Can't stand the congestion, the cost or the CO2 fumes? Then hire a car at the club

Harriet Meyer on the vehicle-sharing initiatives that are helping thousands of city dwellers to cut both their motoring bills and their carbon footprint

As any car owner will testify, hitting the road means digging deep. The cost of insurance, maintenance, fuel, road tax and parking – just some of the expenses involved – can amount to thousands of pounds a year. And with over 20 million cars on the road, there is a big environmental price to pay for Britain's obsession with private transport.

To reduce the expense and hassle, more and more UK motorists are choosing to join car-share clubs. For a small annual fee or one-off membership charge, they can book a vehicle for as little as 30 minutes or a number of days or weeks, and be charged only for how long they use it and how far they drive.

There are now some 20 of these clubs operating in towns and cities around the UK, with nearly 30,000 members. They are easy to use. People who need a car for an hour, for example, log on to a website or phone the host company to book one. It is then usually just a short stroll to a parking bay to pick the vehicle up.

To open the car, a smart card is swiped across a windscreen reader. You take the keys from the glove compartment, input a pin number and away you go. The hourly rate is usually around £5, and often a free daily fuel allowance of 30 or so miles is included. After that, you pay about 20p per mile driven.

Rather than having to meet these costs with loose change, members are sent a monthly bill which is debited from their account. Insurance (excluding the excess payment), cleaning, servicing and car tax are all paid by the club. Considering it costs an average of around £5,500 per year for motorists to own and run their cars, according to the AA, members can save hefty sums – as well as helping to reduce pollution.

"On average, people cut their mileage by 60 per cent," says Philip Igoe, co-director of charity Carplus, set up to promote car clubs. "They appreciate the effect on their pocket and the environmental benefits."

With more than 20,000 members and 600 cars, Streetcar, established in 2004 and operating in London and the South-east, is the biggest company of its kind.

"Invariably, people come to us through frustration," says a spokesman. "They haven't been able to park, for example, and tend to be young professionals making a financial as well as an environmental decision."

Members pay an annual £49.95 fee and £4.95 an hour to hire a car – or £49.50 for a weekend or £195 for a week. Included is 30 miles' worth of free petrol a day; petrol costs 19p a mile after that. Streetcar's fleet consists mainly of Volkswagens but it also has vans.

Another big provider is City Car Club, which operates in eight UK cities and has 4,000 members. Its customers pay a £75 joining fee, plus an hourly rate of £4.75 in London. This club offers five-door hatchbacks and some hybrid cars with lower carbon emissions. Included is 50 miles' worth of free petrol a day.

"Local authorities are really starting to embrace the idea, and this is vital for car clubs, which need on-street parking locations," says City Car Club's chief executive, James Finlayson.

"The concept is still embryonic in the UK, but it's becoming more mainstream."

'They're cheaper than taxis or running your own car'

Tim Pope, 52, a lawyer from Leeds, has been a member of the WhizzGo car club, which has 3,500 members in 11 British cities, for three years.

He lives in a block of flats in the busy city centre and does not own a car because of the cost and the difficulty of parking. After seeing a row of WhizzGo's cars on the street, he decided to become a member.

"I'm close to the station and airport so make use of public transport a lot of the time," says Tim. "But to go and see friends at weekends and for supermarket shopping on the edge of town, the service is really useful." He hires cars regularly, paying around £150 a month.

"They're cheaper than taxis and convenient if you can't get a train to where you're going. Running a car would cost more."

Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown

Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Carlton Senior Appointments: Private Banking Manager - Intl Bank - Los Angeles

    $200 - $350 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: Managing Producer – Office...

    Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advisor – Ind Advisory Firm

    $125 - $225 per annum: Carlton Senior Appointments: San Fran - Investment Advi...

    Sheridan Maine: Commercial Finance Manager

    Up to £70,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

    Sheridan Maine: Regulatory Reporting Accountant

    Up to £65,000 per annum + benefits: Sheridan Maine: Are you a qualified accoun...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas