It starts in childhood with your first scooter. Then, your first bike. Years later, your first car. Regardless of age or lifestyle, most people need a way to get around. Car sharing services are growing in popularity and offer another transportation option. As of 2014, programs were available on five continents, in over 30 countries and in hundreds of cities. You may wonder which is better for you: buying a car or using a car sharing service.
The answer to that question depends upon several factors including: where you live, whether you are driving just yourself or a family with children, and whether you have an ongoing need for your own vehicle or if you just need to borrow the keys every now and then. Convenience and cost both come at a price; weighing which one is most important to you is the first step towards determining what is best.
Car Sharing: How does it work?
Car sharing is a membership based service that allows you to borrow from a network of shared vehicles 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Vehicles are accessed at unattended self-service stations and may be borrowed by the hour or day. Drivers simply reserve a car, pick it up from its designated parking spot, and return it to the same place when they are done.
Car Sharing Benefits
Only need a car for a few hours or just a few days a month? Car sharing may be for you. Primarily designed for short time and distance trips, car sharing offers the convenience of a having a car when you need it. And finding parking is never a problem.
Car Sharing Costs
While car sharing services differ in their fee structures associated with membership, gas and insurance are typically included. These programs may charge per mile or per minute. Charges vary per location as well so do some research on what services are available in your area.
Car Ownership Benefits
There’s no denying the convenience of owning a vehicle and the flexibility of grabbing the car keys and heading out the door when you want. Knowing you can get yourself where you need to go without much planning can be liberating. And, there is nothing like having your own set of wheels.
Car Ownership: Costs
In addition to the obvious cost of purchasing a vehicle, additional costs of car ownership include car insurance, registration, gas, regular maintenance and tires. If you pay for parking, then add that to the list of expenses.
Which is Best for You?
For young adults new to the workforce, who may not have the financial means to purchase a car and don’t need one for more than the occasional weekend trip, car sharing may be a logical choice. Car sharing offers the flexibility of having a car when you need it without the responsibility and expense of owning one. City dwellers that face alternate-side-of-the-street parking restrictions or hefty parking garage fees may find car sharing attractive.
However, if your job requires a lengthy commute and you regularly drive to stores and recreational activities, owning a car may make more sense. To decide what is best for you, ask yourself:
- Do I need a car to get to work?
- How far is my commute?
- Can I share the driving with someone else?
- Do I use a car on the weekends and, if so, how far do I drive?
- Do I pay for parking at home or at work?
For young families facing the reality of regularly driving children to activities, purchasing a car may be the right choice. In addition to the above questions, they should also ask themselves the following:
- How many people do I need to drive?
- Do I need additional storage room?
- Do I need car seats?
- Do I need a car most days of the week or only on the weekends?
Having young children typically means carrying a certain amount of baggage for any sort of travel. Anything from sippy cups to teddy bears and drawing pads may make their way into a vehicle. The convenience of not having to carry car seats, diaper bags, strollers and assorted paraphernalia in and out of the car with every trip may make the decision an easy one.
Seniors considering these two options should think about how frequently a car is needed, the duration of trips, distance to the vehicle and parking. For some, owning a car may provide greater independence, the comfort of one’s own vehicle and the convenience of heading out whenever the need arises. For others, car sharing may be a significant cost savings that outweighs convenience.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to choosing between car sharing and car buying. So evaluate your transportation needs and explore the car sharing programs in your area. Then do the math and determine what works best for you.