Car sharing

16 June 2008

According to government estimates, there are 10 million empty seats in cars on the national road network every day.

We're all familiar with long traffic queues and increasing pollution as more cars compete for space. Yet cars are still often the most convenient way to get around, particularly if public transport is poor in your area, or you need to carry luggage or children.

Car sharing is one solution, and car clubs and lift-share schemes have sprung up across the country to help connect passengers and drivers. Both are aimed at cutting the number of cars on the road to help improve air quality, reduce congestion and ease pressure on parking.

What is car sharing?
• Two or more people share a car and travel together.
• Typically, one is the owner, the other contributes to running costs.
• Useful in rural areas far from public transport.
• Liftshare is the largest national scheme, with more than 150,000 members. See

Car sharing tips
While organisations promoting car sharing will probably conduct identity checks to make sure drivers and passengers are both genuine, use your common sense.

Legal: Drivers aren't allowed to profit from giving lifts, but they can ask passengers for a contribution towards the wear on the vehicle as well as the running costs. This should be worked out in advance and the driver isn't permitted to pick up strangers along the route.

What are car clubs?
• Cars available for short-term hire on a pay-as-you-go basis.
• Members book cars by phone or online up to 30 minutes before travel.
• Cars are parked in designated spaces and unlocked with a 'smart card'.
• For more information, visit

Why I joined a car club
Kirsty Clark (below) joined Streetcar, which has a mixture of Volkswagen Polos, Golfs, Tourans and Transporter vans in 700 locations around the country (with by far the majority in London). These can be rented for just half an hour or for up to six months. Fuel is paid for with a card in the car and members are sent an invoice each month. See for details.

Name: Kirsty Clark
Age: 34
Job: Product marketing manager
Lives: Islington, London

'I heard about Streetcar from a friend and it sounded ideal for me. I live in the city and only occasionally need a car.

'Signing up was really easy - I did it online, paid a £150 deposit, which I’ll get back if I leave the scheme, and gave my driver's licence details.

'To book a time slot with the car, I either call or book online, then Streetcar sends a text or e-mail to confirm the booking. My membership card opens the car, then I type my PIN into a keypad to open the glovebox and get the keys.

'Once I've finished, I drop it back wherever I found it, into the designated parking space.

'What I really appreciate is the convenience - I can book up to half an hour before I need it and cars are located all over the city.'

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