In the last 3 years, car sharing services such as ZipCar have seen tremendous growth. According to some estimates, between 2007 and 2009 the industry saw a 117% increase in the number of users in North America. By 2016, that same study expects there to be 4.4 million car sharing users in North America and 5.5 million in Europe.
So it’s no surprise that the number of players in the car sharing world has been increasing at a breakneck pace. And now the next step in its evolution seems to be coming to fruition: renting your own personal car out to complete strangers for a price you set but through an online service that organizes the whole thing.
Known as personal car sharing or distributed car sharing, the concept is very intriguing… and runs somewhat contrary to how many people view their cars.
So, if the idea of car sharing is a bit too much for you to wrap your mind around, consider this further evolution of the concept: Just today comes word of three separate ventures that want to give you, as a car owner, the option of renting your car out to complete strangers when it’s sitting idle in your driveway:
- WhipCar, launched in London last week
- RelayRides, will launch in Boston this summer
- Spride Share, based in California, will launch as soon as they can get the laws changed in California to allow personal insurance policies to cover car sharing
The basic premises of the models are the same. The cars and drivers are certified through some kind of background check. As the renter, you tell the online system when your car is available and then others can search the website for available cars. You set the price, either by hour or by day or week. In the case of WhipCar and RelayRides, they provide the insurance for the duration of the car share, but, as aluded to above, Spride is opting to try and get laws changed to avoid having to carry the costly insurance themselves. In some cases, your car has to be outfitted with special gear that unlocks it with a card, avoiding the necessity of physical interaction between renter and rentee. In others, the owner and the renter have to meet to exchange keys and the like.
So, how do these services make money? They take a cut of the rental fee, something like 15%. Even with their cut added in, all of the services claim that you would be able to save a lot of money over traditional rental services. And for owners of cars who are willing to give up much of the personal attachment to their car, the financial rewards can be enough to completely offset the cost of ownership, and maybe even put a little money in your pocket.
But given the fact that a car is such a personal thing these days, I think the major hurdle to the acceptance of these types of services will be if people can let go of the idea of car as a personal item and look at it purely as a tool. And you’d gladly lend out your drill to complete strangers if they paid you for it now, wouldn’t you? Well, most of us anyways. Some people are really attached to their tools.