CAR CLUBS: THE RIGHT WAY TO GO

Barry Maunder, Sustainable Transport Manager, envolve, on 14 May 2002

Ten people a day die in road accidents; the roads are becoming more congested; the air quality near them is poor; and fuel for vehicles is a limited resource and expensive - four good reasons for joining a car club.

Car clubs are a method of having the use of a car without owning it. This is particularly helpful when a family really wants 1½ cars - one person wants one all day, another wants one for occasional use. The cost of buying, insuring, maintaining, storing and running a car that is only used occasionally is very high, even if it is an old model. There is the further advantage that you can have a car of the size needed for the journey - a town car to go shopping, a people mover to go on a visit. However, a reasonably frequent public transport service is needed to make a car club attractive. Car clubs have been running in Switzerland for 14 years, but they have trains and buses that are frequent, clean and reliable. It took ten years for Swiss membership to grow to the present 30,000; for the first four years membership was static at a few hundred. Now, the train company provides cars at railway stations and you can leave the car at a different station (as do Avis and Hertz in the UK).

The Bath Car Share Club has, at present, two Vauxhall cars, a Corsa and an Astra, which can be booked for one hour or longer. They can be booked by phone or Internet as little as 15 minutes before use. The cost of membership for a private user (driver must be over 23) is:

Joining fee £1
Membership £110 p.a. or £10 per month

Insurance deposit £100
(returnable on leaving club)

Use charges:
Corsa / Astra £3 /3.30 for first hour;
£2/ 2.20 per additional hour;
14p/ 16p per mile

The mileage charge includes the cost of petrol; if you buy any, the cost is refunded.

Extra time can be booked by the half-hour.

The cars are leased from Vauxhall who replace them every year, so you are driving a new car, which has AA membership. The Astra has a dual-fuel (petrol and natural gas) engine. The cars are parked in the Broad Street car park where you pick up the key from a locked box using a code number provided when you book the car; the car and the key must be returned there.

The Bath club has about 25 members at present, which makes two cars a viable proposition. They calculate that 11 members per car are necessary but that one car can replace five private cars on our crowded roads.

Discussion

Car club members can hire Vauxhall cars privately at a reduced rate.

The car manufacturers expect EU regulations requiring them to dispose of used cars soon, so they are beginning to offer deals where people rent their cars rather than buying them.

The tax laws on company cars are changing and it may pay businesses to use car club facilities. One of the audience is doing so regularly and satisfactorily.

There are car clubs in Bristol, Leeds, Coventry, Edinburgh, Oxford and South London.

Donald Lovell