I once owned a car. It had something of a sad existence. During its seven years in my ownership it was cleaned a total of four times. Scheduled services were missed. It accumulated a long and distinguished list of scratches and dents which I barely noticed. I was a bad car owner and everything about cars fails to excite me. Absolutely nothing comes to mind when someone says that their first car was a "1978 Subaru 2 door coupe". Why do people say that like it means something? So it came as no surprise to those who know me when I found an alternative to car ownership and jumped onboard.
Car sharing is well established throughout Europe and North America but is only just starting to make its mark here in Australia. Melbourne and Sydney enjoy the most vibrant car-sharing communities with a choice between several companies. GoGet has the greatest Australia-wide coverage with its cars extending to Adelaide and Brisbane. GreenShareCar has plans to launch into Brisbane as well as a host of regional cities such as Geelong, Ballarat and Newcastle. I joined Flexicar which operates only in Melbourne but has a large selection of "pod" locations and car types ranging from compact Toyota Corollas for running errands and picking up groceries to Nissan X-Trails for a weekend away.
At a high level, participating in car sharing through any of these companies will require signing up and paying a fee (some call it a joining fee and others call it an annual damage cover fee but for a driver it's all the same) which varies between $40 and $70. Then you select a level of monthly membership depending on how frequently you will use a car.
The membership is a type of "credit". For instance if you are a regular user you may purchase a level of membership that gives you $200 of driving credit each month which would attract a lower hourly and daily rate than someone who purchases membership equivalent to $100 driving credit for the month. If your usage exceeds the monthly credit you would then pay additional at the nominated hourly or daily rate and you can change the level of membership from month to month. Some companies allow unused credit to be rolled over into the following month.
The concept is different to car rental. Registered users are issued with swipe cards which are used to unlock the car at the start of a booking, and to lock it again at the end, the keys are left inside. Insurance cover is included either in the joining fee or the monthly membership, as is petrol. The cars are cleaned and serviced regularly and are all new, automatic, user-friendly and have a high ANCAP safety rating.
The company that is the most suitable for you will depend upon the locations where you are most likely to use a car. If you are considering taking out membership review the map of locations on each company's website to find out which one has the most pods close to your home or work. There are also nuances between the companies around matters such as additional drivers, security deposits, penalties for late returns and cancelled bookings, student rates and pet-friendly cars.
I have been using Flexicar for the past 6 months and have no plans to buy a car anytime soon. My household already has one car and I oppose the idea that everyone in a household needs their own vehicle - even when I'm pestering my other half for a lift. Just consider all that goes into producing a car which sits idle for most of its days. Consider also the finances - if you crunch the numbers you may find that purchasing your own car doesn't quite stack up, especially if you use public transport to get to work and live in a pod hotspot - think Port Melbourne, Docklands, Collingwood, Carlton and the like with new pods being added all the time. Check out this little tool for comparing the cost of car sharing and car ownership. Car sharing may be the solution that provides mobility without the excess.
Apart from that warm and fuzzy feeling that comes with living more sustainably, car sharing has in fact improved my relationship with cars now that I am not burdened with the responsibility of having to clean or service one. I even have a "favourite" car which I try to book each time, his name is Hocus Pocus and he's a blue Hyundai Elantra, but if I'm not in the mood for him I sometimes pick Coyote, the grey i30 hatch who lives in the neighbouring pod.
My son and daughter-in-law belong to this in Sydney. As we become more prone to living close together in cities with less car parks, this has to be the way. The more this is used the more it will expand into the suburbs. Consequently older people who use theie cars less will start to use this as it becomes more available. This has to be the way of the future.
Ahhh hochus pocus, love that one. Been using it for last year. I rent my car park for 300 a month and it easily pays its bodycorp/c.rates and my flexicar fees and I have left overs.
usually drive 1-2times a week for 3-4hours.
Sounds like a great way to get around as well as saving time and money. I love the idea of not having to worry about getting the car serviced and imagine no yearly car registration and insurance costs! Great to hear about your experience.