City Car Club is Britain’s biggest independent car club, with cars located in 17 different cities. They’ve got more cars in London than anywhere else, with some 300 vehicles available. In second place is Brighton, which just took delivery of its 100th car. London has other operators besides City Car Club, but with a population a 30th of the size of London, you could make a case for Brighton and Hove being the car club capital of Britain.
With the advent of smartphone apps to show availability, car clubs appear to have come into their own. You know if your local one is free, and it’s a lot easier to turn up and drive than it used to be. They are more suited to some towns than others, but where they get the investment they need, they can be a genuine alternative to private car ownership.
Here are five good things about car clubs.
- Saving you money – Owning and maintaining a car is expensive, so if you don’t use your car often, you are likely to save money with a car club membership. Zipcar estimates that its users typically save over £3,000 a year.
- Saving the government money – Most local councils run a fleet of vehicles, and often that can be replaced by using car club vehicles. Councils save on parking fees and places, MOT and servicing, and on the costs of administrating the car pool. There are a host of councils that have some kind of tie-up with car clubs, but I’ll just highlight Croydon, who piloted a scheme with Zipcar and saved half a million a year.
- Fewer cars on the roads – when someone joins a car club and finds it works for them, they often sell their own car, or move from a two-car household to just the one. While it varies between cities, all car clubs displace private cars to one degree or another. City Car Club calculate that a quarter of their customers sell a car or defer a purchase, meaning every one of their cars means 24.5 fewer cars on the road.
- Lower CO2 – because car club vehicles are new and well maintained, they tend to have lower emissions in the first place. Studies suggest car club car emissions are generally a third lower than the average. Many car clubs, including E-Car in Luton, use electric cars and lower emissions further.
- Fewer miles traveled – just as households that fit solar panels develop a new interest in energy efficiency, membership of a car club prompts behaviour change in the way people travel. It makes them more likely to walk or cycle, or to take public transport, whether or not they actually get rid of their car. Car club members travel 57% fewer miles by car than the national average household.