should we buy a car?

April 16, 2014 · 30 comments

in Belgium, daily life, impractical advice

Update! We bought a dang car. Thanks everybody for your responses!

Quick post: help me, Internet. Give me your crowd knowledge.

Here’s the situation. I got a job offer, and I’m patiently waiting for my work permit to come through. The job is in Bruges until mid-June, then it moves to Ghent.

(Stay with me, it might get confusing.)

Farrell, who also works in Bruges, commutes 1 1/2 hours each way to work. He rides a bike to the train station in Ghent, takes the train, then rides another bike in Bruges to the opposite side of the city. He leaves around 6:45am and, if all goes well (which is maybe 75% of the time), he leaves around 4:40pm and arrives home around 6:05pm. I know, I know! Commuting is the worst.

So that’s what my commute will be. But, Darwin’s daycare opens at 7:15am and closes at 6:10pm. Mornings, impossible. Evenings, cutting it very close. Any sort of delay (a meeting, a windy bike ride, a nervous rider, a train delay, etc) would strand Darwin at the daycare or leave us scrambling to have a friend pick him up on time. So… the solution for that is tough. Our company has a really great flexible schedule, so one person could drop off Darwin in the morning and go into work a bit later, while the other person leaves earlier and picks him up.

Or, we could buy a car.

Reasons to buy a car:
- Duh, convenient. It would erase this hellish commute scenario and turn it into a 40-minute drive (each way).
- We could use it for situations other than commuting, like going on holiday or easily transporting ourselves to places where there is no public transportation.
- Even when the company moves to Ghent, we probably will not want to bike 100% of the time. In case you didn’t know, it rains in Ghent. It rains a lot in Ghent.

Reasons to not buy a car:
- I hate driving. If it’s not walking or public transportation, I’m a total Debbie Downer about it.
- Cars are expensive.
- The company moves to Ghent in mid-June. I’m going to the US for the first three weeks of May, and (I’m assuming that) it’s unlikely I’ll start work before then. So there’s three or four weeks we’d actually make good use of the car for commuting. Once the company moves to Ghent then we’ll use our bikes (gulp).

Tonight Farrell came home an hour later than usual because he was in a late meeting and couldn’t find a ride home from a coworker with a car. I kept Darwin up past his bedtime so he could get 15 precious minutes with his dad. Having our own car would’ve gotten him home sooner and allowed him to spend more time with Darwin. I’ve really been fighting the idea of a car, but I wonder if we should just go for it?

Okay friends, I need your help/wisdom/opinions. Should we buy a car?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Rupert Neil Bumfrey (@rupertbu) April 16, 2014 at 9:18 pm

Family must always come first, so alas I urge you to purchase a car.

I feel a bit of a jerk for suggesting such action, but I am lucky as a single-person my walking is to suit me, but you have family life to consider.

Reply

2 Kirstin April 17, 2014 at 7:43 am

Of course you’re not a jerk! I asked for your opinion and you gave it, thank you!

Reply

3 Valentine April 16, 2014 at 9:33 pm

You’ve probably already thought of this, but it possible to rent a car for 3-4 months before fully committing to owning? Or even just for the 3-4 weeks that you’ll both be commuting? I am so happy that we don’t have to own a car where we live, although sometimes it can be annoying to rely on zipcar/rentals. As one friend said, “This is the midwest! Stop pretending you live on the East Coast and buy a car!” Good luck deciding!

Reply

4 Kirstin April 17, 2014 at 7:47 am

Yeah, people are definitely giving us the whole “You’re a family now, just suck it up and get a car!”-talk. We have considered renting. It’s tough because on the one hand I’m happy to not have to deal with a car, and the expenses and maintenance that come with it, but then in situations where it would be a million times easier with a car, I think, “It might not be soooo bad.”

