Joining a quick-hire car club

Last updated Wednesday 30 April 2008

Minimise motoring with cars-on-demand

Cursing the costs of a car you hardly use? A 'pay-as-you-go' car club could save you money and cut your mileage even further.

The expense of buying a car doesn't stop when you drive it home. With overheads like road tax, insurance, MoT, depreciation and servicing, it's a costly business even if you don't go anywhere.

Car clubs let you pick up a car from the roadside at a moment's notice and just pay for the time you use it. Infrequent drivers could save money and may cut their mileage by as much as two-thirds.

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Photo: Joining a quick-hire car club

Saves 800-1,400kg of CO2 a year

78 Bloomers are doing this

CO2 reduction 3 out of 5

Cheapness 5 out of 5

Popularity 2 out of 5

Cost 5 per hour

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How does it work?

Pub Fact

  • Nearly a third of the UK's total greenhouse gas emissions come from transport, and it is the only sector in which those emissions are growing
  • More than 80% of people who commute to work by car do so on their own
  • Private cars produce 10% of the UK's total CO2
  • Membership of UK car clubs has increased by 60% in the past year, and is predicted to hit one million by 2015
  • Car club members are more likely to tie trips together, with an average journey length of 30-50 miles (compared with 6.8 miles for a private car)

A car club spares you the running costs of car ownership but without the hassle of a one-off rental car. It's best for people who usually need a car around town a few times a week, rather than for an occasional weekend trip or week away.

  • When you sign up, you do all the paperwork once, rather than each time you need a car
  • Depending on the company, there may be a one-off joining fee or an annual charge
  • After that, you are charged by the hour, typically by direct debit
  • Your club places cars in dedicated parking spaces on the street
  • As little as 60 seconds beforehand, you can book a car online, or by text or phone
  • You swipe your 'smartcard' to gain access to the car

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How will it make a difference?

Evidence suggests that on average one car-club car replaces between six and 20 private cars. This means less congestion and fewer emissions. By 2010, car clubs are expected to have removed 300,000 cars from the road.

On top of that, research shows that people in car clubs plan their car use better, combining journeys to avoid multiple short trips - which are the most energy-inefficient. If you own a car, you tend to use it, even when you don't really need to. Instead, car club members replace short trips with a combination of walking, cycling and public transport.

Overall, claim the car clubs, members drive 50-68% fewer miles than they did before joining - a saving of 0.8-1.4 tonnes of CO2 a year. And the UK Energy Research Centre says car clubs' vehicles are generally 30% more fuel-efficient than the average private car.

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What's stopping me?

"I need a car every day"

Car clubs aren't good value for frequent drivers. Although the Financial Times has estimated that, once you factor in the annual depreciation in your car's value, a motorist who drives locally and infrequently could save up to 2,000 a year (see table), a pay-as-you-go system will clobber regular drivers. As a rule of thumb, if you drive more than four times a week, it's not for you.

Car club versus car ownership
Average annual cost of a club car: 2,550Average cost of an owned car: 4,081
4-8 per hour charge. This often includes petrol, and is usually inclusive of all other costs such as insurancePetrol costs (359.40 per year)
An annual membership fee of between 50 and 150 (not all clubs operate this system)Maintenance (299.71 per year)
Reduced prices and perks on mileageDepreciation (2,000-12,000 per year)
Parking permits, breakdown cover, insurance and MoT

"We don't all live in London, you know"

Not necessarily a problem - although 70% of car club members are based in London, at last count there were 42 car clubs operating in 37 towns across the UK, representing over 28,000 members using 1,000 cars. Admittedly, the more rural your location, the less likely you are to be able to take advantage. See if you have a local car club on Carplus.

"I don't want to be left stranded if there's no car available"

Cars should be available nearby and round the clock - car clubs claim availability of 95%.

"I could never part with my pride and joy!"

It's not for everyone. If you look at a car as a piece of metal that gets you from A to B, this could be the answer. If you give your car a name and you like to check on it last thing at night, this is probably not the action for you.

It's also worth noting that there are joining criteria. Typically you must:

  • Be aged between 19 and 75
  • Have held a valid driving licence for at least 12 months, and
  • Have had no more than one accident in which an insurance claim was made in the last three years

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How do I do it?

  • Calculate how much money you could save by selling your car and joining a car club, using a calculator at London Car Club or at Streetcar
  • Find your local car club on Carplus
  • Give your car a last, loving polish and get it on the market

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Comments

ght, Edinburgh 2009-11-18

Car clubs not only do good for the planet, they also increase your sense of being a member of a community - and isn't that at the root of all the blooms we're seeking to grow? Driving is usually so anti-community: each to his or her own little metal box, a wee world on wheels, and a 'petrolhead' society fuelling the sense of untouchability and callousness. As soon as you're sharing the car, you feel different about the whole deal. We're in this together. I've been sharing in a club for about a year - it doesn't cost me much less than running a car, I suspect, but I'm more economical with my journeys and care more about everyone else's road-related needs. I just wish (a) the car club would go further in bringing our community of strangers together and (b) the club ran more eco-friendly cars - surely they should want to be seen as leaders in this respect?

Antonia (Carplus) 2008-09-10

This page and site area great. One update for the links - carplus has done a fully seachable map to find your neaest car club now...see www.carclubs.org.uk. There is also a calculator on the site too. it is managed by carplus, (supported by tfl) but has a new branding. this is also more up to date than the London car clubs site which isnt funded by TfL now. (0113 234 9299)

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Glossary terms used on this page
CO2
CO2, or carbon dioxide, is made up of the elements carbon and oxygen. It exists quite naturally in our atmosphere, as part of the carbon cycle. Everyday processes in the plant and animal world both add CO2 to the atmosphere and take it out. However, because it is a greenhouse gas - meaning it affects the temperature of the earth - the exact level of CO2 is important. Burning fossil fuels releases CO2 into the atmosphere, hence the anxiety that extensive use of these fuels is causing climate change.
Car clubs
Not, in this instance, a club for car enthusiasts, but an organisation providing car rental to members at very short notice and usually for short periods, such as an hour or two.
Car clubs
Not, in this instance, a club for car enthusiasts, but an organisation providing car rental to members at very short notice and usually for short periods, such as an hour or two.

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