Ditch your own car – and share

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The Independent Online

Owning and running a car is one of the biggest annual expenses for most families in Britain. If you add up the cost per year of insurance, road tax, parking permits and a service, you'll be lucky to have any change back from £1,000. Then there's the petrol, which even after the recent falls in the oil price is much more expensive than most other countries in the world, and the depreciation on the value of your vehicle. These two costs alone can run into many thousands of pounds depending on how much you use your car, and what sort of vehicle you have.

Finally, there's the cost of capital to account for. If you were lucky enough to have enough cash in the bank to buy your car outright, then you need to consider what interest you might have earned on that cash by keeping it in a savings account. Equally, if you borrowed the money to buy a car, there's the cost of the loan interest to consider.

So if you're looking to save money, there are not many easier ways to knock a four-figure sum off your yearly overheads than getting rid of your motor. Better still, you can take pride in the fact that by taking fewer car journeys, you'll be doing your part to look after the environment.

Clearly, for some families, getting rid of the car is easier said than done. If you live in the countryside, for example, without any access to public transport, it may not be practical to get by without a vehicle. But for the millions of Britons who live in cities or towns, it's well worth considering.

In the biggest cities in the UK, public transport is often good – and if you want to make even greater economies, you could also consider using a bicycle for some of your shorter journeys.

But for the times when you can't get by without a car, why not sign up to one of the growing number of urban car clubs – such as Zipcar, Streetcar, City Car Club and WhizzGo?

These work by leaving a fleet of cars parked around a city, which you can book online and hire for as little as an hour at a time (usually at a cost of between £4 and £8 an hour, or between £28 and £65 for a whole day, depending on which type of car you are hiring).

You'll have to pay an annual membership fee to join up – usually between £25 and £50 – after which you'll be charged your hourly rate, plus an additional fee if you take a longer trip. Typically, you'll be given between 30 and 60 "free" miles for each rental, after which you will have to pay an additional usage fee of between 19p and 25p a mile.

Car clubs only work if there are vehicles available in your area – and if they're available at the times when you need them. But if you are in a position to trade in your vehicle for a car-sharing club, they make great economic sense – especially for the casual driver who tends to only use their car a few times a week, or only at weekends.

At the moment, London is by far the best-served city by these clubs. However, with the exception of Zipcar, the other three main companies have operations in other British cities too – including Brighton, Southampton, Maidstone, Guildford, Cambridge, Bath, Bristol, Poole, Edinburgh, Norwich, Portsmouth, Newcastle, York, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Worcester, Sheffield, St Albans and Belfast.

As well as the national clubs, there are also a number of smaller local operators. To find out which companies operate in your local area, visit www.carclubs.org.uk.

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