More Americans Share Cars – Networking Style

March 7, 2012

Why own a car, when you only use it for an hour a day, or maybe even much less?

More and more Americans are opting to buy transportation as a service, rather than maintain an expensive gas and greenback guzzler of their own. Zipcar is one solution, where individuals can rent a car for short term use from a company.  I posted Lester Brown’s discussion of this and other reasons for the drop in American co2 emissions a few weeks ago.

Wheelz is a new start up that facilitates individuals sharing cars peer-to-peer.

NPR:

Hagey makes an extra $150 a month by renting out her car via Wheelz, a Silicon Valley car-sharing startup. Wheelz allows Hagey to name a price for others to “borrow” her silver BMW when it would otherwise be sitting unused in a campus parking lot.

People can access Hagey’s car much like a Zipcar or other shared vehicle. Renters hold a card up to a sensor on the windshield to gain access to the car. They then open the glove compartment, where a box containing the car keys is located. But unlike Zipcar, cars rented through Wheelz are owned by individuals, rather than by a company.

Stanford undergraduate student Jesse Clayburgh is a Wheelz user. He doesn’t own a car, and dreads the idea of trekking to a rental counter — not to mention the extra fees he would pay for being younger than 25.

Wheelz founder Jeff Miller says there is a growing shift among American consumers away from owning assets, like cars, “to purchasing a service that helps you achieve the same end.”

Miller says people already regularly loan cars to their friends and family. His company, he argues, just makes it safer and easier. The service screens customers to make sure their driving records are clean. Members are also required to sign up through Facebook, so the rentals aren’t completely anonymous.

“It’s actually a very personal transaction, and people respect the fact that it’s another person’s car,” Miller says. “We’ve had zero [damage] claims to date, and thousands of reservations. And so far, so good.”

As the graph below shows – America seems to have reached a tipping point, still apparent even as we come out of the economic doldrums – people have realized they can live well and achieve their goals by driving less, and the success of services like Wheelz shows there’s a real desire and demand for other options.

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