited by CNBC shows the decline in driving is more significant among men.

Although I used to think everyone needed a personal car, my thinking has shifted. My younger son loves catching a ride with friends, but I have encouraged him to chip in for gasoline. I think experts are right when they surmise young people socialize by texting their friends and playing computer games as opposed to driving to get together in person. It's certainly more economical.

More from this contributor:

I'm Not Retiring to a College Town

Scaring my Kids with the McDonald's Budget

5 Old-School Money Tricks

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