/ Motoring

Is the concept of car ownership becoming extinct?

Blablacar promotional video of people in car

The launch of a peer-to-peer car lending website last week prompted me to think about how car ownership is changing. Borrowing a car from a stranger is a concept I find really hard to get to grips with.

The site in question matches cash-strapped people with cars languishing on their drives with others who need to get somewhere but don’t own their own wheels.

Everywhere you look online at the moment somebody is heralding the death of car ownership as we know it. According to the theorists and crystal ball gazers, on-demand mobility will soon replace old-fashioned car ownership, with people accessing a joined up suite of transport options via the internet.

Joining a car share scheme

Need a quick way of getting from one side of town to the other? Hop into an electric city car or scooter to nip through the traffic, and leave it at your destination ready for someone else to borrow.

Travelling further afield? The choices grow to include renting a hybrid car or joining a car share or lending group that’ll give you the use of either a pool car or someone else’s vehicle.

I can appreciate the financial benefits – not many things lose their value as quickly as a shiny new car, and if you buy a used car you could be hit with big repair bills every year.

Borrowing the neighbour’s car

But would you really want to borrow a stranger’s car, or even worse your neighbour’s car? With the latter, the potential for ruined relationships seems huge. What if their children had left chocolate and crisp crumbs all over the seats, or if they arrive late with the car, in turn making you late for an important meeting?

For me, this is as step too far in the whole journey from being a car-owning motorist to a car-using transporter. While I may be happy to borrow a pushbike or scooter to whizz around a city, I will be keeping a tight grip on the logbook of my own car. And I won’t be inviting my neighbours to borrow it while I’m at work.

Would you be happy to be part of a shared car scheme? Have you ditched your beloved car and taken to renting a vehicle just when you need it?


Absolutely, borrowing a stranger or neighbour’s
car is not a practical or feasible proposition but
renting one for hire is okay but using a pushbike
or motorized bike in conjunction is even better,
as a cost-saving measure in no small terms…
wd say saving serious money over a lifetime if
costs of keeping it is factored in including depreciation
and investment foregone etc etc.

In cities like London no necessity
of owning or running a car…. with the Tube
soon to be accessible 24/7, you can be mobile
w/out need of a car that is frankly a drain on
resources and there is of course the Freedom
Pass on reaching 60 (the limitless benefits whereof
are not to be sneered at).

Phil says:
30 January 2014

I’d be wary of borrowing a car especially from someone who was cash strapped and for that reason might be cutting corners with the maintenance. Remember that if you’re caught driving a defective car it’s you, the driver, that gets done and not the owner. I would wonder about the insurance as well, if I’ve got it right it would be a hire rather than a loan?

Hiring a car is expensive and fraught with pitfalls, the tiniest scratch can cost you dear, and so many people take pride in owning a car or a car of a particular type or use the car as a mobile storage space that I can’t see conventional car ownership dying out in the near future; if at all.

I agree. The driver is responsible for any problems of roadworthiness, it is not an acceptable excuse to claim that the car is just being borrowed.

A car is probably the most expensive item of property, excluding one’s house, that one owns. It represents a major commitment and most people would treat it appropriately. Allowing someone to whom it is just simply a temporary means of transport to use it is, I suspect, a step too far for most car owners.

As mentioned, there is also the major question of insurance. It certainly increases the cost to add a named driver, with known driving record, to a policy. I hate to think how much extra would be needed to cover the general population. One problem is that the person who holds the policy is responsible for ensuring that anyone driving the car is fully licensed to do so.

I should have added to my previous post that the insurance situation is also of importance to the borrower. If the level of insurance is not adequate then the driver is fully responsible with the possibility of a large fine and many points on the licence. Simply seeing a cover note is not adequate. A popular fiddle is taking out insurance on the basis of monthly payments then cancelling the payments but keeping the cover note. Simply accepting the statement that the insurance is OK without checking is playing with fire.

I agree with Phil and Tonyp. I have hired cars from national and local dealers and been appalled at the number that were not in roadworthy condition. I routinely had to inflate tyres and have had cars with four soft tyres, nails in tyres, low oil level – once below minimum, a major coolant leak, defective lights and windscreen washers, and so on. My employer was keen for me to use hire cars and it was a relief when I could find a reason why I had to use my own.

If well known hire companies cannot consistently provide cars that are in a fit state to be on the road, what hope is there with borrowing a car from a friend or neighbour?

Sophie Gilbert says:
1 February 2014

I can’t afford to have a car anymore, so I gave mine up last September. My husband has just joined the City Car Club and we’ll give it a go shortly. I hope we’ll find the vehicle in reasonable nick, though just now I don’t see why it should be better or worse than hiring a car from, say, Hertz.

So far we’ve been lucky whenever we’ve had to hire a car from Enterprise and Hertz, all in good order at the start, returned without a scratch, no quibble. We’ll hire a car again from them for eg weekends away.

I wouldn’t dream of borrowing a neighbour/stranger’s car for all the reasons mentioned.

Whilst Car Clubs might work for individuals, I have an MPV with 8 seats. This is to convey my grandchildren and also tow a caravan. As it stands, the car is available instantly for whatever need I have. It has the seat and mirrors adjusted to suit me. The radio is tuned into the station of my choice and the seating arrangement is set for my needs. I know it is insured and maintained!

I have hired cars from time to time but still prefer driving my own!

Lessismore says:
9 July 2014

The great thing about car clubs is that you can hire a small car or an MPV and don’t have to drive – or park – that MPV all the time. It is getting harder and harder to find parking spaces!

It is a shame when so many of our roads are full of cars which are hardly driven.

It would be really good to have better systems working for our elderly who no longer drive much so that they were not disabled by their lack of mobility and also did not need to have a car that they rarely use. When did you last offer your neighbour a lift?

I have recently had the benefit of a courtesy car supplied by a major car hire firm, when my own car was written off in an accident! I paid for the cdw for peace of mind so only had to find the fuel. The vehicle was a Vauxhall Corsa 1.2L which I found used as much fuel as my MPV. I have now purchased my own car, a 4×4 which has similar consumption to the previous vehicles. Several times, whilst drivingthe Corsa, I had to make several journeys as my original and exististing cars are 8-seater! This actually made it more expensive to drive the smaller car because of the extra mileage. With this in mind, I can see no benefit whatsoever in giving up my car and belonging to a car club or similar. I can, and do, modify the car to suit my own requirements.

Today I went to a funeral of an old soldier. On the way, I picked up other mourners effectively filling the 8-seater, some of whom were themselves elderly. The fact that I was able to do this, greatly enhanced the day for everyone. I’ll stick to my own car thanks! The freedom and pleasure I, along with my friends and family, derive from it is immeasureable.