Reply

5 Apolline April 16, 2014 at 10:24 pm

Hey :) always nice to get some news through the blog. I’m happy to see that you’re doing great.
About the car, i was thinking: can t u find someone to do car sharing? Like someone who lives in Ghent and drive to Brugges every day for work? I know in France quite a lot of people do that, so i guess there must be even more in Belgium. You probably have website for this, or adds or something.
Good luck what that, and say “hi” to Farrell for me :) bises !

Reply

6 Kirstin April 17, 2014 at 7:48 am

I do know that some of Farrell’s coworkers live nearby… it might be something to look into. Thanks for the suggestion! Farrell says ‘hi!’ as well! You know, if we had a car, we could drive to visit you! :)

Reply

7 Jerry April 16, 2014 at 11:50 pm

RESIST. Stay strong.

Reply

8 Kirstin April 17, 2014 at 7:50 am

ugh I KNOW! Such a tough situation. What is your situation in Madison now, can you get around easily without a car? I most certainly do not think that having a baby justifies buying a car, but this commute is the wooooorst.

Reply

9 Jerry April 17, 2014 at 4:39 pm

While I would love for us to be able to get around without a car in Madison… winter is coming. I think we could handle 3 seasons with a bike + trailer – the city is pretty small – but winter would kill Moses. So we’ll have 1 car.

It sounds like if y’all can just power through the next month and a half, you’ll be in the clear. Cars are a pain.

Reply

10 Polly April 16, 2014 at 11:52 pm

I second the renting idea! It would give you peace of mind for those few weeks and – who knows – maybe you’ll totally learn to love driving! Besides, they seem like they’d be civilized drivers there and they couldn’t be worse than in Bishkek!

Reply

11 Kirstin April 17, 2014 at 7:51 am

oh gosh, I have a feeling there’s no chance I’ll learn to love driving in a few weeks. Maybe after a few years of doing it… maybe.

Reply

12 Amira April 16, 2014 at 11:55 pm

We never had a car in Bishkek but we do now in Mexico. I almost never drive it and still walk everywhere because I hate driving too, but I love being able to get out of town so much more easily on the weekends.

I wouldn’t buy a car just for a few weeks of commuting. I’d rent one or just use the flexible schedule to work with the daycare schedule since it’s such a short time. But getting a car when you have kids opens up a lot of possibilities that public transportation and taxis can’t match.

Reply

13 Kirstin April 17, 2014 at 7:53 am

Yeah, I think about how terrible the commute is, but then I think that it’s just for a few weeks, and the company is super generous with the flexible schedule, but then I think about, like you said, all of the possibilities having a car opens up. Holidays! Big trips to Ikea! Discovering tiny villages without a two-hour train ride! We even went to look at a car a few weeks ago and the entire journey, from leaving our house to coming back, took FIVE HOURS. Farrell kept saying he wished we had a car… just to go look at a car.

Reply

14 Megan April 17, 2014 at 4:13 am

I would totally do it. That is a massive difference in your commute time.
A few years ago we moved closer to Glen’s work cutting his commute from 30min (on a good day. An hour on a bad day – which was often) to about 10 minutes. It made a HUGE difference to have him home earlier every day and having him not leave as early in the morning. It’s also handy in emergencies since I know he can be home quickly if I need him.
As great as biking and public transport can be (and so European!) there are some situations where it isn’t practical.

Reply

15 Kirstin April 17, 2014 at 7:55 am

Commutes are really the worst, but it’s good to hear that a car has made such a positive impact on your family’s life! And yeah, I’ve thought about emergencies, especially since Darwin has a new illness every other week from his new friends at daycare. If they would need one of us to pick him up, it would take close to two hours to get to him, which is totally not practical.

Reply

16 Kirstin April 17, 2014 at 7:43 am

Thank you everybody for your responses!

Reply

17 yael April 17, 2014 at 10:27 am

Late to the game, but buy a car! Youll need it for holiday trips and fun exploring opportunities–as long as you have a good parking option.

