[Idea File] Cruising in your neighbor's car

Today’s idea
Car sharing services such as Zipcar have been around for a while, allowing people to access vehicles quickly and for short periods of time. But what if you could rescue your neighbor’s unused car from its dark garage or lonely side street and take it for a spin instead?

San Francisco-based Spride, Boston’s RelayRides and WhipCar in London were all revved up about this idea enough to launch personal car sharing services this year. Although the three companies have varied approaches to the nuts and bolts of the “how,” all support car sharing as a way to increase cash flow, help the environment, and fuel community.

A little too green? Photo by Flickr user makeshiftlove (Creative Commons)

Why we’re adding it to the Idea File
Peer-to-peer car lending reduces waste by providing a direct solution to a need. How?

  • Make money, save money. Car owners get a little extra cash, while car seekers save on rental costs. The rate for Relay Rides, for example, ranges from $6-$8 per hour as compared to Zipcar, whose rates start at $7 per hour as go as high as almost $15.
  • Help the planet. The average car sits idle 90% of its lifetime. Instead of acquiring a whole new fleet of cars and contributing to the overall negative environmental impact, personal car sharing services utilize vehicles that are already on the road. Plus, the likelihood of using a green vehicle is higher.
  • Bond with your neighbors. Car lending is almost as personal as someone lending you their favorite book – think how much you could learn about the guy down the block just by sliding into the driver’s seat. Also, this type of service inevitably brings a more human element to a usually personality-less business. WhipCar, for example, only allows the hand-off of the car to be face-to-face.

How you can replicate it
First, see if this kind of service already exists where you live, whether in a formal or informal capacity. If not, start small with your own networks and grow it from there. (Make sure to check laws regarding insurance coverage.) Go the extra mile by getting in touch with the above mentioned companies to learn about their challenges and successes, and find other interested people in your area by searching Idealist.

Caveats and considerations
The most obvious risk for car owners is that a stranger might ruin their car. Endless things could go wrong while a car is out on the road, not to mention the wear and tear that comes with continually lending. Meanwhile, car borrowers might not know what they’re going to get with an used car, it might not be close to where they live, and the choice of vehicles could be limited. Safety concerns are always an issue, and insurance laws might also be tricky to navigate.

What do you think? Would you go along for the ride, or is this idea too risky?

Tags: , , , ,