For the last six months we have not owned a car; happily getting about by walking, riding, using public transport and, most importantly, using the Goget car-sharing scheme.
The scheme is pretty simple. You sign-up and pay a monthly fee. In return you get a user-ID and a card. When you need a car you go to the Goget website, or phone them up, and make a booking. You can book a car for an hour or for a couple of days. Then you go to the car at the booked time and wave your card at the sensor on the window. That unlocks the car and you can hop in and start it up with the key that you’ll find inside. After that you pay a small additional fee for each kilometre that you drive. It’s that simple.
The benefits are pretty obvious and include:
- You save lots of money compared to owning a car. Car’s are simply very expensive to own, even just sitting in the driveway has them ticking over cash at a frightening rate. After having talked car share with a lot of people it’s amazing how few properly account for depreciation, opportunity cost, running costs and so on.
- You have different types of cars available to you. Need a ute or a people mover or a sporty car? They are all available as needed.
- You’re doing your bit to save the world and your local community at no real sacrifice to yourself. One car share can take, depending on what you read, 7-15 private cars off the road.
There are things to be aware of:
- Stating the bleeding obvious, but this’ll only work if you live somewhere that has a reasonable number of car-share vehicles about. The schemes have maps that show you where the cars are so it’s easy to find out if there’s one near you.
- Car share works when you need a car every now and again rather than all the time. It’s fine for a daily commute like taking the kids to school. But it is useless if you need to park and leave the car for the day at the other end, like a daily commute to work.
- You have to look at how much you are saving compared to having a car, rather than how much you are paying compared to walking. If you go down the latter route you’ll never use the car and then become dissatisfied with the utility. To make car-sharing work, you simply have to use it as frequently as you would have otherwise driven your own car.
- If you’re the sort of person who loves their own car, this is not for you. You have to adjust the seats and mirrors every time you get in, other people leave things behind or move them. It’s a shared resource.
- If you’re the sort of person who loves cars in general, this is likely not for you. You don’t find Audis or BMWs amongst the cars available. There are some nicer, sportier models but there’s a clear focus on smaller fuel-efficient cars.
- Petrol is a pain. As the inner city areas where car share really works become increasingly developed there are fewer and fewer convenient petrol stations around. We’ve several times had to go well out of our way to get petrol because the person before us has left it hovering on the mark.
Even though some cars have child seats I struggle to see car share working with young kids. Once they are old enough to sit in a normal seat there’s no problem, but having to carry a booster or fiddle with a potentially improperly fitted seat that the last person has dumped in the boot is an issue. But as a family of four with two primary-school kids we’ve had no worries at all.
Now to answer the two most frequently asked questions: What if it’s an emergency and the car is not available? Well that’s what taxis are for. Even catching a taxi several times a week is going to work out cheaper than owning a car. And what if the person before you doesn’t return the car? It doesn’t happen frequently but it has happened to us once through a mix-up. The other driver was fined $25 and I got $25 for the inconvenience as well as having my booking swapped to another nearby car. Still annoying, but I look upon it as a reasonable trade-off as long as it doesn’t happen often.
So after six months car sharing is working well. Mostly though it’s a matter of psychology. You have to get your head around not having a car – which is often seen as strange in our society. You have to get your head around accounting for transport as a saving on what it would have cost to have a car – otherwise, if you account from the ground up, you end up choosing not to spend the money and so start finding it inconvenient. And you have to get your head around sharing with strangers. Manage those things and car sharing is a great way to go.