Reply

18 Kirstin April 17, 2014 at 10:38 am

psssh, I put this up last night, you are hardly late to the game! We do actually have a parking lot right behind our house, so I don’t think that would be an issue.

Reply

19 Daniel April 17, 2014 at 10:59 am

…And remember, it’s not like a life sentence – if it doesn’t workout, just sell it! Sure you’ll take a hit on the resell price, but you won’t regret having tried.

Reply

20 Kirstin April 17, 2014 at 12:09 pm

True!

Reply

21 annie April 17, 2014 at 1:18 pm

what about those shared cars? ive seen them in place lux and they look really nice. could you sign up in the mornings to rent a car for an hour and vice versa in the afternoons that you might work late? i think, especially since you don’t know when you’ll even start, a car for a month (or less) is tight – think of all the money you could spend on train trips to paris(with us!)! or! i just thought of this – what if it were part of the job…look. i have a child. you signed me on to work from the ghent office…sooo until i’m actually working in the ghent office, i’ll need to have flexible hours to take care of my child.

too bad we don’t live in the same city and I could just be the friend that takes on that job for a month!

Reply

22 Kirstin April 18, 2014 at 6:52 pm

I think if we went the rental car-route, then we’d go to a regular car rental place. The car-sharing programs don’t seem too practical since we’d be paying hourly rates for the car to mostly sit parked at work. Luckily the company has been really understanding with the commute/kid combo so far (although I haven’t actually started yet).

OOOOOR think of all of the road trips we could take to Paris?!

Reply

23 Angela April 17, 2014 at 8:29 pm

In Holland we have this things called Greenwheels. It’s a bunch of cars parked throughout the city. You register, get an access card and you can just take any car you want! Totally makes sense for those 4 weeks.

Reply

24 Kirstin April 19, 2014 at 6:51 am

Yeah, there’s a similar program here called Cambio that I’ve looked into.

Reply

25 Robin April 17, 2014 at 11:04 pm

I like the idea of renting for a month to give it a try. It might be expensive to rent, but then you could have a really good idea to know if it’s right for you.

Reply

26 Kirstin April 19, 2014 at 7:02 am

Definitely a one of the main options we’re considering.

Reply

27 Pascal April 18, 2014 at 12:06 pm

did not read yet your post, but will do so. Farrell told me about the topic. So here are some points i would consider :

Belgium is a very central place, with a shitty weather, and a lot of holidays 20paid+15time+11public
So what do you do when there is a lot to do in the surrounding, and you have a holiday and it is raining ?

-Starting at 6 PM on a Friday evening from Ghent you could be having a dinner at Fouquet’s on the Champs Elysee and enjoy a French CanCan or a Paris By Night.
-Starting at 8am in Ghent you could be a 8 pm eating a Scalopa Milanese at the Duomo of one of the most exciting city of South Europe.
-Amsterdam ? less than 3 hours.
-Decide to visit the ardennes ? 2 hours !

So much of Europe that you can see !

Reply

28 Kirstin April 19, 2014 at 7:17 am

Belgium indeed has terrible weather! You make a lot of good points!

Reply

29 Fangio April 18, 2014 at 7:57 pm

No doubt… Go for the car! Daycare has crazy hours so a car will save you a lot of stress and time, even when your company moves to Ghent. And things will get even worse: once your child will go to school, the hours even become crazier and less flexible.

Now on the car itself: if you decide to buy a car, make a good choice. Make sure strawler fits in the trunk, make sure you can easily take your luggage along, including baby travel bed etc. a small stationwagon should do the trick ( golf variant). like this you can start enjoying Belgium and rest of eu in the coming months and years!

Good luck!

Reply

30 Kirstin April 19, 2014 at 7:21 am

ahh, I didn’t even think of school hours yet, but he’s starting in only a year and a half! Farrell was looking at a Golf as a matter of fact. Thanks for your response!

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: