The ultimate guide: Car sharing UK (Plus ridesharing and car clubs)

  • Remove the financial overheads of car ownership
  • Avoid public transport with car clubs and rideshare schemes 
  • Works much in the same as renting a car

Car sharing and ride-sharing schemes in the UK have been disrupting traditional car ownership for some time now. If you don’t use your car very frequently, a car club could be a more budget-friendly approach to mobility. When you factor in insurance, maintenance, monthly bills or subscription and fuel, motoring costs can soon spiral. By paying as you travel, you’re negating the cost of keeping a parked car. 

Current estimates suggest cars are parked at home for 80% of the time, and elsewhere for 16.5%. This means on average our vehicles only get driven 3.5% of the time. While this figure may have climbed higher for those able to make an office of the car during the pandemic, toll roads, clean air zones and pay-per mile concepts all threaten to make motoring even more expensive.

Fear during the pandemic drove people to avoid closed public spaces, public transport and this approach really hit taxis, car clubs and other shared mobility platforms. However, months on from the initial outbreak, we’re collectively learning to live again, taking extra precautions to cope with any viral threats.

>> Cars vs public transport: why driving can be cheaper than catching the bus

Now the cost-of-living crisis is upon us, it’s understandable that drivers are looking at ways to cut their cloth, in a bid to economise. In this guide we’ll look at car sharing UK:

Car sharing schemes

What does car sharing mean?

Car sharing is a simple enough concept. Rather than own your own vehicle and have all of the associated costs, you pay for the use of someone else’s. There are commercial car sharing, member–based car sharing and community car sharing models. 

Unlike traditional car rentals, which require the customer to pick up and return the vehicle —often at a location out of town—and rent the vehicle for a minimum of 24 hours, which can often prove cost-prohibitive if frequently relied upon, car sharing is ‘hyperflexible’. That is to say, the car can be hired from one or two hours, through to days. Shared vehicles can usually be found in your locale and in some instances, don’t need to be returned to the exact same spot. 

Carsharing differs from ridesharing, in that the latter doesn’t require you to do the driving—more on that in a bit. 

How does a car club work?

Commercial car sharing usually means joining a car club, though not always. Like car rental companies, such as Hertz and Enterprise, the car being borrowed is newer and part of a large fleet owned by the customer. But rather than just rock up for a pre-booked service and whip out your identification each time you hire, car clubs keep your driving licence details on file so hyperflexible hire is faster and easier.

Drivers create an account, earn loyalty benefits and can pay a subscription for preferential rates. Most use an app through a mobile device or desktop browser to enable drivers to book a window in which they wish to use the vehicle.

Telematics technology enables the car to be locked and unlocked using your mobile phone. The vehicle key, if one is needed, can usually be found in the glovebox.

Car sharing scheme key

Why is car sharing a good idea?

For our 50th anniversary, Parkers looked at how the cost of car ownership has changed. Over a year, a motorist could spend approximately £5,471 on their vehicle; tax (£145*), fuel (£1,200**), insurance (£526***) and vehicle costs (£3,600****).  

(*the lower amount set for every new, non-electric vehicle in the UK, **based on an assumed £100 per month, which is looking increasing like one fill-up, ***the average comparison website GoCompare reported UK drivers in 2020 paid for comprehensive insurance, **** Average monthly PCP repayments are between £300 and £400 in the UK, we erred more cautiously.)

This is an average monthly expense of £456. If you only drive on weekends, on occasionally throughout the month—and even then for merely a few hours—it might be more cost-effective to car share.

Car sharing enables the flexibility of picking a vehicle to suit your needs each time you drive too. So where a small city car might be useful for a solo visit to the suburbs, an SUV might be a better pick for a group excursion to the coast. 

Car club parking

How hygienic is car sharing?

Since the period during the pandemic, all car club platforms, whether commercial or community, have encouraged their members to be mindful of hygiene standards when using vehicles, requesting the use of anti-bacterial gel before and after each trip..

With commercial firms, such as Zipcar, ‘enhanced cleaning protocols’ have been implemented. This includes additional cleaning to places you touch, like door handles, keys, and steering wheels.

A spokesperson for the company said: ‘The safety of our members is our absolute priority. We already had stringent checks in place to ensure that all of our vehicles are cleaned regularly and thoroughly with an industry grade cleaning solution, paying particular attention to steering wheels, door handles, and key fobs.”

