Saving the world one car at a time

Co Wheels LogoCar 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 – – or contact their Surrey Development Coordinator, Paula Ruoff ( For a free £20 driving credit, visit


3 responses to “Saving the world one car at a time

  1. That’s cost-effective for short trips, assuming your local Co-Wheels car is available (how many are there at each location?), but unsurprisingly much the same as any other budget car hire for longer hires/journeys. For example, the car hire in Hooley Lane advertises £36/day inclusive with unlimited mileage. I calculate the equivalent daily C-Wheels hire would allow just over 40 miles for the same daily cost. It’ll be interesting to hear how this works out in practice. Also, what’s the insurance position for younger drivers?

    • Hi Ian
      I agree, short trips are really where this would work best. Once you are signed up, there is no more paperwork involved before each rental, which means you can pick up and return a car at any time (not just during car rental office opening hours). Car availability is crucial of course, but they try and allocate them where there is most demand. I think they have 9 cars in Surrey at the moment – 3 in Redhill, 1 in Reigate and the others located near Surrey County Council offices in Dorking and Woking (and possibly another one – can’t remember!).
      I seem to remember (but please check this with Co-Wheels, I didn’t write it down at the time) that they will accept anyone (of any age) who has held a full driving licence for more than 12 months, with 6 points or less (possibly a lower points threshold for young drivers).

  2. Hi, For younger drivers, anyone over 18 with 12 months license can join: for members under 25 I think the excess in the event of an accident is higher.
    I am a member in Chichester , Sussex and it works really well for me. Even for the daily hire which might be a bit more than hiring from a hire company, because its so easy to self-book, amend or even can cancel a booking on my smart phone, very flexible and simple. No producing my driving license and signing papers at pick up etc. Now I can have a car when I need one and not pay for it when I don’t 🙂 . Well done co-wheels!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *