Car sharing organisations

I was at a party on Saturday and someone mentioned they had a car share car with them. Actually, she didn’t mention it in a good way: she’d gone to pick up the car and it was misconfigured and she’d been terribly late. But it reminded me to check on them.

Car share systems work something like this: the company owns a number of cars with their own guaranteed parking spots in various suburbs. You subscribe for some amount of money per month (in the $15 to $50 range) and then you can book and use a car as you need (assuming that there’s low contention for them): you usually swipe a card to get into it. Cars are charged hourly and also by the kilometre and the rate includes insurance and petrol (apparently you can buy it more petrol on their account). For errands and such they’re much cheaper than rental cars, because you can pay by the hour rather than by the day and the companies themselves claim that you save money on car ownership up to 10 000km a year.

Since the hire system is automated, you also aren’t bound by the rental car opening hours, which has bit us several times (either hiring or returning a car on Sunday is a particular pain). Nor their ‘base rate’ quotes where they quote the price before compulsory ‘extras’, much like the way international airfares are quoted. (The quote in the article about a $39 airfare that turns into $59 is deceptive, by the way. In Australia domestic airfares must be quoted as all-inclusive. It’s only international airfares where they quote it before compulsory extras. And apparently the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is just dying to move on both rental car and international airfare quoting practices, but they need some legislative backing.) Nor their enormous excess charges, unless you pay another $20 to lower the excess.

However, most of them are focused on the city. GoGet has two cars in Chatswood and one in St Leonards, but the whole thing sounds a lot less attractive even when I have to get a train for half an hour to get to and from the car in the first place. If you’re in the Hornsby area and interested though, go tell them to get us a car.

Even leaving aside the fact that I can’t find any with a car in Hornsby yet, there are a few problems with them from our point of view.

There’s the minor one that Andrew can’t drive them yet, as he is not on a full unrestricted licence. However, he is on his P2 provisional licence — “green Ps” — and eligible to take the test to move to unrestricted in May. However, rental car companies don’t let provisional drivers hire cars either, and in fact some require that drivers have held an unrestricted licence for a full year. Most of them do have a nice feature whereby you can add an extra driver to a plan for little or no cost.

A bigger one is with the pricing model. When we need a car it is typically because we’re going to a lengthy event that’s not easy to get to on public transport. (Sydney, which is 100km across in some directions, has radial public transport, meaning that you have to travel into and out of the centre to cross suburbs. This party on Saturday would have been a 25km/40min drive but was about 60km on public transport and took us 2 hours on the trip home. That’s partly because a scheduled bus didn’t turn up, but cars don’t do that as much.) The shared car rates look a little less attractive when we consider that when we’d want them, we’d most likely want them for at least 10 hours at a time.

Another problem we would ideally want also want cars for trips of several days in length taking in about five hundred kilometres. Once we get to that point, we might as well rent a car, the price is equivalent before the monthly subscription fee. (Give or take excess reduction charges and it’s difficult to figure out how the included petrol plays in in advance.)

Nevertheless, if a car ever gets to Hornsby we’ll at least give it a trial run.

Car sharing companies in Australia: