Car sharing programs are showing up all over the world, particularly in large cities where car ownership is not necessary but can sometimes be convenient. The idea is that you use a car that is available to a whole network of people, any time you need it. Some of the more popular programs are Car Sharing Network, We Car and Zip Car. These programs have gained popularity as people are re-thinking the need to own a car, particularly in urban areas where traffic and parking can be impossible, and the public transportation system is reliable and affordable.
Here’s how it works: first, you join the car sharing program as a member. Most of the programs will require you to hold a valid driver’s license and be eligible for their liability insurance. You will sign up as a member of the car sharing program, providing a credit card to be charged every time you use a car. Membership cards or keys will be sent to you, and you can reserve a car whenever you need it online or by phone. Simply pick the car up, use it for as long as you have reserved it for, and return it to the same spot.
The benefits are numerous:
• You don’t need to worry about the expense of car ownership.
• Less bureaucracy than renting a car the traditional way, especially if you only need it for a few hours.
• Basic insurance coverage and gas costs are included in most programs.
• Environmentally friendly way to drive.
• Customer service is excellent; you can reach someone by phone 24/7.
• Parents can sign their college students up if sending a child to school with a car is unrealistic.
• Cars are clean, safe and well maintained.
• Roadside assistance is provided.
A few drawbacks:
• You can be thrown off schedule if the car you reserved is not returned on time by the person using it before you.
• You must keep the car clean. Pet hair, crumbs or other trash will incur a clean fee.
• You will be responsible for damage costs if you are in an accident. While most plans include insurance, there is often a large deductible.
My anxiety rested in wondering how you got the keys to the car you would be driving. According to We Car, members will be able to unlock the car doors by waving their membership cards at the windshield. Once the car unlocks, the keys can be found in the glove compartment. How easy! There is also a gas card kept in the glove compartment, and when the tank hits the quarter-full mark, whoever happens to be driving it needs to stop and fill up – not at your expense, but by using the gas card. I love it.
A car sharing program will work great for you if you don’t have your own car, or you have recently moved to a city where a car is not a necessity. Check out the options in your area for different car sharing programs. Most companies will allow you to try the service out with no obligation before you become a member.