turquoise car David Kavanagh

David Kavanagh

Sustainability experts say if you drive less than 10,000 miles a year, a good idea may be to join a car-sharing club. Lift-sharing is popular but some people don’t feel safe, and others don’t want to be stuck next to a motormouth for an hour each day).

So what is a car-sharing scheme? It’s when a company buys a fleet of cars and you (after checks) pay an hourly fee (plus a sign-on up and excess on insurance, with grace periods for traffic delays). Then the car club for everything else – the car itself, MOT, road tax, insurance, maintenance and cleaning. Plus most have fuel cards and breakdown cards in the glove box. Larger car clubs have vehicles that are pet-friendly (sometimes not allowed, due to allergies), wheelchair-friendly, child-friendly or with roof racks etc.

There are so many advantages to car clubs. Many people only use their car for a few hours each week, yet they cost a fortune to run. This gives you the independence to drive alone or with others (or with good music if that’s your bag). Then just return it to the reserved parking spot when you’re done. You also get better rates for longer rental.

Co-Wheels is one of the main players. This nationwide social enterprise offers really nice hybrid cars that are new and safe, and some don’t even have keys – just press the button and go! There are many car-sharing schemes around England.

Hiyacar takes things further with peer-to-peer car-sharing. This takes one person in the community with a nice car who doesn’t use it much, then they take care of all the details like insurance etc, and the community share it.

There is also a wider community benefit to car-sharing clubs. Traffic reduces! Around 25% of all road traffic is from lorries thundering food from central distribution houses to major supermarkets (so councils investing in local indie shops and walkable communities would help here). But a lot of the other traffic is simply for short trips. The idea of a car club is that the car is then when you need it. But most people then walk, cycle or take the bus for shorter trips. Some people find it’s easier to give up their car altogether.

And the community benefits too both in terms of a nicer place to be and less accidents. This is because the average car club vehicle gets used by around 20 people a day in a city. So not only does this mean less people driving around with no real aim. But it means 19 less cars on the road – and also frees up hundreds of thousands of parking spaces, as the cars are nearly always in use.

how popular are car-sharing clubs really?

car share

Many people like to drive alone, so you would think that car-sharing clubs are not that popular. Lift-sharing may not be (sitting in a car with someone else, like the wonderful comedy series Car Share). But car-sharing gives the same independence of ‘owning a car’ without actually owning one. In fact, Glasgow’s Co-Wheels branch has recently doubled in size, as the scheme is so popular. Most people’s cars are just sitting there for 96% of the time, yet think of the colossal amount of money and stress it takes to keep them in good condition, and prevent them from getting stolen. Some environmental pundits have suggested that it could well be that in the near future, all cars on the road will be shared, rather than owned outright.

Car-sharing schemes are still most popular in the South of England, often due to the London Congestion Charge, meaning that many locals have given up owning vehicles, and tend to just rent one when heading outside of the city for a day in a neighbouring county. It’s interesting that in a recent survey, although Luton has the most car-sharing members (almost a million people nationwide are now members), the highest Google searches are for northern counties (Yorkshire was top). Proving that there is a huge untapped market for car-sharing in the very near future.

an innovative car-share in San Francisco

Here’s one to inspire, to do things a little differently. Gig Car Share lets people rent cars and then drive them anywhere (one-way) in the USA, as long as they return the car to a HomeZone area when done. All the cars even have bike racks on top, in case you’re heading off to Yosemite Park of wherever! Other communities in the US have created non-profit car-sharing schemes calling them a ‘Zipcar that normal people can afford’.

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