In a sense, a car share program is like a library. Multiple people cooperatively use a limited resource in such a way that everyone gets what they need and saves money in the process. Car share companies give members access to a fleet of vehicles within a city, generally charging a fixed monthly rate and an additional fee per mile driven. What’s the benefit to you? You don’t need to have a garage or parking space, and you don’t need to buy a car, pay for insurance, or pay for regular car maintenance. What’s the benefit to society? Parking spaces take up valuable space in cities—space that could be better used to create more dense, walkable urban spaces. Additionally, car share programs make it easier for people not to own a car; this encourages transit use, walking, and bicycling for everyday transportation and gives you the security of having access to a car when you need it.
Tips & Tricks
Learn about car share programs in your area. Inquire with your transit agency, do an internet search, or consult the resources below.
Calculate your car expenses. Add up everything including gas, maintenance, insurance, parking, and the cost of the vehicle divided over its average lifespan. You may be surprised by the “monthly fee” you are paying to own a car.
Think about a car share program when you’re ready to retire or sell your current vehicle. It may not make sense to join a car-share program if you already own a car, but once your current ride has reached the end of its road then you might be a good candidate.
Web & Print Resources
Find a car share program near you:
National car share companies:
Calculate the cost of owning your car:
This material originally appeared in Slate.com article “Key Party: Zip Car Makes Car Sharing Sexy, Not Sorry” by Paul Boutin (September 5, 2006).
A recent week for me went like this: On Monday evening, the wife called me to pick her up after a late night at the office. I logged in and eyeballed the grid of available cars on our neighborhood lots. I could get a Mazda 3, but I saw a Mini available at 9 p.m. for a couple bucks more. Could she wait an extra 10 minutes? I rolled up in her favorite little red wagon and carted her home via the scenic route. We had to walk the last few blocks home from the lot, but it beat trying to squeeze our own car past our neighbor's in the alley at 10 p.m.
When I got home, I found mail from a friend coming to town for a weekend. I reserved the red Mini—then switched to the blue convertible—for all three days. The next morning I was summoned to a meeting in another county. Zipcar's Web site showed a Prius and a Mazda a block away, but by walking a bit farther I was able to pick up my business date in a shiny new BMW. To learn more, see www.slate.com
In 2006, about 102,000 people were sharing 2,558 cars in car share programs across the U.S. Many pay over $1,000 a year in auto insurance.
In 2005, the average American spent 18% of household income on transportation—mostly vehicle purchase, maintenance, and gaso—compared to 12.8% on food.