When we talk to people about our renovation projects, we often find that most assume Wendy and I have multiple cars and at least one SUV or pickup truck. To most, that's the only logical way we could possibly transport and haul the various construction-related items needed to complete our projects. But in reality, that couldn't be further from the truth.
In fact, we drive a 2000 Ford Mustang GT, purchased new back in May 2000. Our Mustang, who we lovingly refer to as "The Pone" (short for pony), has become our renovating family's hauling workhorse. Last month marked the 11th anniversary of my purchase of the car, which has just shy of 77,000 miles on it. When people learn that we have renovated our house for eight years while driving a small, eleven year old sports car, they often wonder how we do it.
Really, it's been far less difficult than most people realize.
Wendy and I grew up in the suburbs on the west side of Cleveland. We come from the land where a family can't exist without at least two cars. SUVs and minivans dominate the landscape, and soccer moms require the space and size that Suburbans afford to haul their various cargo. Your car is such a significant aspect of your identity that adolescent males know one another by the car that they drive. Back in the day, we had no concern over parking or gas, and everyone seemed to have a three car garage. We really only cared how cool or fast our car was.
In retrospect, my car purchase just a few weeks after college graduation seems a little odd to me. I sold my first car, my super hella awesome 1994 Probe GT that I loved, to one of my college friends and started shopping for a new car. I knew that Wendy and I were moving to an apartment in the D.C. area at the end of the summer, so I decided I could get a completely impractical car. Besides, I needed a muscle car, you know, for my identity. I figured that if we needed a practical car, that could be on Wendy. So I went ahead and bought the Mustang.
Shortly after moving into our apartment, I quickly realized I wouldn't be driving into work, but rather taking the bus and metro into the city. Given where we grew up, this was a foreign concept to me. I actually didn't drive my car into work for the first time until we had lived here for over five years. Wendy is the one that drove the most, taking the car to work every day in Alexandria, about nine miles round trip per day. Thus began our single car household life.
We purchased our home in January 2003 and made the last payment on our car just four months later. Our home has a single off-street parking spot assigned to it, which luckily is the perfect fit for our car. Additionally, after we bought our house money was very tight, so we decided we would need to make our car work for all of our renovations, at least for the foreseeable future. It was and still is nice to not have a car payment.
Amazingly, we learned that you can fit a tremendous amount of stuff into the backseat and trunk of a Mustang. With the seats folded down you can fit about one dozen 8' 2x4s, 8 bags of mulch or soil, several five gallon buckets or large bags of joint compound, a couple of 10' lengths of PVC or copper plumbing, two very large cast iron urn planters, or even a seven foot tall Christmas tree.
Occasionally, there comes a time when we need to purchase something a bit bigger than our Mustang can handle. When this occurs, we have several viable options in the area.
I've been a member of ZipCar for several years now. Their tagline of "Wheels When You Need Them" is spot on. It is an affordable and convenient way to get the car you need when the car you have won't do. We used their pickup trucks to carry tempered shower glass doors, their mid sized car to pickup a television, and other cars when we know our car just can't make it in the snow.
2. Home Depot or Lowes Truck Rentals
Both Home Depot and Lowes offer a large truck rental program for $25 per hour. We've used them in the past for larger items, like 4x8 sheets of drywall or molding. Often when we rent from them, we'll coordinate another item that we need the truck for to kill two birds with one stone. For example, we used one of these trucks to pickup an old clawfoot bathtub, and another time to haul away about 50 bags of trash and debris to a landfill.
3. Friends and Neighbors
We have some of the best friends and neighbors anyone could ever hope for, and many of them have trucks or SUVs and are glad to help. We've borrowed their cars to pickup plywood, furniture, and other large items. We're very lucky to live in such a great neighborhood.
From time to time, the items we need can be ordered from the Internet or from local suppliers that offer free or low cost deliveries. We've used this for items like a large quantity siding purchase, new copper gutters and downspout, and for cherry lumber to build our office desk.
As you can see, there are plenty of options for us beyond our own car.
Now that our car is getting up there in age, we've starting to casually look for a new car. I'm trying to convince Wendy that we should get an SUV, but I really can't use the justification that we need the room for our renovation, as we've already proven that this isn't the case. This is more just a personal preference for cars than anything else. If there is one thing we are looking for, our new car should get at least a little better fuel mileage than the 17 MPG we're used to. Though, 17 MPG when you drive less than 7,000 miles per year really isn't that bad. But until we replace our car, this is how I can make trips back from the hardware store.
We're actually quite proud of the fact that we've made it through eight plus years of renovation using a car that is meant more for speed demons and mid life crisis mobiles than that of DIY renovators. Friends have used us as an example to the contrary when people give reasons why they absolutely need an SUV.
When the time comes to part ways with The Pone, it will be the end of an era for us, and something that we will surely miss. But one thing is for sure, we've embraced the single car family idea whole heartedly and have no plans to change that. We've also learned that, given the circumstances, you can make just about any car work in a renovation.
Do you have a surprising vehicle choice for your home or renovation? Perhaps a good recommendation for the car we should purchase next? If so, please share.