Lisa Markwell: It pays to be in the driving seat at this time of year

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The Independent Online

Who'd be a designated driver at this time of year? The office parties segueing into dinner with friends, and weekends of boozy pub lunches and roasts with the relatives – all are made better with the emollient properties of booze. So who'd want to stick to the tonic water all night? Well, me.

The real reason is a pathological hatred of being reliant on someone or something else to get me home. I've lost count of the times I've waited in the doorway for my companion to have just one more drink and say one more round of goodbyes. Ditto the scramble to the bus/ train/tube station only to find the only other person waiting looks like a mugger from central casting... and the last ride home's just pulled out.

The cost of running a car in the city is now reaching prohibitive levels – my local authority wants to put up the residents' permit cost from £75 to £225. Add to that the annual assault that is insurance renewal, and the molten gold you get at the pumps (or is that just the price?). and it becomes a mug's game.

So after much foot-dragging, I've finally signed up for a car club and, let me say, it's a game changer, ladies and gentlemen. I'm not being paid to say this (although I wish I was, because it's by no means always a total bargain), but Zipcar is going to make my festive season go with a swing.

For those evening soirees, a car hired after 6pm can be kept till 9am the following morning, for £25. That compares favourably with the cost of a taxi across London, with the added bonus that I can pick it up very close to the office and drive it in to work in the morning. (The dagger-eyes directed at smug old me by colleagues hung-over and stung for a pricey cab are another matter.) Petrol, insurance, congestion charge and all that jazz are included in the hire charge.

Yesterday, I read that Stelios is getting in on the act, launching an "Easy" car- share scheme in 2012 with Lastminute.com's founder Brent Hoberman, so it's clearly the way forward.

I've pre-booked for the Boxing Day outing to Wiltshire; the idea of my ancient Renault, loaded with children, presents and the turkey (I'm the designated poultry provider, too), conking out on the M4 – again – is just too horrible to countenance.

The downside is, of course, that any vehicle and any alcohol are mutually exclusive. That's a price I'm willing to pay. By ferrying everyone around from now till 2 January, I'll have enough favours in the favour bank to last until well into spring. Markwell Minicabs has a ring to it...

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