Peer-to-peer (P2P) platforms like Hiyacar advises drivers and owners to ‘make sure to wipe down the common touch points. Hiyacar will also ‘quarantine’ a car if someone tests positive or develops symptoms when using or within three days of using a vehicle.

In early experiences of Zipcar, we found rubbish and biscuit crumbs in a couple of vehicles we used. Zipcar was apologetic on both occasions, issuing a refund for the hire. Its terms and conditions mean users that don’t keep the vehicles as clean as they found them are financially penalised. 

How much does car sharing cost? And what cars are available?

Generally, car sharing schemes cost between £5 and £10 per hour. However, it isn’t quite as simple as that.

In an effort to keep cash flowing (or to offer value to customers, depending on who you listen to) many companies offer a subscription service.

For instance, Zipcar lets you sign up for £0 per month. This gives you a basic rate of £8.50 per hour (£79/day) including 60 miles worth of fuel, insurance, breakdown assistance, and congestion charge.

For £6 a month, you get £6 worth of credit, plus, the hourly rate drops to £6.50 per hour (£59/day). While there’s a £15 a month option that gives you £15 worth of credit, plus a rate of £5.50 per hour (£55/day).

The figures used here are based around a Volkswagen Polo. Expect to find Ford Fiestas, Vauxhall Corsas, and Hyundai i20s for the same kind of price. Electric vehicles, like the Volkswagen e-Golf, Hyundai Ioniq Electric and Renault Zoe are increasingly available and can be slightly more expensive. Similarly, bigger cars, like a Ford Focus, work out at a couple of quid more an hour too.

Some platforms, like Ubeeqo, calculate the price based on type of vehicle, length of time needed and mileage driven. Then to make it more complex, like Zipcar, it offers a discounted rate to those that subscribe. 

Car sharing app on an iPhone

For example, a Ubeeqo city car for one hour up to 40 miles is £7. Make it two hours and it’s £14. Plan to go 50 miles and it’s £20. If you’re not a member, it’s £29. In a van, two hours and 50 miles without a subscription is £34. A premium SUV is £40. 

P2P platforms can work out a bit cheaper because the cars belong to real people in the local community. What’s more, the locations, particularly in the London area, tend to be more convenient, though of course, you need to return the car to the same place you pick it up.

If you’ve got a friend willing to loan you use of their vehicle, you can always insure yourself by the hour using hyperflexible insurer Cuvva.

What’s the difference with ridesharing?

Ridesharing is an adopted Americanism for ‘carpooling’, aka giving someone a lift. There are more informal models, such as Facebook pages, which help people find others travelling in the same direction, who can share costs.

Then there’s more formal models, like UberX Share (formerly UberPool). This is where you share a cab journey with other riders for a discounted rate.

Some popular car sharing apps include:

Co-Wheels

The Co-Wheels Car Club claims to be the UK’s largest. A third of its fleet is electric, many others are petrol hybrid and it operates in more than 60 locations nationwide. Prices start from £5 per hour, agreements have a mileage limitation, which if exceeded, cost from £0.20 per mile supplement.

There’s a choice of city, every day or family cars, which range from the Aygo and Fiat 500 to the Yaris and through to the MG5 Estate. Co-Wheels also enables drivers to borrow vans from £7.50 per hour.

To be a member of Co-Wheels, you need to be over 19, have held your licence for more than two years and have no penalty points whatsoever.

Enterprise Car Club

In an attempt to rival Zipcar, Enterprise rental has created Enterprise Car Club. With a range of cars and vans to borrow, drivers can access shared vehicles from convenient locations. Membership includes fuel, servicing, MOTs, breakdown cover, insurance and cleaning. 

Unlike other car clubs on this list, Enterprise has a greater presence across the whole of the UK, lending from places there’s already an established Enterprise branch. 

Getaround

Previously known as Drivy, Getaround is a P2P carsharing platform. Predominantly based in London, it’s very similar to AirBnB in that no subscription is required. You simply find the vehicle you wish to borrow, from a local car owner, and with Allianz-backed insurance and AA roadside assistance, you can rent by the hour, day or week. 

The car page features a description from the owner, details about the owner and location of the car. There’s also reviews left by other users.

HiyaCar

HiyaCar operates in 10 areas in the country, predominantly in the London area. Car owners list their vehicles and other drivers can hire them within their locality, on a hyperflexible basis. 

