Car Rentals

Car Sharing for Travel

I have updated my spreadsheet of sharing economy transportation resources and this is a summary of my finding so far. While I’m a big fan of public transportation, some places in the world it’s better, easier, and nicer to explore with a car. And fortunately for travelers, there are a wealth of new options for getting around using sharing economy resources. These fall into four distinct categories:

  • Peer to peer car rentals
  • Membership based car rentals
  • Peer to peer taxi services
  • Peer to peer ride sharing

Peer to peer car rentals expand car rental options beyond the traditional rental companies, and generally have at least slightly better pricing with more diversity of vehicles and pick up locations. If you are a car owner this is a fine way to earn some extra cash when you’re not using the car. If you are in need of a car for a day or more, either in your home town or on the road, this is a good option to consider, especially if you find rental car companies are too expensive in your location. For now this is only available in cities, but services are expanding quickly in the U.S. and Europe. For one example, see my review of Flightcar.

Membership based car rentals are generally more appropriate for people to use in their home city, but they have the added bonus of being usable on the road if the company you join has services in a city you are visiting. So if you are a member of Zipcar in San Francisco you could also use this service on a trip to Boston. These services are most cost effective when you need a car for a few hours. If you want to use a car for multiple days and/or drive more than a few miles, you’re probably better off renting a car from a commercial rental agency or from a peer to peer rental service.

Peer to peer taxi services are smart phone driven alternatives to commercial taxis, currently found in major U.S. cities. They are particularly useful when you are somewhere that doesn’t have taxis driving by. According to several recent analyses of cost across various cities, the prices of these services aren’t actually very different from using a regular taxi, especially during rush hour. Though Sidecar comes out consistently about 20% cheaper than a cab.

Peer to peer ride sharing is the option I’m most excited about for travel. This is catching on in Europe, Australia, and the U.S. Drivers join a website where they post upcoming trips they are taking and how many open seats they have, along with a price per seat. Then riders can sign up to join those trips. Drivers and riders get reviewed, and in some cases you can select traveling companions based on features like how talkative they are. I’m looking forward to trying out Blablacar or Carpooling on my upcoming trip to Spain as a way to visit areas outside of the cities where I’ll be staying. It appears that at least for some places this is cheaper than taking the train or bus. And it sounds like a pleasant way to meet locals and travel in comfort without all the unnecessary stops inherent to public transportation.

Not included in the categories above but another interesting development, there is now a ride sharing of taxi service in NYC so if you find yourself there you might want to check out Bandwagon.