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Driving the Smart on the highway was intimidating. And the trunk really sucked. It was a little grotto behind the seats, just big enough to hold my backpack, my wife's purse and a couple of bags of groceries. Taking my son to hockey was out – the bag wouldn't fit.
Driving the Smart on the highway was intimidating. And the trunk really sucked. It was a little grotto behind the seats, just big enough to hold my backpack, my wife's purse and a couple of bags of groceries. Taking my son to hockey was out – the bag wouldn't fit.

Cash Clash

Should eco-conscious couple get a second car? Add to ...

Conrad, 31, and Susan, 29, Waterloo, Ont.

They're avid recyclers, nature enthusiasts and organic-veggie munchers. But with a growing toddler and a hectic schedule, the university professor and civil servant are contemplating a second car. Should convenience trump eco-consciousness?

He said: It takes two, baby

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Here's how it works: Susan takes the car in the morning, I take the bus. After she drops our daughter Grace off at daycare, it takes her seven minutes to get to work. It takes me 50 minutes, sometimes over an hour if the bus is late. Usually, it's too crowded to sit. I can't really read anything. It's unpleasant. On weekends, if we have a bunch of different things to do, one of us has to wait at home until the other gets back with the car. My working hours are more flexible, so if I had my own ride, I'd be able to take Gracie to daycare, and then our mornings wouldn't be so rushed. When she gets older, she'll have more activities to go to, and once she has a sibling, we'll definitely need another car, so why not just bite the bullet?



She said: One is enough

I understand where he's coming from - especially when it comes to running errands on the weekends. But it's nothing that a little more co-ordination can't fix. Our neighbourhood is walkable; the grocery store is just a few blocks away. There's no real justification for increasing our carbon footprint. And to be honest, part of my reluctance is about pride - or rather, ego. If you look up and down our block, you'll see two cars in almost every driveway. Driving everywhere is very much the norm where we live. I like the idea of bucking that trend and being a one-car family, at least for a few more years. And we'd probably need a loan to get a new car - I'd rather spend our money on starting a registered education savings plan for our daughter.



Vital stats

Years married: 4

Annual household income: $155,000 (evenly split)

Current costs for one Subaru Forester: $250 a month for gas and insurance

Monthly transit pass: $60

Financial expert Kelley Keehn's advice: Swallow your pride

Sorry, Susan, the numbers overwhelmingly support getting a second car. Do the math: Conrad currently commutes 1.66 hours a day. Take three weeks off a year for holidays, and he's still miserably spending the equivalent of about 51 working days a year in transit for work. Meanwhile, Susan's commuting time clocks in at just 7.1 working days a year.

For a young couple, time can be money. What would you do with all those extra hours that could justify the cost of a second car while generating enough additional income to invest in Grace's future education? Conrad could write a book. Susan could start a side business. Or you could all simply enjoy more time together.

Look, I applaud your carbon-reduction efforts. But I might have been swayed more with your argument, Susan, if your pride weren't overshadowing Conrad's possible long-term resentment. Perhaps you could spend all that new-found time planting a garden together in the spring or finding other eco-fun ideas to offset your vehicle use.

Ignore what your neighbours are doing, get a used Smart Car and focus on reducing your carbon footprint in other ways with your family's sanity in mind.

Kelley Keehn is the host of W Network's Burn My Mortgage ( kelleykeehn.com).

Do you have a question for Cash Clash? E-mail cashclash@globeandmail.com

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