/ Motoring

Would you share your car with a complete stranger?

Blablacar promotional video of people in car

With rail and fuel costs soaring, we need to get smarter when choosing how we travel. Plenty of us make car journeys with empty seats and we could easily share the cost with people wanting to go the same way…

…if only we knew who they were.

Well, where there’s a need, there’s a website and unsurprisingly a number of car-sharing services are popping up online. They aim to pair up drivers with spare seats and passengers who need a lift.

However, would I ever use such a service? As a car owner I’d most likely be offering my services as a driver and I must admit I’ve got reservations about having complete strangers in my car – what if they turned out to be crazy, moaned incessantly about petrol prices or simply hadn’t had a bath for months?

Is car sharing actually just the modern equivalent of picking up hitchhikers (plus all the associated risks) with a financial incentive attached?

Car-sharing services

Some services, such as the recently-launched Blablacar, offer a little extra security and the opportunity to vet fellow travellers before taking the plunge. Drivers log what kind of car they have, how comfortable it is and some pertinent info about their habits. Do they smoke? Do they listen to music while driving? How much do they like to chat with their passengers en route (rated on the Bla, BlaBla or BlaBlaBla scale!)?

After that, users of the service then ‘rate’ their passengers or driver on the website with a brief summary of their experience and a verdict delivered on a 1 to 5 star rating.

However, because it’s a new service, there are lots of people registered who’ve had no feedback at all, which doesn’t help if you’re trying to filter out the weirdos.

So would I use the service? Probably not, but maybe that’s because I’m just antisocial and reasonably affluent – petrol prices haven’t yet hit the heights that would force me to share my car with strangers.

Would I have used a car-sharing service in my penniless student days? Yes I would. It’s a whole lot better than standing on the roadside with your thumb stuck out for hours before eventually being picked up by a lonely truck driver. Have you or would you use a car-sharing scheme?

Comments
Member

I did this for a few months a couple of years back. I registered on a lift sharing website, a guy who did the same jouney as me got in touch and we alternated cars for a couple of days each week.

It did obviously save us both fuel, which was the goal of course, the guy was normal enough and I had no concerns like that. So yes, it can work.

I’m not sure that I’d do it again though, because it’s not exactly convenient. It’s awkward if one of you has to leave work early or stay late unexpectedly etc. Also the extra pressure of knowing that someone else is relying on you doesn’t help, and unless you’re incredibly lucky, you’re never going to find someone to do this with who lives and works exactly on your doorstep, so it will always incur a few extra miles and minutes to make it happen, depending on your arrangement of course.

These little things and others all add up, and to be honest just for the sake of saving a few quid, I’d rather drive by myself, it’s a lot less hassle.

Member

Colleagues, friends or neighbours – maybe, if it suits [rich835 highlights the snags above]. Complete strangers? No way – a long journey could be a nightmare. If you did do it I think you’d need some rules – no smoking, no phone calls or other distractions, no route directions, no time constraints, no commentary or arguments, no fiddling with the heating or radio controls, and any payment in advance.

Member

Not for me, but I give many lifts to people I know.

Member

High fuel prices don’t stop parents going on the ‘school run’ when there is a bus they could send the children on. In Northern Ireland all children are entitled to a free bus pass, which is given to them at the start of the school year. But it seems most don’t use it as there is always gridlock outside the schools.

Member

I would to worry about the insurance implications – Would a regular fee to supply a passenger a journey not be a commercial transaction? Like a taxi?

I sometimes give neighbours a lift – but there is no commercial transaction involved. So my insurance is valid.

Member

I think the usual phrase is “hire and reward”. Given that there is no reward and definitely no hire, your insurance would still cover you. To be a reward, the amount received would have to exceed the costs of the journey, and you can also factor in fixed costs like insurance, road tax and maintenance.

Member

nfh

N0 – the correct thing to do is to write or phone your insurance company – explain exactly what you want to do – and ask for an answer in writing whether or not your insurance covers you.

If you are sharing expenses then you have a reward – because you are saving money. I think you are wrong and must check first.

