Car ownership is, believe it or not, on the decline in the UK. A combination of environmental concerns, financial inability, parking space restrictions and alternative commute options (stay tuned…) are reducing the number of people who feel that personal car ownership is either essential or viable. Nonetheless, there’s still a lot to be said for the automobile. Life without access to a car can still be very difficult in 21st Century Britain. Timescales and locations are often not achievable without an internal combustion engine – and many employers still expect people to be able to get around quickly and easily in a car. So what’s the modern car-free individual to do?
Well, if you can drive, car clubs are becoming an increasingly popular option…
Co-Wheels car club
One of the most popular (and rapidly expanding) car clubs is Co-Wheels. A social enterprise, Co-Wheels is essentially a car-hire scheme, but geared towards those who need regular, short-timescale access to a vehicle. Their market is people who can drive, but either don’t or won’t own their own car. On a pay-as-you-go basis, customers book a car either online, over the phone, gaining access to the car using an issued ‘smart card’. At the end of the hire time, they return the car to its designated bay. Cars can be hired for as little as half an hour, or as long as days at a time and the customer pays only for the time taken and the distance driven. The bonus is, insurance is included too.
Other car clubs may operate on slightly different bases. They may charge a monthly membership fee, or work on a more ‘car sharing’ model. Many entrepreneurs are interested in the possibilities of self-driving cars. Semi-autonomous cars of the future could, after all, be ‘ordered’ online and drive themselves to the pickup location, before driving themselves back to a central ‘depot’ at the end of the hire. All in all, this is an interesting field to watch.
Car clubs vs car ownership
Whether or not a car club is viable for you depends a lot on your personal needs and desires. That they are more environmentally friendly than personal car ownership is not in doubt. Essentially sharing one car between several customers is far better than several customers each having their own car. In the long-term, increased car club popularity could see a reduction in the numbers of cars on the roads, less of a need for parking spaces outside houses, and a general decrease of both congestion and vehicular pollution. If you set a lot of store by your green credentials, car clubs may well be the way forward for you.
On the other hand, this has to be weighed against practicality. If you have a job which requires a lot of driving, and getting to a car club bay is not easy for you, it may not be a sustainable option. You may want to look instead into car-sharing, or a more environmentally friendly car for personal ownership.
From a financial point of view, car clubs are a no-brainer. Depending (of course) on how often you use them, the cost of hiring a car is far lower than the cost of owning a car. Even when you’re not using it, a car you own costs you money in tax and insurance. When you are using it, you are also liable for MOT costs, fuel costs, repair costs, and so much more. At a car club, this is all taken care of for you. You pay for the car only while you are using it and for the number of miles you drive. For the majority of people who don’t use their cars for long hours every day, this is undoubtedly the cheaper option worth exploring.