Why are most suburban homes sold with a two car garage? The average middle-class American family owns 2.28 cars, one for each adult in the household. That .28 can be parked on the street, I guess. Only 28% of American families own more than two cars.
So it makes sense that most suburban homes, if built with a garage, come with space for two cars. But how do you determine which two cars to buy?
This is something that genuinely keeps me up at night. While this doesn’t advance the story about buying a new car that I’m supposed to be telling, it’s a requisite sidetrack to understanding my overall ‘buying a new car’ thought process. You can catch up on part one of this series here.
The General Idea
Since the two car garage is so ubiquitous, and since I am in a long-term relationship, I think it’s important to consider purchases within the construct of a two-car family. This has become much more tangible for me since purchasing a house in February (spoiler!) with a two car garage.
Let’s start breaking down my thought process.
- Most families can only afford to have a maximum of two cars at a time.
- There are a nearly infinite amount of variations of cars on the used market, all derived to serve a different set of purposes.
- No one car can serve every purpose, although a lifted Porsche 911 gets close.
- It would make sense to have a car that maximizes the amount of purposes that you would want a car to serve.
- It would make even more sense to distribute those purposes evenly over two cars, if you plan to own two cars.
- You effectively ascend to a higher state of being if you are able to create perfect balance of all your desired purposes in your two car garage.
- That might be a bit much, but I’m really passionate about this idea.
Or, why should anyone care?
Because no one should own two Toyota Camries. Camry’s? Who cares. It should never be pluralized. Or, no one should own two sedans of any kind, for that matter (sorry, mom and dad). Ironically, since I wrote the first draft of this post, my parents now own three sedans. If that’s the situation you’ve created, you’re squandering the potential of owning two cars! I once met a guy who told me that he and his wife had matching Porsche 911 Carreras. A coupe for him and a convertible for his wife. For the record, I also think that’s stupid. Sorry Karl.
Because every car serves a distinct purpose, you could be doing your family a disservice by not trying to maximize the purposes you can achieve from a well-differentiated two car garage. You might be asking, what does this actually mean, and what might it look like? Those are two great questions, and up for debate.
“The Classic” Two Car Garage
Starting with the basics, the classic idea of a the perfect two car garage for the everyman would a pick-up truck and an economical, large sedan. The truck is totally utilitarian, can move large objects, and is comfortable on the highway or on dirt roads. However, it gets mediocre-to-unacceptable gas mileage, can be difficult to park, is a burden to drive, and may feel too large or unnecessary to some drivers.
That’s where the sedan comes in! It would be more comfortable to drive, get higher gas mileage, potentially fit more people (depending on the size of the truck, obviously), and be easier to park. Hopefully both can hold your whole family in a pinch. Maybe Timmy gets relegated to the truck bed, but you can substitute your equivalent lowest-ranking family member as necessary.
I hope the idea of balance in a two car garage is starting to make sense. But once you assess the needs/interest of your specific situation, it can get a lot more nuanced and interesting.
What about themes?!
To further complicate things, I really love the idea of a themed two car garage. Two cars that fit within a certain design ethos, decade, country of origin, or any other complementary essence that makes them a perfect pair. But it must do this without making them so similar that they lose overall combined utility.
If you’re into form over function, you could appreciate a garage made up of opposite ends of the Toyota spectrum. If you’re really rich, you could have two different kinds of Porsches. If you’re a weirdo into defunct American brands, you could have an AMC Eagle and a Pontiac Solstice GXP. Too soon; RIP Pontiac.
So now we’ve established that a good two-car garage should have balance in function, and balance in ethos and/or theme. But then how do you navigate those two things simultaneously?!
Show me the balance!
Coming up with balanced garages is a muscle I could happily flex all day. It also might be a good subject for an episode of a podcast that I may be playing around with… But at any rate, here’s what I think about when I envision real-world examples of a perfect, balanced, two car garage.
For the practical, responsible Japanophile: Toyota (FJ62) Land Cruiser & Toyota (SW20) MR2
This may be the purest vision of utility, daily usability, and performance. And what used to be a reasonable budget; unfortunately both these cars’ values have skyrocketed in the past five years. Poo.
For the discerning Californian: California Market Toyota Rav4 EV & Shelby Cobra 427
This one is a fun subverter of expectations (have I been talking about this at enough length for someone to have expectations to be subverted?); one is miserly and a people mover – also a California market only car, the other is wildly inefficient, dangerous, and demands 110% of attention, but can only carry two brave people at a time.
For a more standard person’s garage: Chevrolet Suburban & BMW 3-Series Touring Diesel
This one is closest to something I would opt for. Two storied nameplates (totaling a combined ~80 years in contiguous production), both excellent at their respective purposes. In a way, that’s a nice, loose-fitting theme. Also either supremely large or fuel efficient, regardless of how you feel about diesel. The only downside is that the Suburban literally would not fit in my garage. That’s an issue I’ll have to cover another time, but I think you probably get the gist of the ideal structure for a two car garage.
What does this mean for me?
Here’s the baseline and a real-world example. Holly drives (and adores) a 2013 Mini Cooper Coupe base model, automatic. That is one half of our two car garage that will need to be balanced against. Let’s begin an impartial evaluation.
What purpose was it created to serve, and/or what does it excel at?
It’s a fantastic city car, it’s great as a run-about, grocery getter, errand runner, and downtown parker. The Mini is small, compact, with a good, open greenhouse for downtown traffic driving, and gets excellent city and highway mileage. By design, it’s also somewhat sporty, with a low center of gravity and good feedback on the road.
But it is not super practical; it can’t carry more than two people comfortably, it isn’t good for transporting lots of stuff, and it can be less comfortable on long drives.
As I consider what my next car is going to be, I’ll be evaluating it under the pretense that Holly will be keeping her Mini Cooper. Additionally, my new car will have to fit on the (abstracted) plate across the scale from Holly’s Mini. This means (probably) no coupes, nothing designed as a city car, and nothing absurdly small. As much as I value theming within a garage, it definitely won’t be British.
More tangibly, it will still have to fit within my opposing garage door. With that in mind, next week I’ll cover everything I would ordinarily like, but can rule out for these reasons and more.