Saturday, 11 February 2017

Do you really need a car of your own?

Do you use your car every day? Every week? If you don’t need to use your car regularly, it can be cheaper to share and there are benefits for the environment too. In this post I present three different solutions, as described by three Transition Cambridge and Cambridge Carbon Footprint members: Liz shares a car with friends, Anne has joined the car club Zipcar while Dave and Ceri use a national car hire company for occasional long trips.
Liz (on the left) with friends Iain and Suzie and their family

Why share a car?
Anne sold her car because she wasn’t using it enough to justify the cost and hassle – most of the time it was sitting out in the street growing moss and losing value. Her husband has a car that he needs for work and sometimes Anne needs one at the same time – rather than having a second car, joining Zipcar seemed an excellent solution. Once you have joined you can book a car online and take it out for as little as an hour at a time. Anne finds this convenient: Personally I love the freedom of having a choice of cars (in a choice of cities too) and not having the hassle and expense of having to look after, tax, insure, park and maintain my own car. Zipcar also has a van so Anne used that to help Cambridge Carbon Footprint move offices.
Anne used this van to help CCF move offices

Liz and friends Iain and Suzie have been sharing a car for four years now. Even between them they do less than 8000 miles a year so sharing is practical and saves money. They split the fixed costs 50:50 - that is insurance, tax and MOT - and they pay for fuel and repairs according to mileage.

Also for Dave and Ceri the main reason is to save money. They don’t need a car often enough to justify owning one but they do need one 5-6 times a year when they visit family. Going by public transport takes so long they would need to stay overnight. Add that to the rail fares and hiring a car works out cheaper. Dave reckons it saves them £50 each time.

Your mileage goes down - you think about whether you really need the car or not
Saving money is a strong motivation but there are other benefits too. As Liz says: it's one less car on the streets. Also, car use is a major contributor to UK carbon emissions (around 11%) and the less we use them the better. Liz says: Your mileage probably goes down – you think about whether you really need the car or not, whether you can combine two trips. That is even more true when you are paying by the hour! Also there are a lot of carbon emissions generated in making a car. If you don’t use your car much and it turns into a rust bucket before the engine wears out, then that adds to the overall per-mile impact.

How does it work?
Using a car club like Zipcar is not quite the same as conventional car hire. There is an annual membership fee, currently £60 – this effectively covers tax, insurance, MOT and all the other costs. When you want a car you book online and pick it up from its reserved parking spot. The cost starts at £5/hr and this includes fuel. To unlock you use your Zipcard or your phone, using the Zipcar mobile app. When you return the car you have to ensure it has at least ¼ tank of fuel for the next person – there is a fuel card for paying for this. There are other rules like no smoking and you must leave the car clean and tidy.

Liz and her friends have evolved a set of rules that work for them. They make arrangements to book the car by text or phone and they have a notebook in which they record how many miles they have travelled and how much they have spent, including fuel. The DVLA and insurance companies are not set up for car sharing so one of them is the registered owner and the insurance policyholder – the car has to be at that address for at least 50% of the time. However, they have two named drivers so three people are allowed to drive the car.

You don’t have to be neighbours to share but it helps. Liz recommends that you live no more than 10-15 minutes walk away: because the car will go from one household to the other very regularly.

What else?
Anne says that not having her own car has not changed her mileage that much but buying a bike trailer did. The trailer means they can carry bulky stuff without resorting to the car.

Do you have experiences to share? If so do add your comments to this post. Also if reading this has made you rethink having a car of your own do let us know. Car sharing might save you money and help save the planet too.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this timely article. I had heard about zip car as my siblings often use them. I have not had a car for 17 years and was a nervous driver. However I had cancer surgery and treatment recently and this has left me weakened on my bicycle trips to the cancer centre and shopping. I like the idea of borrowing a car to get some experience of the easy life so that I know I am not missing much except for breathing everyone else's car pollution in my face as I cycle and may feel less frustrated also with a new challenge