Stalled by the costs of car ownership? Join the club
Urban car clubs are great if you are on a budget but still want access to a vehicle, reports James Daley
Saturday 19 January 2008
With the price of oil hovering just below $100 (£51) a barrel, motorists all over the country have been feeling the pain from rising fuels costs. By the end of December, the average cost of a litre of unleaded petrol was 104.2p, according to the AA; a litre of diesel would have set you back 109.2p. Across many parts of the country, petrol prices have smashed past the 110p mark.
But the rising price of fuel is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the cost of motoring. According to Sainsbury's Bank, the average cost of running a car, excluding petrol, is now just over £1,000 a year. And if you have borrowed money to buy your vehicle – as most car owners have – the costs are even higher.
The astronomical expense of motoring has encouraged many people to reconsider whether they need to own a car at all. If you live in a city and only have the occasional need for a set of wheels, it could work out considerably cheaper to ditch your vehicle and join one of the growing number of urban car clubs – services that allow you to rent cars near your house for anywhere between half an hour and a month at a time.
At the moment, the best availability is, perhaps unsurprisingly, in London, where the country's four biggest car clubs – Streetcar, City Car Club, Whizz Go and Zipcar – all have a number of vehicles. Limited services are also available from some of the companies in Brighton, Southampton, Maidstone, Guildford, Cambridge, Bath, Bristol, Poole, Camberley, Edinburgh, Norwich, Portsmouth, Newcastle, York, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Worcester – and more locations are being added by the month.
All of the clubs have a joining fee – between £25 and £75 – and some require you to pay this annually to keep your membership active. If you want to put a friend or partner who lives with you on the account as well, there's usually a reduced rate. After that, the pricing structures vary depending on how much you want to use the car. Two of the clubs – Whizz Go and Zipcar – charge between £25 and £250 a month for their main packages, although both also offer pay-as-you-go packages for which there is no monthly charge. City Car Club and Streetcar, for their part, do not charge monthly fees on any of their packages.
If you are on a monthly tariff, it tends to work as a pre-paid allowance, from which your hourly rate for using the car is deducted. Drivers are given a set daily mileage allowance, including fuel, after which additional deductions are made. If you need additional fuel, you fill up using a special pre-paid card, but you will only be billed according to the mileage you do. After you've got through your free miles, additional ones cost between 20p and 24p.
Most clubs will give you the choice of larger cars for a slightly higher cost. However, there will need to be one in your area. And for the moment, this is one of the main limitations of car clubs: if you don't live close to where the car you need is kept, it can be impractical. Furthermore, there's always a chance that someone else has beaten you to the booking on any given day.
It's also important to watch out for all the extra tariffs. With City Car Club, for example, don't book over the phone – it will cost you an additional £1.50 a call. And if you get hit with a speeding or parking ticket, the company will charge you an extra £20 administration fee – on top of whatever fine you owe.
Car clubs will also make you pay for late returns, taking the car abroad, getting it dirty or even leaving the lights on. And if you're driving in London, it's important to check whether your plan includes the congestion charge. Some do, others don't. It's also worth examining the insurance deal. All the car clubs provide full comprehensive cover, but most of the basic packages are subject to an excess of £500 – meaning you'll pick up the first £500 of any damages that you cause to the vehicle. You can usually pay an additional monthly fee to reduce this excess. The good news is that if the car conks out, breakdown cover is included.
The new breed of urban car club should not be confused with traditional car clubs, which give motoring enthusiasts the opportunity to drive expensive cars. Membership in these clubs can cost more than £10,000 a year – and you're unlikely to be able to pick up your Maserati from the parking bay at the end of your road. Such clubs are generally the preserve of the wealthy. Urban car clubs, however, are the perfect way for anyone on a budget to maintain access to a car.
Mark Dampier: 'We're on our own in retirement. They've pulled pensions to pieces'
Questions of Cash: I don't use Amazon Prime, but my credit card bill says I do
Donald MacInnes: 'I have to have £500 a month spare from now until at least 2035'
Pension freedoms: How to deal with cold calls from scammers
Defined-benefit pension schemes: Rebate change in 2016 may leave you out of pocket
- 1 BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
- 2 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 3 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
- 4 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
- 5 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
General Election 2015: Polish prince challenges Nigel Farage to a duel over immigration question
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...
£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...
£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...
Day In a Page
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
This four-bedroom home has exposed brick chimneys and a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining - the doors open to the patio and garden.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace
A four-bedroom farm-conversion with three bathrooms and two reception rooms
A two-bedroom detached house with ensuite bathrooms and a sun-drenched decked terrace, £750,000
A modern and spacious two-bedroom, penthouse flat with two bathrooms in a prestigious development
A beautifully renovated five-bedroom terrace with three reception rooms and a courtyard garden, £700,000
A four-bedroom period house which has been extended to provide almost 2,500sq ft of living space, £675,000
A pretty three-bedroom Georgian home with a 22ft drawing room and a master suite with a balcony, £525,000