Tips for Fitting a Second Car Into Your Family Budget

April 5, 2023

Many American households manage with a single car. Some, especially in cities, don't have any vehicles at all. However, if you live in a heavily car-dependent area, having only one family car can be a logistical nightmare. If you are wondering how to fit a second car into your household budget, the following tips can help. 

Know How Much You Can Afford Before You Start Shopping

Picture this: You can buy cars online without ever having to step foot in a dealership. Simply search for the car you want, view pictures and specs, and even take a virtual test drive. You can compare prices from multiple dealerships and find the best deal without any pressure from salespeople. No need to worry about payments being out of reach, as you can easily filter your search by price range. Plus, buying cars online allows you to avoid the disappointment of falling in love with a car only to find out it's not financially feasible. This way, you can focus on finding the perfect car for you without any distractions.

You can avoid that scenario by knowing how much you can afford ahead of time. Go through your budget and decide what is available to put toward a new car. Input your figures into an auto loan calculator to get a rough idea of what price range you should stick to. Remember that even a small change in interest rate has a big effect on your loan payment, so be realistic about your financing options.

A few other things to keep in mind include when determining how much you can afford include:

  • Changes in insurance rates can add up to hundreds of dollars for some cars
  • Improving your credit score lowers your interest rate and makes loan payments smaller
  • Fuel economy and total cost of ownership (maintenance, repairs, etc.)

Consider Buying a Pre-Owned Car

The idea of a shiny, brand-new car in the garage is appealing, but it isn't the end-all solution for adding a second vehicle to your home. Many late-model pre-owned cars are available for considerably less money, which could save you thousands over a comparable new one. They are often just as reliable, and many are covered by extended manufacturer warranties. 

Many experts recommend looking for one-owner, low-mileage vehicles when shopping for a used car. It's also a good idea to run the VIN number through a search to check for its history and maintenance records. 

Look for Ways To Offset Ownership Costs

The purchase price is just the start of paying for a new car. You'll also have to keep it running and on the road. This includes insurance, registration fees, maintenance, and repairs. These can add up to hundreds of dollars each month and sometimes run much higher. If you are already stretching your budget to add a second car, they can easily put the dream out of reach. 

Luckily, there are options for offsetting the costs of ownership. Before you give up on getting a second car, consider if any of these would be a good fit for your family.


Carpooling is an excellent way to make the most of your family vehicle. When you sign up for an organized carpool service, you commit to driving a set number of days each week. In return, other drivers commit to their days. You could potentially only need to use your car for commuting once per week. This cuts down on mileage, maintenance, gas, and parking fees. It can also lower your insurance rates considerably since you are only commuting one day per week. 

Private Rentals

Another option is to register with a private car rental company. These are primarily available in urban markets where many residents do not own cars or popular vacation destinations. If you choose to pursue private rentals and car sharing, it's a good idea to go through a reputable company that manages bookings for you. 

It is possible to add a second car to your household without straining your budget. Shopping interest rates, looking at complete ownership costs, and offsetting some expenses can all help make the dream of a second car a reality. 


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