Smarter Cambridge Transport

Car clubs: a cost-effective alternative to owning a car for occasional use

Research indicates that private cars are, on average, stationary for 96% of their life, i.e. they’re driven for about 7 hours a week. That’s just an average. Walk down any residential street during the day: how many cars are sitting out front? Many of them are moving for only a few hours at the weekends and the odd longer trip.

Before my wife and I got rid of our car, we were doing between three and four thousand miles per year, costing about £1,000 plus petrol. It worked out at close to 45p per mile. This also happens to be the government-approved mileage rate for expenses and tax claims.

Last week I used Enterprise Car Club to drive four of us to a conference the other side of Coventry. It cost £82 all-in for the day, or 46p per mile. By comparison, going by train and taxi would have cost over £450.

Enterprise launched in Cambridge in August, offering thirty-one cars and two vans. It joined Zipcar, which has fourteen cars and one van, E-Car Club, which has two cars in Eddington, and Hertz 24/7, which has four vans. Availability is generally good, even at short notice, and provides a practical alternative to owning a car for occasional use – and especially to a second or third car.

That’s great for much of Cambridge, but what if you live elsewhere? Enterprise has cars in Histon, Shepreth and Melbourn. Anywhere with good access to public transport for most trips, such as Ely and St Ives, look like good candidates for car clubs, but operators will want to see a return on their investment in Cambridge before expanding.

In the meantime, sharing a car with family or friends could be an option. All drivers can be named on the car owner’s insurance policy, or other drivers can arrange stand-alone temporary insurance.

Check how much it’s costing you to run your car – or cars – and consider whether replacing a car with car club membership or sharing your car could save you money (and significantly reduce your carbon footprint). It’s worth at least having the conversation with family and friends.

This article was first published in the Cambridge Independent on 27 November 2019.

Edward Leigh

Edward Leigh is the leader of Smarter Cambridge Transport, chair and independent co-opted member of the Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Panel, chair of the South Petersfield Residents Association, business owner, consultant, and occasional blogger about making the world and Cambridge a better place to live.

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