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Car sharing is wildly popular in large cities where residents may not have cars of their own. But to those living outside of large metropolises, such services may be less familiar.
The Carsharing Association says car sharing is aimed at decreasing personal car ownership, reducing the distances vehicles travel and decreasing dependence on fossil fuels. Car sharing services are often membership-based, and memberships are open to all drivers who meet certain qualifications.
In 2000, Massachusetts-based Zipcar, one of the first car sharing companies, began with a fleet of only four vehicles. The Transportation Sustainability Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley says roughly 900,000 Americans now use similar car sharing services today.
Car sharing services are particularly helpful for city dwellers and college students who find it impractical to own their cars. Personal vehicles can cost thousands of dollars per year when insurance, fuel and maintenance are added up, making car sharing services far more practical for drivers who rarely drive.
Car sharing services are similar to traditional rental cars in that members pay to borrow vehicles. However, car-sharing services are designed for shorter periods of time and people only pay for their actual usage. Car sharing also is practical for those who travel during off-peak hours because cars are available at any time of day.
The Carsharing Association says car sharing is aimed at decreasing personal car ownership, reducing the distances vehicles travel and decreasing dependence on fossil fuels.”
Some car sharing services require members to be 21 or older. Insurance costs are covered by the company.
Members can use car sharing services’ mobile apps or the internet to find vehicles nearest to their homes. Some services may require that vehicles are picked up and dropped off at the same location, while others allow drivers to pick up and drop off at separate locations. Gas cards for refueling are included in the cost of some memberships, and members’ unique cards can be used to unlock vehicles with keys stored inside.
Rates vary depending on the vehicle make and model and when vehicles are being borrowed. For example, a luxury BMW or Mercedes-Benz at Zipcar or Enterprise can run $13-15 per hour during off-peak hours, while less expensive cars may range from $8 to $10 per hour. Cars can typically be rented for the day, but members may still need to pay hourly rates, which can prove costly.
Keep in mind that, although they are flexible, car sharing services may be quite busy during peak travel times or around holidays.
Car sharing is yet another option for drivers who want to save money and/or conserve resources.