Car clubs could be an idea whose time has come. I certainly got that impression at our latest monthly meeting last Tuesday, when we were joined by Paula from the Co-wheels car club.
For many of us, owning a car feels like a necessity. It’s true that some journeys would be very difficult without one, perhaps because the public transport options are too complicated or non-existent, or because we need to transport a heavy load. But a lot of our journeys could be made without a car – we just use it because it’s there.
Consider the costs of owning a car: insurance, car tax, repairs, breakdown cover, depreciation on the original purchase price. The RAC Cost of Motoring Index 2011 (the latest I can find) gives the average annual cost of owning a new car (excluding fuel costs) as £5231 (there is a handy calculator here if you want to work out your own costs).
Membership of a car club allows you to slash those costs. For Co-wheels there is a once-only joining fee of £25, then a monthly fee of £5 (which is credited towards any car usage costs for the month). After that, you only pay when you use a car (currently £4.50 per hour, plus 21p per mile). If you are only using a car for the monthly shop, the odd trip to IKEA and the occasional afternoon out in the countryside, that will be considerably less than the cost of owning one.
Car clubs have environmental benefits as well, of course. Car club members use walking, cycling and public transport much more than car owners, and research (the Carplus Annual Survey of Car Clubs Report 2010/11) shows that every car club vehicle takes 20 privately owned cars off the road.
Other car clubs are available, but Co-wheels is currently expanding locally, largely due to its partnership with Surrey County Council. As a social enterprise it focuses on the environmental and social impacts of its activities. In Surrey, they work closely with the County Council on their Travel SMART programme and also with the easitNETWORK sustainable transport partnership. They are also trialling a work experience scheme with SCC EmployAbility and Surrey Care Trust.
Co-wheels also operates a Member Car Scheme – members can convert their own car into a Co-wheels car. The member is still the owner of the car, but agrees to put the car into the Co-wheels fleet for other members to use. Co-wheels covers all maintenance, servicing, tax and insurance and will regularly clean and check the car. In addition, the member receives a healthy allowance of ‘free use’ of their own car or any other Co-wheels car.
For more information visit the Co-wheels website – http://www.co-wheels.org.uk – or contact their Surrey Development Coordinator, Paula Ruoff (firstname.lastname@example.org). For a free £20 driving credit, visit http://www.co-wheels.org.uk/surrey.