zipcar car sharing

Can Car Sharing Save Me Money?

Owning or renting a car is an expensive proposition for many people, but a variety of companies around the nation are offering a new service: car sharing. This new service gives people access to public cars for a relatively low fee. Can this service save you money? Read on to find out.

The Purpose of Car Sharing

Car sharing is a rapidly growing movement that is designed to help decrease the negative environmental impact the world is suffering from too many people driving too many cars. Essentially, it helps cut down on emissions by offering cars for short-term use. Think of bike rental hubs in major cities: users pay a small fee for access to a bike for several hours. Car sharing is, essentially, the same thing but with automobiles instead of bicycles.

It is also designed to help give people who can't afford vehicles access to a steady and safe form of transportation. This is especially nice for people who may work a long way from home. Remember the Detroit man who walked 21 miles to work every day? He could have benefited heavily from a car-sharing program.

Joining A Car Sharing Club

Typically, car sharing is done via joining a club or organization that offers cars to share in your area. Right now, car sharing is mostly a big city deal, so it's unlikely you're going to have many options if you live in a smaller town. However, if there is a car-sharing club near you, you usually need to meet a few basic requirements. These are usually as simple as being 21 years or older and possessing a valid driver's license. At that point, you need to fill out an online membership form and pay a fee.

The fee that you pay varies depending on what plan you utilize. Although the various car-sharing companies offer a variety of rates, you're generally going to be able to pay a bulk yearly rate (which will save you money in the long run) or monthly rates. Usually, there are two or three monthly rates available. Often, they are as low as $10-$20 per month. You will likely have to pay a one-time application fee of $25-$50.

Saving Money With Car Sharing

The major advantage of car sharing is how little it will cost you compared to owning or renting. As mentioned before, you normally have to pay an application fee, as well as a yearly bulk payment or a monthly rental rate. You also have to pay an hourly driving rate, as well as a mileage rate. Insurance is covered by the car-sharing company, so you don't have to worry about that extra expense. That alone can save you $150-$200 a month over owning or renting a car.

Let's take a look at one car-sharing company and utilize their best rates to get a feel for how much money you can save when car-sharing. They offer a $60 bulk yearly payment. That works out to a $ 5-a-month rate. Let's say you purchased a car and pay $200 a month for payments. That's another $150 worth of savings. Their yearly plan has a $7.50 hourly rate, which is higher than their other plans, at a $5.75 hourly rate, but has the advantage of nixing the $0.35 mileage rate.

Okay, so you mostly need your car to drive to and from work and to go shopping. If you rent one for about an hour a day during the work week and one hour during the weekend. That's six hours a week for $45 in rental fees. Multiply that by four and you have $180 in rental fees. Although that may average out to about the same as paying off a car, when you subtract gas, repair bills, maintenance bills, and the already-mentioned insurance, you're still saving hundreds of dollars a month.

There are, of course, drawbacks to car sharing. For example, you won't have 24-hour access to a vehicle whenever you need it, as you won't have a car parked in a garage. However, for people who don't drive much or otherwise use public transportation, car sharing is a great money-saving option.