Like the model used in AirBnB,  car owners can write up their own descriptions alongside the key specs given clearly. They can also set the parameters of the hire, e.g. over 21s only and are evaluated publicly by response time and number of ‘Hiyas’ they’ve enabled. 

Cars vary by make, model, price and location. All cars are covered by comprehensive insurance and AA Roadside Assistance. The price is calculated once drivers submit their licence and age details and they are responsible for replacing the fuel used during the hire. 

Hiyacar’s QuickStart system enables the drivers’ mobile phone to become the key—though strictly only a verified device can be used. Before driving off and when returning the vehicle, drivers need to confirm their identity, take pictures to timestamp the fuel level and condition of the car before hire.

Liftshare

Straddling both ridesharing and car sharing in the UK, Liftshare is a platform to connect you to other drivers that might already be going your way. You can list yourself as a driver, or as a passenger. You can stipulate what journey you’re making/looking to share and whether it’s regular or a one-off. As a driver, you can also set the contribution you’d like from passengers. 

Karshare

Similar to Hiyacar, Karshare is an app-based platform with a community approach. Car owners, in a locality specified by the driver, set the prices and the rules. Karshare’s platform then connects them with drivers who need to use their vehicle for a few hours. 

Karshare offers the technology to unlock the vehicle through the mobile app too. Like other platforms, Karshare’s car owners have a wide range of cars to pick from, including SUVs and electric vehicles. 

Drivers are covered by comprehensive insurance and RAC breakdown cover. Karshare’s model also enables drivers that lease, rather than own, the freedom to share their vehicle too. 

Ubeeqo

With a Europe-wide operation, Ubeeqo is Europcar’s answer to Zipcar. Operating in London and Manchester, there’s a choice of vans and cars on offer, depending on the drivers’ needs. 

Registration and booking is completed through the app. The vehicles can also be unlocked with the app. Ubeeqo requires you to return the vehicle to the same parking bay or area. 

Uber

Uber was the main disruptor to hit the instant private hire market over a decade ago. Its fast growth created a slew of headaches, not least in London, where disruption to the black cab community created huge backlash. It also faced litigation about driver conditions and disturbing company culture around the world.

Though it seems over that barrage of bad news (Transport for London granted it a licence again), these distractions have enabled other companies to move into its space, such as Bolt, Free Now, Blabla Car and OLA

In the UK, private hire mini cab and hackney carriage licences are very different. Only the latter has the permit to pick up at the side of the road after being flagged down. The test to be a black cab driver is called The Knowledge and costs drivers thousands, so unsurprisingly, their rates tend to be higher.

Private hire mini cabs must be pre-booked. Once operated out of a small office near a station, many have moved reservations online to compete with Uber et al. Even the black cabs have their own app, Gett. With apps, pre-booking can happen mere minutes beforehand.

Uber however continues to innovate. As mentioned there’s UberX Share, for those who are happy to rideshare. Uber’s even moving into Zipcar territory with Uber Rent, though this isn’t in the UK yet. 

Uber relies on regular drivers becoming cab drivers on their fleet. If they don’t have their own vehicle, drivers can arrange to lease a vehicle to be an Uber driver through Uber’s partnership with Partner Point. 

To Uber to a destination, you simply open the app, request a ride. Once it’s accepted, you’ll see the pick-up point (these drivers don’t have access to some roads or stopping points in the same way as black cabs) and the estimated cost. Uber has been criticised for its ‘surge pricing’, which happens when there’s high demand—often straight after an event or at a particular time, such as Friday evenings. 

However, users are notified of the surge prices, indicated as ‘2X, due to high demand’, and can accept or find another form of transport to use. 

Zipcar

Zipcar offers members, who pay a one-off fee to join and greater benefits on a monthly subscription basis, access to its fleet of vehicles parked in designated places around cities in which it operates. That is across London and Bristol, Cambridge and Oxford too.  

Trips can be booked up to a year in advance, meaning cars and vans can be hired for a few hours to help one move house. One of Zipcar’s coolest features is Zipcar Flex. This service enables holiday makers to borrow a car to make the trip to Heathrow airport for a small parking premium. This works out much cheaper than getting a cab across town and much more convenient than lugging bags around the tube network. 

Further reading

>> All of the best new car deals

>> Thinking of selling your car? Get a free valuation

>> Should you be getting off public transport?

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