Car Co-Ownership

Car Busters 34, April - June 2008

Dear Anna
I travel less by deliberately linking trips and choosing local facilities. For most journeys I can walk, bike or bus it. But due to work, I will soon be doing regular journeys by car up to twice a week. I haven’t yet bought one and want to share car ownership to limit costs. Please explain how.
Potential Car Co-owner

Dear Potential Car Co-owner
Car costs are huge - 18% of disposable incomes in the UK. Few people think about the true cost of running a car which once you include the finance cost, depreciation, tax, MOT, fuel, servicing, repairs, and parking add up to an average of over a hundred pounds a week (RAC and AA figures). See - Add Up Your Car Costs worksheet to add up your own based on what you think you might spend. Savings from car co-ownership are well worth the effort - up to £3,000.

Many ways of using a car without owning one each exist. What suits best depends on your pattern of journeys, where you live and who else to team up with. Options include:

1. Lift share - see my last column - This works for specific trips, like commuting or school. Try it first as it‘s the cheapest, greenest way.

2. Taxis give great value for shorter distances (about 20 miles is the threshold compared to a day car hire) or if you’d rather be driven (eg if you don‘t know the way or are planning to drink).

3 Company Pool Car. Could you borrow a car from your employer? Usually fine if journeys are for business and sometimes private use is allowed.

4. Car Clubs are car pools for hire by the hour, by members. Sometimes there is a membership fee. Others run solely on useage fees by time/mileage. Simply register and pay a deposit towards the insurance excess and electronic key. Use the booking system to get the kind of car you want, when you want it. Carplus has a database of UK car clubs - Clubs work well if there is a parking bay near to you. Brighton and Hove Council have recognised that car clubs are cheaper than running company car pools.

If driving less than 6,000 miles a year, joining a car club will save around £1,000 - £1,500 a year, and much more for a second car (Carplus figures)

5 Car Hire. An ordinary hire scenario is by the day or week. Decide what insurance claims risk you will accept, which affects the price charged. A credit card swipe is taken.

6.Car Ownership Sharing often happens informally between family members and also, in a more structured way, between friends and neighbours. It’s best if you team up with people who can be flexible about when they require it, or with a different pattern of days or times of car use to you. Eg - one has priority week daytimes and the other at evenings and weekends. Use car hire as a back up.

* How many people to team up with.

* What car to buy. Second hand and the smallest that will fit the purpose will cut costs.

* Who is responsible for servicing, maintenance and renewal of insurance

* How costs will be paid - e.g split fixed costs (initial purchase price or hire purchase payments, insurance and motoring test fee) by time and running costs by mileage

* How it will be booked (e.g. diary, wall chart, stickers, internet diary) and where it will be parked.

* A system for recording use (e.g. a logbook). Sharers usually pay for their own fuel so agree to fill the tank before swapping over or note fuel costs and miles driven.

* Tax issues

* How the sharing agreement will end if someone decides to leave.

Carplus publish the Car Club Kit and Streets Alive have website information on car ownership sharing at

Not having a car instantly available is one of the best ways to limit car use. Research has found travel behaviour change once the link between car use and car ownership is broken.

Former UK car owners increased their use of non-car transport modes by 40% after joining a car club. Two-thirds of those who owned a car before joining saw their mileage fall, by an average of around 25%.(Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford ' UK car clubs: an effective way of cutting vehicle usage and emissions?' Matthew Ledbury 2004)

University of Berkley research showed car club users in San Francisco reduced overall car travel by 47% in favour of public transport, walking and cycling.

The MOSES report 2005 showed car mileage reductions of 28% (Belgium) and 45% (Bremen).

Good luck with car ownership sharing solutions. Enjoy the savings.

Anna Semlyen wrote Cutting Your Car Use We are actively looking for publishers and authors in other countries (except North America). Email

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