Hiring cars from a car club can be handy for occasional drivers, but are they really a viable alternative to owning your own car? Depending on how much you drive, you could save money – or spend a lot more…
What with fuel, tax, insurance and servicing costs to contend with, owning a car is fast becoming a luxury many of us can’t afford – myself included.
According to the RAC Cost of Motoring Index, the annual cost of owning and running a car went up by 6.3% in 2010.
So, could car clubs hold the key to car savings? New research from Which? Money suggests they might. Our study found it would cost £3,550 a year to run a car driving 3,000 miles a year. However, if you signed up to Zipcar – the cheapest car club examined – the total cost would be £2,750 – a good £800 less.
Yet, for many of us, hanging up the family car keys forever is still a proposition too far. Having your own car outside, complete with all your maps, music, and other bits and pieces is just too convenient for words.
What’s a car club?
Streetcar, one of the leading clubs, describes itself as ‘all the convenience of your own car without the cost and hassle’.
Car club cars are parked in designated bays around major cities, so if you live in one of those, you’re likely to be near a club. Another huge advantage of ditching your own motor in favour of a car club is that, with no car sitting idle outside your house, you completely wipe out the issue of depreciation.
However, they do have their downsides. Having to book in advance means you lose the spontaneity that having your own car offers. And if you drive regularly, joining a club simply won’t be cost-effective.
Do the maths first
The findings showed that driving 4,200 miles a year with Connect by Hertz – the priciest club in our scenario – would cost you £5,468. That’s £1,739 more than owning a car.
One thing that seems clear-cut is the matter of the environment. Responsible car-use charity Carplus claims that one car-club car typically replaces almost 25 private vehicles on the road, as members often give up their own car upon joining clubs.
So, if you’re considering joining a car club, make sure you do the maths first. Work out how many miles you drive a year and how much time your wheels spend sitting still. While the research shows you could save money, you may also find that joining a car club just doesn’t add up in your circumstances.