Car sharing – a useful guide to help you save money

Car sharing – a useful guide to help you save money
Car sharing, lift sharing and carpooling are simple ways to save money. Popular with commuters and students, sharing a vehicle can have a significant impact on your car's running costs by saving you money on repairs, servicing, fuel and road tax

But how does car sharing and carpooling work? We've put together a guide that explains all and looks at the potential benefits and drawbacks of car sharing and carpooling in the UK.

What is car sharing?

Officially, according to Government guidance, car sharing or carpooling is 'the coordinated matching up of lifts between drivers and passengers who share a common or similar route’. Or, to put it in simple terms, car sharing splits the costs of a journey between one or more passengers.

Generally speaking, there are two forms of car sharing in the UK: commercial car sharing and peer-to-peer (P2P).

There is also a growing third car share option – car sharing clubs! This can differ from the above as there is no money is exchanged. This is normally for people who have very similar journeys to work, and a group of people carpool and take it in turns to drive the group to a destination.

Why do people join car sharing or carpooling schemes?

When it comes to car sharing, the benefits include reducing the financial burden of car ownership, whilst still allowing you the freedom to drive when needed through a scheme.

If you wish to keep your vehicle, you can still take advantage of this and make some money yourself. This only works if you are happy for strangers to drive your car. All car sharing companies do carry out relevant safety and identity checks.

Another benefit of ride sharing includes the environmental impact of your driving. By reducing your time behind the wheel and the number of vehicles on the road, there are fewer greenhouse gases being pumped into the atmosphere.

Additional benefits include reducing congestion and engine idling – two key contributors to damaging the environment.

By reducing the number of vehicles on the road, it also increases the number of available parking spaces in busy areas.

How do commercial car sharing schemes work?

A commercial car sharing scheme will give you access to a car, without any of the associated long-term costs that you traditionally get with vehicle ownership.

There are two options for a more formal agreement – open or closed car sharing. An open option is one where anyone (with a driving licence) can sign up and find lifts through a digital platform or app on their phone. Fees and legal agreements are involved.

Closed lift sharing allows specific groups, areas, employers, and organisations access to their own platform where people can connect and organise lifts or short-term rentals of a vehicle.

Some businesses offer their own employee benefits which include lift sharing. This happens when employees take turns to drive each other too and from the office. This is seen as a benefit for both employee and employer as it builds a more social environment as well as reducing the number of parking spots required.

How do peer-to-peer (P2P) car sharing schemes work?

P2P car sharing schemes work in a number of different ways. Two of the most popular P2P schemes in the UK will either put you in contact with people who are travelling to the same destination as yourself or allow you to rent a car for a few hours.  

The cost of car sharing can start from a few pounds an hour to less than £20 for a day. Often the companies that run these schemes make their money from working with local councils and organisations, rather than directly through the customer or vehicle owner. This means that costs for the driver are kept relatively low.

If you decide to use a carpooling P2P scheme, you will need to get in touch with people who are travelling to the same destination as yourself. There are a number of commercial companies that offer this service, or you can contact people at your place or work or study to organise a local P2P scheme with agreed pick-up and drop-off locations. 

P2P car rental schemes operate differently, with customers hiring a vehicle for a fee at agreed times. The rental agreement starts from a few hours to a full day. You will need to pay a deposit and ensure suitable car insurance is in place. There may also be a mileage limit and penalty fees if the vehicle is damaged, returned dirty or not returned on time. 

There are a number of commercial companies that will help you find a P2P car rental. And in many cases, these companies will organise the insurance for you and hold the security deposit. 

Challenges with car sharing and carpooling

The main problem facing those who sell their car and turn to car sharing is that the convenience of being able to hop in your car and drive is no longer available.

To successfully make the switch, you will need to be organised and potentially use other forms of transport to get to your destination.

Also, if you think you would be uncomfortable sharing a vehicle with strangers, then car sharing might not be for you.

You may also have to rely on public transport if you are unable to book a vehicle for the time you need it. This would be especially challenging at the moment, due to the frequent strikes from workers within the industry.

Car sharing lane

Another benefit for taking part in a lift sharing scheme is that you will have access to the 2+ passenger lanes you will see when entering many of the UK’s major towns and cities.

This means that you can cut out driving time – and that spent in traffic – and is only available to those who are travelling with passengers.

Below is the sign to look out for:

Is car sharing popular in the UK?

According to Statista, the UK car sharing market could reach a value of more than £750 million, and is expected to grow to more than £1 billion by 2027.

Their data also revealed that by 2027, there are expected to be over 2.1 million people who will regularly use a car sharing scheme in the UK.

With almost a third of UK households having more than one vehicle – and the impact of the cost of living crisis – it is expected that this number could drop, leading to further growth within lift sharing schemes.

In recent years, there has been an explosion of app-based services for this industry, and over the next four years, 96% of all purchases will be done through this medium.

Government incentives and guidance

Much of the lift sharing industry is either managed by independent businesses or organised between friends and colleagues.

However, there are steps being made by the Government to make car sharing more available to people across the UK.

The Transport Decarbonisation Plan aims to increase average road vehicle occupancy by 2030.

Research by Liftshare suggests that each 1% increase in vehicle occupancy saves 2.5 billion car miles and 0.75 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Local authorities can also help create lift sharing schemes by providing guidance and bring businesses and public sector employers together, to create localised lift sharing programmes.

Speak to your local council to see if there are any in operation in your area. Some even provide funding, and other incentives such as dedicated parking bays or compensation if there are no vehicles available in the form of paid for public transport.

Workplace incentives

In recent years, there has been a push for a greener way of living to help save the environment and assist the Government’s Net Zero goals.

A part of this was providing companies across the UK with guidance on how they can introduce car sharing schemes as a one of their employee benefits.

The positives of including this in an organisation include reducing the demand for parking spaces, improved recruitment and retention, providing a spotlight on Corporate Social Responsibility, and helping employees save money – all while improving team bonding.

Car share or car rental?

Hopefully you should now have a better understanding of car sharing and the benefits it can provide you or your company.

However, one of the biggest criticisms has been that short term car rentals have already been available for decades. Here are the differences.

Sometimes car share can be surprisingly cheaper – especially when compared to the larger brands. Although this can fluctuate in price, it is worth doing your own research and include options for both.

Car sharing is not limited to office hours, and be a much more personal service. Often you deal with someone directly, who can be easily contactable should it be necessary. As a result of this, reservation, collection, and return can all be done at your leisure – and sometimes can be completely self-service.

Due to the nature of lift sharing and people renting out their vehicle, there isn’t normally a parking lot full of rental cars available, and so pick-up can be from a wide variety of places. Use the app to discuss where collection and drop-off might be. Traditional car rental firms will have depots all across the UK.

With the ongoing rising costs of fuel, one of the many appealing options for car sharing is that they will often include a certain number of miles where they pay for your fuel. However, unlike the service in rental firms, vehicles are nor cleaned, fuelled, or maintained between drivers.

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