What you need to know
With six out of every 10 cars on UK roads carrying only the driver, the potential benefits of car sharing are clear.
On the face of it, car sharing presents an opportunity to reduce congestion and C02 emissions while enabling people to cut down on the expense of commuting. But there’s more to consider than just offering up your empty car seats, with both pros and cons. What do you need to think about before giving it a go?
It’s good for the environment
Car sharing naturally gets the green light from those wishing to cut their carbon footprint while contributing towards efforts to hit general carbon emissions targets by reducing the number of cars on the road. It is estimated that a car sharing commuter is able to cut their overall carbon footprint by 10 per cent a year. If UK car occupancy was to double, carbon emissions would drop by 9 million tonnes. However, there are also persuasive financial reasons for giving car sharing a spin.
It makes financial sense
One of the best reasons for car sharing is the opportunity to halve your motoring costs. Based on current prices, that would mean the equivalent of paying less than 65p a litre at the pumps at current prices. According to carpooling company Liftshare, the typical car sharing commuter saves £1,000 a year – a very attractive proposition. For those who literally share a car, including many mini-cab drivers and members of the city car sharing clubs which are now springing up, it isn’t only the running costs that are drastically reduced. Joining a city car club or sharing a vehicle could mean halving how much it costs to buy, service and repair a vehicle. That said, any cost benefits would need to be weighed alongside the increased complication of deciding whose name goes on the log book.
Check the small print
If car sharing is something you are considering, be sure to check the small print. It is forbidden to make a profit from car sharing and most private vehicle insurance policies prohibit ‘use for hire of reward’. If you head down the car share lane, it is wise to inform your insurer and detail the terms on which you are carrying passengers. You may decide to simply “go Dutch” on the cost of fuel – probably the simplest way – or set a fixed cost per mile as payment for your chauffeuring services.
Having a road buddy can be fun
Other advantages are companionship, the opportunity to potentially meet new friends - even having help if you break down. The downside comes with potentially sharing a car with someone who quickly becomes an irritant thanks to their habits, line of conversation and timekeeping, not to mention unreliability. Complaints of drivers not showing up, having clocked off from work early, are frequently found on car sharing forums!
There are also personal safety issues to consider with a concept sometimes dubbed ‘prearranged hitchhiking’. Car share sites such as Liftshare.com and BlaBlaCar.com have strict registration procedures, but to be absolutely sure of your safety, stick to driving with a friend or colleague and preferably one who lives nearby and works similar hours. Resentment about ‘going out of one’s way’, or ‘being let down’, can quickly poison the relationship.
Another option is to join a car share club. These provide pay-as-you-go transport and allow you to just use a car when you need it, slashing your costs on areas like road tax, insurance and maintenance. A report from Zipcar says car sharing clubs in London could have over 800,000 members by 2020, reducing London car numbers by 79,000 and emissions by 150,000 tonnes.
A popular choice
Charity CarPlus says 137,000 Londoners now make use of car clubs and half the population of London now has access to a club car within a five-minute walk of their home, according to www.thegreencarwebsite.co.uk
While this is great news for the wallet, it is also a boost for those championing carbon reduction. The average car club vehicle emits 33% less carbon than the average UK car, so every car club vehicle saves 1.4 tonnes of carbon a year. The average occupancy of a car club car in London is 2-3 people, exposing many people to what are often hybrid and electric vehicles – the cars of a cleaner future.
Times are changing
With compact car club cars now being made available for hire in dedicated parking bays and eligible for return to such bays in various locations, the times are changing. For an increasing number of people, driving could well become a case of having a PIN code sent to a mobile. It’s a way of getting from A to B, with none of the long-term relationship commitments that drivers and their vehicle traditionally enjoy. The ‘no strings attached’ mentality seems to be catching on.