I know of a number of insurance covers that have NOT covered the person concerned – It is far far better to make sure FIRST rather suffer the consequences afterwards.

Member

I agree with Richard. You cannot afford to take chances with insurance, whatever it may say on car sharing websites.

I regularly check that I’m covered to use my car for charity work, which now accounts for most of my driving. Each time I am told that I am covered as long as I receive no payment. I do wish that this was in writing in their insurance documentation.

Member

Wavechange

I’m the same – I transport dogs to new homes for our charity (and sometimes new adopters to view) I do not charge

Member

I don’t drive, but a friend of mine does and we occasionally go on weekends away together. A couple of times we’ve done callouts on the Twitter to see if anyone else is traveling to the same place and wants a lift. It seems a horrible waste to have three seats in the car empty. The last time we went to a conference we managed to get two extra people in the car – both lovely (because we met them on Twitter we could check them out to make sure they were real people, both had links to their workplaces, etc in their tweets) and it saved us all money. A nice idea.

The main thing that concerns me about this, though, is that it does tie you all together if it’s a return trip (which in this case it was). It meant that some of us had less flexibility about returning, and I think we’d have preferred to be able to choose the times rather than have to rush back to get one of the party back to work.

Member

No chance.

Good point though Richard

If there was ever the unlikely chance that someone would be driving a similar route to me, I forsee quite a few problems.
a) a car is not comfortable b) a car is very fast and they drive it fast c) driver likes to drum on the steering wheel and generally rock out to really heavy music, really loudly d) driver likes to sing e) driver likes to eat/drink whilst driving e) your sharing partners have beat up old fiestas and you have a new BMW

So that is just the tip of the iceberg, other contributors have mentioned many other issues I forsee.

We don’t live in a utopian dreamworld where everyone gets on and lives and works in the same places.

The very point of a car is that it is private transport to suit your very needs, as soon as you “rent” it out then it becomes public transport. Every year there is a new “initiative” to encourage this, yet it never works, when will they get it through their heads? If I want to travel with other people, i will take the bus or the train.

Member

Yes I would give a lift to strangers and I would get in a strangers car. It used to be normal.

A couple of years ago gave a lift to some students hitching at the exit of a motorway service station cafe (much more convenient than the roadside). About a year ago, I gave a lift of a couple of miles to students travelling from college into town.

At my wedding, I made an announcement encouraging car sharing between the ceremony and the reception. A friend of mine gives frequent parties and always says on the invite that people should try to car share – she offers to help match people. It’s a great way of getting to know more people at the party. I now do the same.

Member

There is a massive difference between giving some hitch hiker a lift for free – this is covered by normal insurance – But to share your car for money – is HIRE. which is not usually covered by normal insurance. My insurance expressly forbids it.. It MAY be ok if you say drive your friend one week and he drives the next – as no money changes hands – so no hire.

But it is far far better to check with your insurance company first.- the consequences can be dire.

Member

I would definitely car share – what a waste of money and resources not to! I think people need to see the fun side of it a little more… even if you end up with a massive weirdo at least you’ve got a funny story to tell, but chances are (especially on longer journeys) you’ll just be much less bored and find out about someone you otherwise never would have.

I also don’t really see what the big deal is about going a little out of your way to pick someone up, or leaving half an hour before you’d really wanted to?

And my insurance couldn’t care less if I carshare and split the costs, as long as it’s just splitting the costs and not making a profit 🙂

Member
Simon Cornwell says:
4 January 2013

2008 transport law states if you drive the public and there is a commercial advantage to you doing so then you need to be licenced. Sharing the journey from and to work with colleagues or going to football with the guys down the pub does not seem to me to be in the same criteria as having a commercial organisation take bookings from the public for a driver. I have looked on the TFL web site and they give clear advice about what is hire and reward. Any one considering transporting the public should take proper legal advice. If you are convicted of acting as an unlicensed private hire driver regardless of recieving a cash payment you will get a minimum of six points on your driving licence and if a local council enforcement officer or similar take further action you could go to jail.