Automobiles. We have a very interesting relationship with these wheeled, gasoline fuelled, transportation devices. We lust over the beautiful ones, argue about the fastest ones, spend afternoons watching them race around circuits and, for a large part of our lives, dream about driving them for the first time. Not only do we love cars; we love to own cars. We like to show them off. We build special shelters for them to protect them from the elements (and opportunists). But it doesn’t have to be this way…
Unless you spend your entire day (and possibly night) in your car do you really need to own it? Just take a minute to think about how often you use your car in a day. For a lot of people the answer to this is only a couple of hours, driving to and from work every day with a short trip to the grocery on the way home. For some it is even less, maybe you work from home and use the car to nip down to the shops or over to a friend’s house every other day. I’m not making this up. A transportation study conducted by the UK department of transportation in 2010 found that people spend, on average, an hour a day travelling. Do we really need to own a car, paying all of the associated costs, when we only use them for an hour a day?
Zipcar is a company that turns the car ownership model on its head in a great way. The smart people who came up with the idea realised that (ego and status aside) we don’t really need to own cars, we just need to have access to them when we need them. The concept (like most collaborative consumption models) is simple. Zipcar owns fleet of cars that a parked in locations all over a city. Having registered as a member of the service you find the car nearest to you and book it for however long you need it, from an hour to a week. To unlock the car you simply swipe the “Zipcard” posted to you when you signed up and away you go, returning the car to its parking space when you are done.
What does this all cost? You can either pay an annual membership fee of around £59.50 or a monthly fee of £6. You then pay by the hour when you book a car with prices ranging from £5 to £9 per hour depending on the type of vehicle. Not bad hey! What’s even better is that this hourly rate includes 40 miles worth of fuel, insurance, and the congestion charge if you’re in London. I haven’t crunched the numbers myself, but the people at Zipcar reckon that you save a whole heap of money using their service instead of buying your own car.
The service obviously isn’t going to be perfect for everyone. It’s probably best suited to people who have to make a trip by car every now and then, or only have a few short trips a week. What it is, is a start in the right direction. It is proof that we don’t necessarily need to own our own car. I love it!