Picture this - you have access to a car pretty much anytime you want it, but you don't have to worry about road tax, insurance, service and MOT bills, depreciation, parking permits or cleaning. It might sound too good to be true, but ask anyone who is a member of a car club and they will tell you this is the very pleasant reality.
Nick Kirby is a member of a car club in Brighton and finds it is incredibly easy and convenient. 'I had been thinking about getting a car,' he says, 'but when I sat down and worked out how much it was going to cost me per month, it soon added up. And then when I worked out how often I was going to use it, it seemed like something of a luxury, rather than a necessity. Someone mentioned car clubs to me, I investigated the costs and the flexibility and it was the perfect solution.'
How they work
Generally speaking, car clubs allow you to hire a car from as little as one hour up to much longer periods. They generally charge by the hour although some have reduced fees for longer rentals. There is normally a joining fee and then you pay as you go.
As Nick explains: 'The car club I belong to has over 60 cars dotted around Brighton, which are parked on the street in designated parking bays. When I want a car, I simply go online, find a car in a street near me – in fact I have a choice of cars only five minutes away – and reserve it for the time I want it. Then, when the time comes, I use my membership swipe card to gain entry to the car, switch on the simple onboard computer and away I go.
'Once my rental period is up, I park the car back in its bay, switch off the computer, lock it using the swipe card and that's it. Then I get billed once a month and pay by direct debit. I don't have to worry about car insurance, repairs or MOTs.'
And adds Nick: 'I even get a petrol allowance – I can drive up to 50 miles without incurring an additional fee on top of the hourly charge. Beyond that, I do get charged per mile.'
Car clubs are undoubtedly convenient, but they are clearly not suitable for people who need to use a car all the time be it for work or simply getting around. But for all those people who use a car infrequently, they are worth checking out. Most car club sites have a calculator that lets you put in certain information and works out whether joining makes financial sense for you.
On top of the ease of running, car clubs are also attractive for their green credentials. For a start, most of the cars are new, small cars, so they run with more miles to the gallon and have lower CO² emissions.
What's more, as each journey is pay as you go, you are less inclined just to hop in your car for unnecessary journeys.
To find out more about car clubs and to work out if it makes sense for you, visit the Car Club website for more information and details of schemes in your area.