"You must learn to share." I always hated that line. I had two brothers and a sister so I got my fair share of that parental pronouncement. But I grew up (my wife's opinion not withstanding), and now I'm fortunate enough to be able to afford my own stuff. I LIKE not sharing. Especially my car. So when I first heard about the concept of "car-sharing", I was less than enthused, but decided to learn more. To do that, I recently sat down with Ryan McKenzie, owner of a local car-sharing program called CityWheels. Ryan quickly led me to see the error of my possessive private car ways.

What a Concept

Instead of using an alternative fuel vehicle, how about using the vehicle in an alternative manner? Carsharing means stepping out of the car ownership game. Scary concept, huh? What do you give up as a car-sharing aficionado? Parking fees, insurance costs, depreciation, big monthly car payments, and stiff repair bills that come when you can ill afford them. Face it. Many times a car is more of a liability than an asset. What do you retain if you're a car-sharing program member? The convenience of private transportation. Joining a car-sharing program allows you to live a "car-free" lifestyle on those days you don't need a car. On those days you do, one is at your disposal. You get the best of both worlds: the mobility of a private car without all the fixed expenses and headaches that accrue if you own the vehicle. Carsharing is a special kind of rental car program that offers unique benefits the big rental car companies can't match.

How It Works

Here's how it works. CityWheels purchases vehicles for use by its members. Members pay a small monthly membership fee plus a nominal usage fee for each hour they use a CityWheels vehicle. Vehicles are scattered strategically throughout a target market area. Members book a vehicle over the internet, then at the appointed hour, simply walk up to the vehicle and press an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) membership card against a reader in the window of the vehicle and faster than you can say "Hertz-Avis-Budget-Enterprise", the car unlocks itself. The ignition key is already in the steering column. A kill switch is active until a membership card is recognized, so there's no worry about a break-in.

There are several advantages over a traditional car rental company. No endless "Please initial here, here, there, and down here". No "How about our insurance for $20 a day?" Car-sharing programs usually allows drivers as young as 21 to use the vehicles whereas many rental car companies require customers to be 25 year old or older. You can "rent" by the hour instead of by the day and you can also grab a car anytime. Perhaps best of all, there is no requirement to gas up before you return the vehicle. Gas, insurance, vehicle depreciation and repair are covered by City Wheels. Like a good spaghetti sauce, it's all in there in the car-sharing recipe. Slick-a-roo. Each car has GPS tracking so Ryan and his minions at CityWheels headquarters, like battlefield commanders, can track the movements of the troops on a computer screen. Remind me to tell you later how this feature came in handy for a car-sharing program in another Midwestern city.

Who's a Candidate?

Carsharing is not for everyone, but it's perfect for anyone who lives an urban, low-mileage lifestyle. It's a great fit for a city-dweller who is happy to walk, bike, or use mass transit most of the time, but needs a car once a week for something special. Anyone who drives less than 7,500 miles a year is a candidate for replacing his or her car with membership in a Carsharing program. Anyone who likes the security of owning a second car, but would rather avoid the hassle of the two-car ownership experience. Why be stuck with an extra monthly parking fee, insurance, car payments, repairs and fuel bills if you don't have to be? Even William Clay Ford, Jr. said in 2000 that. 'If you live in a city, you don't need to own a car.'

See the advantages and disadvantages of these programs -- continue reading at Autoblog



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