Personal Car Sharing: A Money-Saving Idea or a Logistical Nightmare?

There’s a significant number of people in the United States who do not care to own a car. Perhaps they don’t want to incur the expenses of gasoline, auto insurance, registration, and overall automotive upkeep. In addition, there are some families who choose to rely on one vehicle rather than purchase a second one; again, auto-related costs are the major reason why.

However, there are certain times where public transportation just won’t suffice – like when you want to shop for groceries, landscaping supplies, or other large items. In these cases, vehicle-less Americans might choose to rent a vehicle for a day or borrow a friend’s or relative’s car.

Now, there’s another option for these individuals: personal car sharing.

Late in 2011, California finally passed legislation allowing private citizens to rent out their cars by the hour to other drivers. As a result, companies such as Relay Rides, Getaround, and Spride have begun reaching out not only to people who need the occasional use of a vehicle, but also to car and truck owners who might be willing to lend out their wheels for a few extra bucks. Personal car sharing is also trying to take off in major east coast cities like New York and Boston.

Here’s how it works: potential customers can go on a website and browse through a list of vehicles that are available close by. Choosing a selection will give you details about the vehicle itself, when it is available, how much it costs to rent, and its exact location. After reserving the vehicle, the renter goes to where the vehicle is and gains access using his or her smartphone – because each available car is equipped with a system that allows
this type of electronic access. Rental rates vary, but they usually run anywhere between $5 and $15 an hour (plus mileage traveled over a certain set amount).

There are some drawbacks to personal car sharing. For one thing, each vehicle must be insured for triple the minimum amount of auto insurnace auto insurance coverage mandated by the state of California – which may cut into an owner’s profits. Plus, the owner has to leave a copy of the key in the car, which could make the vehicle a target for would-be car thieves.

For potential renters, they still have to find an available vehicle in their area and somehow figure out a way to get there if it isn’t within walking distance. And owners may worry if their vehicle will be driven inappropriately, damaged, or even contaminated by a renter’s poor hygiene.

Personal car sharing is certainly a novel idea. But it remains to be seen if demand for the service will remain long enough for the industry to grow and flourish throughout the country.

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