What are the benefits of car sharing, if any? For many, private car use is fundamentally inefficient. It’s an asset that is utilized on average 5% of the time. However, the personal freedom, convenience, and productivity that it facilitates, can make it worth owning a car. And sometimes our work or living arrangements require it. If you wanted the perks of ownership, there wasn’t much of an alternative. Public transport can be slow and indirect, taxis are expensive, and lifts from friends with cars can only get you so far. So many of us accepted the expensive security of car ownership.
But now, in most urban areas, car sharing can replicate the perks of car ownership without the costs. This is possible because of a few things:
- Ideal car sharing services are inherently efficient. Each car sharing vehicle is used much more often than a private vehicle. And the operating costs can be shared between many users, instead of a single owner.
- Companies have developed car sharing technology that enables a reliable, convenient, and affordable user experience.
So car sharing can be successful when deployed in the correct market. Meaning where population density is high, complimentary means of public transportation are available, and where street parking is available. Other factors include a supportive local government, having a young population, prioritising a city lifestyle, environmental awareness, a lack of ride hailing services (Uber, Lyft), and limited taxi service.
Car sharing reduces car ownership
Various organisations and studies show that car sharing services can result in lower car ownership. In Bremen Germany it was claimed that 5,000 fewer private cars were used due to a car sharing fleet of around 350 vehicles. That means 1 car share vehicle can replace about 13 private vehicles. This is similar to previous studies focusing on North America. These studies suggested 1 car share vehicle can replace between 7 and 13 private vehicles.
Reducing the quantity of cars on the road is generally thought of as a good thing. Fewer cars on the road means fewer miles driven. The cars left on the road may actually drive more miles, being better utilised, but overall fewer miles will be driven by the local population.
The benefits of car sharing, for society
- Less traffic and congestion.
You’re going to spend less time stuck in traffic. You’re going to get to where you want to go, with less risk of a delay.
- Lower wear for roads.
Fewer vehicles partially correlates to lower road wear. So we can spend tax money on something else. This might be taking better care of the roads we already have, or improving other public transport services. Or it could be something else entirely.
- Less air pollution.
This is a fundamental environmental benefit of car sharing. Fewer vehicles and more modern vehicles will improve local air quality. Cleaner air means a better time for those with certain health conditions. So less tax money would be spent on those suffering from the effects of air pollution, as well as conditions resulting from air pollution.
- Less need for parking.
If the volume of traffic reduces, current parking will be more easily accessible. We may want to convert urban spaces from car parks into residences or other businesses.
- Development of other transport and mobility infrastructure.
Car share members tend to do walk, cycle and use other modes of transportation more often. This can increase public support for developing infrastructure for these modes of transport. Think bigger pavements and sidewalks, more dedicated cycling paths, more bus lanes.
- More fleets of newer vehicles.
Car share vehicles are used more than private cars, so the car share vehicles are replaced more frequently. Newer cars tend to be more efficient, cleaner, and quieter. So more cars on our roads will be more efficient, cleaner, and quieter, than if we had more private cars.
- New technology is adopted faster.
As explained above, car share vehicles are replaced more frequently than private vehicles. So if there’s been a technological shift, this can be more quickly integrated into society. The adoption of electric vehicles (and retiring of fossil fuel vehicles) could happen much faster with widespread use of car sharing services.
- Better acceptance of mobility as a service.
Car share members feel less need to own vehicles, and are more accepting of mobility services. When automated cars and more efficient transport solutions arrive, car share members are likely to be more accepting.
The benefits of car sharing, for the individual
- Reduced cost.
Car sharing enables you to avoid the fixed overheads of car ownership:
- Monthly payment or capital purchase
- Annual testing and certification
- Roadside assistance
- Owning a car requires upfront costs.
- You may use the car because you’ve already paid some costs – you’re motivated to use your investment. Aside from fuel, or environmental concerns, there is little incentive to limit your use. But with a car share service, there is often zero or a very small overhead, and you pay per journey. So there is a clear additional cost for every trip, which may motivate you to question its necessity.
- Less stressful to manage.
Buying and maintaining a vehicle can be stressful. At best it’s time consuming, and at worst you might get ripped off. You want to get a good deal on your car insurance. And you need to find a trustworthy mechanic. Well, car sharing eliminates all of those risks and hassles.
- Health benefits.
Car share members typically use other modes of transport more, including walking and cycling. This increases the amount of exercise that someone undertakes, which is great for your health.
It’s not always required, but having the choice to sometimes use a private mode is transport is good. Car sharing provides a method of private transport without the inefficient burden owning a car.
- Personal freedom.
Sometimes you just need to rebel, right? Screw the bus timetable, I’ve got plans! Well car sharing gives the option of personal freedom to go where and when you like, without needing to own a car.
- Improves access for all income levels.
Not everyone can afford to own a vehicle. The monthly payments may be too high, or the lump sum too much. But car sharing services only require small payments in accordance with how much you use it. This enables access to car mobility for all income tiers.
This article was originally posted on Bright Around The Corner