If you live in a major metro area, you’ve probably seen shared cars driving around. These vehicles are trying to serve as a solution to overcrowded highways and the environmental damage caused by the abundance of cars on the road.
If you’re considering a car-sharing service, our flowchart will help you make the decision that best suits your lifestyle. Otherwise, keep reading to learn about the car-sharing model, how it works, and how car-sharing companies are trying to forge a healthier and more environmentally friendly future.
What is car sharing?
Car share is a variety of rental car service, in which one vehicle is shared by multiple people and used for a variety of purposes. While traditional rental cars are rented and returned with strict timing parameters, rules, and structure, shared cars are meant for convenience, offering more flexible and accessibility.
Shared cars are becoming a popular means of transportation in big cities and some suburban areas. Several companies, including Zipcar, car2go, Turo, and Getaround are capitalizing on this trend. In fact, the car-sharing market is projected to exceed $11 billion by 2024.
Is car sharing right for you?
By many accounts, car sharing is a win-win for drivers and the environment. While car share membership can be a workable solution for many drivers, not everyone's lifestyle will accommodate car sharing.
The flowchart linked below will help you decide if car sharing is right for you! Check out the infographic for our suggestions and tips on driving a shared car.
How does car sharing work?
Much like a subscription to Netflix or Amazon Prime, most car-sharing services operate on a membership basis. You’ll choose from a number of different plans, each of which offers different features. All will typically include insurance, gas expense and an allotted number of miles per day with the option to add miles.
After enrolling, your driving license and record will be verified before being accepted into the service. Once you’ve been approved, you’ll be able to reserve your first car using a membership card with an electronic chip.
Reserving a car can be done online, over the phone or through text. Most companies allow booking as early as a year in advance or as late as five minutes before you need a car.
Finding and reserving a car varies by company, but most services use this general process:
- Open the service’s app and navigate to the “find cars” section.
- Enter your location and view cars closest to you.
- Select the car you’d like to drive and reserve it in-app.
- Locate the car and open it using your membership card or key fob.
- After using the car, return it to the same parking spot.
- Lock it using your membership card or key fob and walk away.
Who is eligible for car sharing?
In general, shared car drivers must fit these criteria:
- Applicants must be at least 21 years old (or 18 years old for some services).
- Applicants must submit a valid driver’s license.
- Applicants must agree to the terms and conditions of the membership agreement.
- Applicants with a non-US driver’s license will also need to submit a passport.
- Applicants should have a good driving history. Membership may be denied based on previous violations.
Is car sharing cheaper than car ownership?
Payment for a shared car is based on a number of factors. Most car-sharing services charge on an hourly basis with possible fees for additional miles or time driven.
Some companies offer different models. Larger vehicles like SUVs and pickup trucks may be priced at a slightly higher hourly rate.
While expense varies greatly from person to person depending on many factors, some car-sharing companies suggest that their members save money by using their services. According to Zipcar, one in four members say they would have purchased a personal vehicle if not for the sharing service. In another study, nearly five percent of respondents say they sold a personal car due to the availability of car-sharing services.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, American households who use car sharing save a minimum of $154 per month, with some households saving over $430 a month. Considering the average cost of a new vehicle is nearly $40,000, some may argue that car-sharing is the cheapest option for those in need of a car.
The environmental benefits of car sharing
Traffic congestion isn’t just an inconvenience for city-dwellers. It’s also incredibly hurtful to the environment. Car sharing offers a brilliant solution to the ecological damage caused by vehicles in some powerful ways.
Here are a few of the potential environmental advantages of car sharing:
- Less traffic: Just one shared car can replace up to 20 personal cars, meaning fewer cars using gasoline.
- Reduced emissions: Car sharing reduces greenhouse gas emission and carbon monoxide pollution by up to 18 percent.
- Water conservation: Car sharing reduces the need for new cars, which need nearly 40,000 gallons of water each during the manufacturing process.
- Electric vehicles: Many car sharing services use electric vehicles (EVs), which generate very low emissions.
How to make car sharing simple
Here are a few tips to help you be a courteous car-share driver!
- Return it to its home — return the car to the same parking spot you found it in so it’s ready for the next driver.
- Be kind, refuel — the cost of gas is included, so fill it up using your membership card before leaving.
- Be on time — there might be a penalty fee for returning the car past its due time. If you’re late, call the service to let them know.
- Keep it clean — shared cars are cleaned frequently, but tidying up and removing trash before leaving is courteous.
- Report mishaps — if you’re driving when the car is damaged, give the service a call to sort things out.
Car sharing is a great way to minimize your carbon footprint while maintaining your lifestyle. It’s a greener alternative to a personal car and will go a long way to ensuring a healthier future for our planet, all while giving you the convenience and flexibility you need.
If you think you’d like to try a car-sharing service, make sure your insurance covers you before getting into a shared car. Drive safe!