Australians are changing the way they use their cars.
The number of under-25s with a license has fallen to 66 per cent, and more people are moving into cities, meaning public transport is often a more feasible option than car ownership.
Enter the car sharing industry.
You may have seen share cars parked around your neighbourhood at an ever increasing rate – according to IBISWorld research, industry revenue is growing at 26 per cent per annum.
With a growing number of Australians replacing their family cars with share cars, how can you join the movement?
How it works
Users pay a sign-up fee or monthly fee, and then a flat rate for each hour they borrow a vehicle – the more often you use the cars, the cheaper your hourly rate.
Users are also able to choose from a variety of vehicles like luxury cars, utility vans and people movers.
Why are people car sharing?
GoGet founder Bruce Jeffreys says sharing a car is more convenient than owning a car and having to pay for parking, insurance, registration and repairs.
“I think there’s a big shift towards people wanting to live in the inner city, access all the services, but not have some of the downsides,” Mr Jeffreys says.
“Owning a car and parking it in the inner city is a big downside. It’s expensive.
“When we first started the service, we very much envisaged it was for singles or couples who didn’t have kids.
“After a few years of early growth, we then had families joining with kids. We’ve had a lot of baby boomers who are retiring. We’ve also had a lot of small businesses get on board.
“It’s really diversified.”
Average cost per month*
Rental car: from $660 (according to Vroom Vroom Vroom)
Car share car: $350 (for three to four days of use a week)
Privately owned car: $600 (RACQ estimate)
*Approximate prices for a Toyota Yaris or similar
How does it compare to car ownership?
According to RACQ, the average cost of a small car like a Toyota Yaris is $7280 a year – or $600 a month.
GoGet estimates using their service one to two times a week will cost you $200 a month, or if you use it three to four times a week, $350 a month.
CHOICE consumer advocate spokesperson Tom Godfrey says the lack of associated costs makes sharing a good alternative to car ownership.
“It’s a much better alternative to car ownership if you’re not driving frequently because there’s no upfront registration costs, insurance costs or repairs,” Mr Godfrey says.
How does it compare to car rental?
Car sharing is moderately cheaper than car rental, with daily rates for share cars starting around $55 per day for a standard vehicle.
In comparison, renting a standard vehicle like a Toyota Yaris with Budget will cost you around $112 for a full day, including fees and taxes.
Thrifty offers the slightly cheaper daily rate of $60 for a Yaris or similar.
The real benefits
While car sharing certainly offers a cheaper alternative to most ownership or rental scenarios, the real advantage is not the pricing but the low-hassle access to the cars.
The vehicles are available nearly 24/7 and require no lining up, excessive form-filling or endless terms and conditions.
There are also no real time limits, with “daily rates” allowing for 24 hours of use and not just a period of time that suits the dealership’s opening and closing hours.
The rental period can also be easily amended last-minute and most services offer “grace periods” for late car returns.
What’s more, once you have a membership card, there’s no need to collect keys – they’re usually attached to the car (but they won’t work without a membership card).
Mr Jeffreys says share cars are suited for people who would otherwise own their cars.
“We’re not a rental car company. We actually tailor our service to people who would have been car owners, rather than businesses or travellers,” he says.
“We provide child seats, we have roof racks for people to use – all we do is car sharing.”
Who can join?
Both GoGet and Flexicar (Hertz 24/7) offer attractive rates for students, but only those on their green P-plates or full license can drive GoGet vehicles.
Flexicar allows anyone on their P-plates who hasn’t had an accident for three years to join, and students can have their excess reduced to $400 for an extra rate.
GoGet also offers a cheap rate of $5.69 an hour to students, but P-platers looking to hire turbocharged cars like a VW Golf from either GoGet or Flexicar (Hertz 24/7) will need to get approval first.
Things to be aware of
GoGet charges either a monthly or an annual membership fee (charged upfront when you join) depending on your plan, plus an hourly usage fee and a $500 refundable deposit.
Meanwhile, Flexicar (Hertz 24/7) charges an annual membership fee of $70 and an hourly rate dependent on your usage plan (hourly rates start at $13.50).
At this stage, share cars are also mostly located in the inner city, which means people who live outside this area may not be able to use them as a substitute for car ownership.
“It’s important to be aware if there isn’t a car pod near you. It can be a bit of a hassle so obviously make sure before you sign up there is one near you,” Mr Godfrey says.
“Another thing to bear in mind is if there’s high demand for cars in your area, sometimes there might not be a car available when you need it.”
Cars also need to be returned to their original location, so if your travel is only a one-way trip, you may be slugged with extra charges for dropping it off in a different location.