What are the alternatives to owning a car?

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Whether it's lift sharing, joining a car club or packing it in altogether, we look at the best ways to get around if you don't own a car

 

 

Owning a car is an expensive business. With the cost of motoring escalating, many of us are looking at alternatives to traditional car ownership. Until we finally get hoverboards and jetpacks, these are the best ways to get around without shelling out for a car.

Use public transport

Trains and buses are the obvious alternatives to using a car. But public transport needs to be frequent and attractive enough for users. Use of CCTV, added bus lanes and app-based tracking have all played their part in improving passengers’ experience. But quality and frequency can vary.

Of course, there tends to be a lot better public transport coverage in high-density areas. It’s easy to get around London without a car. It’s a lot less easy to scoot around rural Pembrokeshire by train, or even by bus.

If you’re saving money by not having a car, then you’ll hopefully have a bit extra for train journeys. However, they remain notoriously expensive in the UK unless you have a railcard or buy way in advance.

But on the plus side, using public transport remains the best way to get around while also making headway into a good book.

On yer bike

The ultimate in lightweight, zero-emission transport! Cycling is good for keeping fit, dodging traffic, and not choking the environment.

Perception is a hurdle for those wanting to get on their bike more. Traffic volume and speed can be offputting, and the UK lags behind many European neighbours in terms of safety. In spite of this, cyclists pose low risk to themselves and other road users. On British roads between 2012 and 2016, one cyclist was killed for every 30 million miles travelled according to Cycling UK

And there’s also evidence that increased bicycle use promotes safety in numbers.

And depending on how pimping your bike is, cycling is cheap. Plus you might be able to save further by finding out if your employer has a cycle-to-work scheme.

Start lift sharing

Journey sharing or carpooling has always been common where communities of people make the same trip regularly – to and from the workplace being an obvious example.

There are a handful of sites – such as Liftshare and BlaBlaCar – where drivers can post regular journeys they’re making, or passengers can request them. Costs tend to be included as a contribution towards fuel and so on.

Borrow a car

If you don’t have a car, then borrowing from a friend or family member is an option. For instance, if you’re a student, it may be handy to borrow a parent’s car during holidays. Or if you’re in a group of friends who use cars infrequently, you may find it works to simply share one car between you rather than owning one each.

Although it’s possible to put additional named drivers on insurance policies, there are also policies which cater specifically for this kind of vehicle sharing.

Joanna Linley of Admiral car-sharing service Veygo says: “We offer flexible and affordable short-term insurance policies to suit all sorts of car-sharing situations. If a parent’s letting you drive their car over the holiday, or you’re borrowing a friend’s car for the weekend, you can get yourself covered on their car and on the road in no time. It takes just two minutes to get a quote.”

Hire a car

If you only make occasional longer journeys, car hire can be surprisingly inexpensive. And it’s particularly useful if travelling to an area poorly-serviced by public transport.

You can compare prices from a huge range of car-hire brands with easyCar.com.

The sting with car hire usually comes with heavy (albeit refundable) deposit payments, or having to accept a large excess. For peace of mind, it’s not a bad idea to take out some excess protection. Car hire firms will often offer this, but you can almost certainly save by shopping around for policies online.

Rent a car from a local

Peer-to-peer car rental is becoming more common, with drivers who underuse their cars making them available to use for a fee. You may also find that local car owners are more conveniently situated than the nearest car-hire location. Plus if you use a site like easyCar Club, then the price will include insurance and breakdown cover from Admiral.

Join a car club

 

These clubs offer the convenience of car ownership without many of the downsides. For example, you don’t have to worry about getting the car repaired or serviced, and the clubs have allocated parking spaces. There’s probably one nearer to where you live than you think.

This also means you don’t have to go to a depot, and can self-serve at all times of the day. Bookings are made online, by app or phone, and payments can be made directly from your account.

Members can book the club-owned cars for as long or as briefly as they wish, paying an hourly or daily rate. There’s also an annual membership fee. However, Carplus has calculated that joining such a club could save you £3,500 a year compared to owning one, assuming you drive fewer than 6,000 miles annually.

In addition, car clubs are a gift to those looking to improve their green credentials. Many of the cars are electric, and it’s estimated that each car-club car replaces approximately 17 vehicles.

A combination of the lot

As journeys frequently involve the use of more than one type of transport, making integration of modes more seamless appears to be the way to go. London’s Oyster system is a step in this direction. Other cities’ offerings go further. For example, the switch system in Hamburg allows users to variously use public transport, hire cars, car-club cars, and even shared bikes.

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