Look at the streets of any UK village or small town and you can’t help but be struck by the sheer number of stationary cars parked on roads, pavements, and in public spaces. From the seaside getaways of Cornwall and South Wales, through the historic towns of the Yorkshire Dales, to Scotland’s NC500, everywhere you want to take the car, bike, or even a good walk is impeded by… more cars.
There’s no getting away from the dependence we have on cars in Britain, but why make that car a burden only you carry? Your next car could be more effective if you can share it, and though there are many pitfalls to relinquishing such a personal space it’s a model that works very well for cities and crowded areas where ridesharing schemes have flourished.
With rising costs, if you have trusted friends or family who also need transport you could pool resources before looking at used cars for sale, and find either much newer, lower mileage, or even more prestigious or fun options. It could also be the key to buying a motorhome for weekend adventures – most spend months of the year sitting going nowhere, and a well-maintained motorhome used regularly is much easier to take advantage of than one that’s got damp and rusty sitting over winter.
Sharing a car: the environmental benefits
There’s more to the environment than emissions – space, amenities, and wear and tear all play a part. If you’re relying on on-street parking the more cars in a household, the less room there is to walk and the less safe it feels to do so, meaning more people want to use the car when a bike or walking would be fine. Cars that are used more often will also shed fewer particulates from rusty brakes and perished tires.
Trust is a big factor here, but what if your cousin has a driveway and can’t justify a car, and you want a car for occasional use? What if your best friend wants to upgrade their car but you know it spends 90% of the time going nowhere, and you’ve got a new appointment or commitment? Rather than buying something for yourself, you could pool resources here.
Insurance as a named driver is generally not an issue for family members, even at very different addresses (and many insurance companies will allow a named driver to earn a no-claims discount to use on their own policy later). The registered keeper will get notifications of fines and so forth, but it should not be difficult to keep track of who used the car and when. We would suggest using Google Calendars or similar to keep track of who might need to use the car, making an agreement about how much fuel is left in, and using a PayPal money pot or similar to contribute to maintenance costs.
Some cars – and bear in mind bigger, older luxury cars can often be just as cheap as the in-demand economical car – will have features such as driver profiles, memory electric seats, and comfort settings so drivers can pair their preferences to the key or a menu item.
This sounds complicated, can’t someone else do it?
Absolutely. There are car clubs and apps for sharing your car, though make sure the insurance cover is appropriate and remember that total strangers may not treat your car with the same respect you do, so only do it if you’re ready to accept the disappointment that entails (costs are usually recoverable).
Generally, car-sharing schemes cost between £5 and £10 per hour. However, it isn’t quite as simple as that. Many companies offer a subscription service to moderate demand and allow better planning for their fleets.
Zipcar lets you sign up for £0 per month, and the cars cost from £8.50 per hour (£79/day) including 60 miles worth of fuel. Insurance, breakdown assistance, and congestion charge are all included in that. You can also pay by the minute, at £0.35 per minute. Upgrade to £6 a month, you get £6 worth of credit, plus, the hourly rate drops to £6.50 per hour (£59/day). Frequent users might benefit from the £15 a month option: £15 worth of credit, plus a rate of £5.50 per hour (£55/day).
These costs get you the use of a Volkswagen Polo, and similar cars such as Ford Fiestas, Vauxhall Corsas, and Hyundai i20s will be closely matched in price on many schemes. For an extra cost, you can get larger cars, and electric cars are becoming more popular and readily available in cities.
What about P2P – peer-to-peer – car sharing?
Unlike sharing with family and friends, P2P sharing apps such as HiyaCar, Getaround and Karshare operate like Air BnB with cars offered by owners, reviews, bookings and insurance covered by the app, and in some cases additional hardware for starting the car and verifying who is driving.
Whether this model is suitable for you is worth exploring, and some lease companies do allow their cars to be used this way.
Ridesharing apps and Uber are another route to making your car work harder, but in this case, you also have to work harder. It is always worth exploring if other commuters share your route, and ridesharing apps allow a degree of protection and verification of the person whom you are sharing your space with, but taking on a second job as a taxi driver isn’t so much car-sharing, as working harder to pay for your car’s existence. That seems like more to worry about, not a problem halved.
The exception to ridesharing being extra work is the school run. If you have to do a school run check the local neighborhood WhatsApp groups, talk to parents, organize a rota and you’ll free up time during the day, cut fuel costs and make the school gates a safer, less polluted environment.
Top tips for car sharing with friends and family
Keep a mileage log and event log – if someone hits a pothole it’s not about blame but about making sure the car is safe, for example.
Install a good dashcam with online connectivity such as the Thinkware T700 or Q1000, which can report the car’s location, capture events such as aggressive driving or sudden stops, and also provides a degree of CCTV protection where the car is parked.
Keep spare keys safe, and make sure you have a note of the key number in case all are lost.
Choose cars with robust trim and proven, reliable components.
Electric cars are ideal for car sharing. If you’ve been on the fence about buying an EV due to the expense and unfamiliar habits, sharing a small electric car as a second or school run/shopping workhorse makes a lot of sense. They are harder to abuse, easier to adjust to and many have been designed to suit the needs of car clubs and sharing schemes.