Why buy a car if you can rent by the hour?

Car clubs are growing fast as motoring costs soar.

Fuel prices have once again breached the £1 per litre mark, spreading more gloom among drivers.

Even without rocketing fuel prices, the costs associated with owning a car can be breathtaking. A car worth up to £12,000 can cost drivers as much as £1,965 a year without it even leaving the driveway, according to the AA. Depreciation, car insurance premiums, breakdown cover and road tax all take their toll. Add on servicing and maintenance costs and it is clear that for some people, owning a car is quickly becoming an unaffordable luxury.

One alternative, for those living in a city in particular, is to join a car club. The number of car-club members in the UK has leapt from 36,383 in December 2007 to 74,095 at the end of May this year. National transport charity Carplus estimates that anyone who drives less than 6,000 miles per year could save up to £3,500 by switching to a car club. "People are really considering the true cost of owning a car and that's why they are coming to us more and more," says Brett Akker, co-founder of Streetcar.

Five big players are currently in the car club market; Streetcar, Zipcar, City Car Club, Connect by Hertz and WhizzGo. These clubs work by giving drivers access to pay-as-you-go vehicles which can be picked up from designated bays and rented by the hour, week or even month.

Car clubs charge an annual membership fee, which ranges between £25 and £60. Members are then sent a special smartcard and PIN which can be used to access the cars. Bookings can be made online or by phone months in advance or even minutes before driving off. Rates range from £3.95 to £5.99 an hour and from £29 to £49.99 per day. All the car clubs include a number of free miles each time you book but Zipcar is the most generous with 60 free miles per day and a charge of 23p per extra mile thereafter. Many clubs cover the London congestion charge too. "For people who live in the right places, there's an awful lot going for them," says Andrew Howard, the head of road safety at the AA.

Another selling point is that a car club offers drivers the convenience of being able to pick up a car at short notice. "As the network is growing, particularly in London, where growth has been quite phenomenal, there is a whole choice of cars around you," says Antonia Roberts, a co-director of Carplus. Some clubs even offer vans.

But there are downsides. Car clubs will never be as flexible as owning a car, and booking does take time. And drivers are not guaranteed that a car will be available when they need it. More importantly, the financial benefit of using a car club will depend on level of usage and location. Clubs are unlikely to be viable for anyone who needs to commute to work, or use a car frequently. People outside big cities wanting access to a car club are likely to find either that none is available, or that they must travel a long way to find a parking bay.

Drivers should also watch out for extra charges, including penalties for returning cars late. Fines apply if cars are left in a mess so no pets are allowed and smoking is banned. Although membership comes with breakdown cover and insurance, the excess is usually around £500.

Drive time 'I don't have to worry about maintenance'

Geoff Howell, 34, an investment banker, and his wife, Fiona, 33, an image consultant, live in London and joined the car club Streetcar five and a half years ago.

"A friend came across it by sheer luck and I was looking to buy a new car, and weighing up the option of leasing when they suggested Streetcar," says Geoff.

The couple drive once a week on average for errands and say that after some quick calculations they realised that using a car club would be a much cheaper option than buying. Streetcar charges between £3.95 and £5.95 an hour for hire, depending on the type of vehicle.

"I don't have to worry about maintenance costs, cleaning and storing the car, or covering the potential cost of things going wrong with it," Geoff says. It's also a relief not to have to worry about the car being stolen or damaged by a vandal, he adds.

The onset of recession has made him even more confident that car clubs are the way to go. "I think it's fantastic – the cars are so readily available, well located, and I don't have to try to budget for the cost of running a car."

Even the arrival of their new son six months ago didn't tempt them into buying a car as Streetcar now provides car seats for babies. "I can't see any negatives. It is getting more popular, but that just means you sometimes have to book ahead to avoid disappointment," he says.

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

News
people
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Life and Style
Laid bare: the Good2Go app ensures people have a chance to make their intentions clear about having sex
techCould Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
News
i100
Sport
footballArsenal 4 Galatasaray 1: Wenger celebrates 18th anniversary in style
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
News
people
News
The village was originally named Llansanffraid-ym-Mechain after the Celtic female Saint Brigit, but the name was changed 150 years ago to Llansantffraid – a decision which suggests the incorrect gender of the saint
newsA Welsh town has changed its name - and a prize if you can notice how
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
News
Destructive discourse: Jewish boys look at anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on to the walls of the synagogue in March 2006, near Tel Aviv
peopleAt the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
Life and Style
Couples who boast about their relationship have been condemned as the most annoying Facebook users
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
News
i100
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

    Trust Accountant - Kent

    NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

    Graduate Recruitment Consultant - 2013/14 Grads - No Exp Needed

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £30000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

    Law Costs

    Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - Law Costs Draftsperson - NICHE...

    Day In a Page

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

    Time to stop running

    At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence