Published Summer 2022
THE average private car spends 95% of the time parked up, doing nothing. One day, I worked out that for a month, my car had been doing nothing for 100% of the time. I didn’t need it for work as I cycled to the station and commuted by train, and simply hadn’t used it for anything else in that time.
I mentioned this to my friend Rita, who lives nearby in Arundel, wondering if it was worth keeping the car, with all the costs and concerns about maintenance and security that go along with car ownership. Maybe I could just hire one when I needed to, say for a holiday trip, or get a taxi on occasion and still save money. On the other hand, if I sold it and discovered I really DID need a car- public transport not being as good as it could be- I would have to replace what is a good, practical car, in the minefield of the used car market.
Rita sympathised and told me her car had just died, that she’d be looking for another and she too dreaded the search for a decent used car that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. The light bulb moment didn’t happen until a few days later- Rita worked from home, so didn’t need a car to commute, she didn’t have any particular extra routine needs for a car and lives a two-minute walk from me. Why not share mine? She thought this was a great idea, with a sigh of relief that she wouldn’t need to go off car-hunting.
I sold Rita a half share of my car, simply with a letter of agreement and put her on my insurance. We split the upfront costs of tax, insurance and recovery and started out keeping a note of mileage to allocate petrol costs between us accurately. We dropped the mileage record after a while as we found that, between two of us, filling up as and when pretty much evened out over time. We agreed to work on a first come, first served basis, checking timing with each other ahead of time when we could and leaving a message when we needed it spontaneously. Issues over availability have been few and far between. They really only arise if one of us wants to use it for a holiday or other long trip, but these always mean there is plenty of time for the other of us to plan ahead for a bit of time without a car.
That was back in 1998 and we realised the real benefits quickly. Clearly, most costs are halved, but also, some the trips that would have been taken with two separate cars are reduced. A call from one of us saying ‘I’m off to the tip’ is usually followed by ‘got anything that needs to go there too?’. ‘I’m going to Waitrose later’ will invariably continue with ‘ need anything?’ or ‘want to join me?’, saving additional journeys. Sharing also means a slight pause and asking yourself ‘do I need the car?’, when, as a solo car user, you might just grab the car keys without thinking.
Parking difficulties are reduced too: not only is there one less car taking a space in the streets, but if it is clogged up at Kirdford Road, it is easy to park at mine in Ford Road with such a short walk between. We will both leave the car at the others’ home when we know that they’ll need it next and frequently offer each other lifts to the station for luggage-laden rail trips or help with animals going to the vet.