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Car sharing (carpooling) in the UK: advantages, disadvantages and how to do it

What is car sharing?

Car sharing (also called carpooling or ridesharing) is sharing a ride with someone who is going to a similar destination as you, but you don’t pay the driver for his or her time. It’s not hitchhiking because that is impromptu and not organised. Car sharing requires some coordination. It’s also not a paid passenger service, like a taxi.

Driver responsibilities when car sharing

Carpool drivers need to:

  1. Let passengers know where and when to meet them and what car you are driving – it’s best to pick a fairly accessible location such as close to a public transport hub or near a shopping centre (but don’t park in taxi zones, bus stops or on double yellows) and ensure you’re on time
  2. Agree on any cost sharing up-front with the passengers – usually, it could be a contribution towards parking or fuel
  3. Agree on any drop-off points
  4. Get phone details from passengers to check if they are late – they might be struggling to find you
  5. Agree on any stopovers if it’s going to be a long trip
  6. Ensure the car is suitable for carrying passengers, i.e. not full of junk
  7. Ensure that the car is roadworthy and safe
  8. Let passengers know about your luggage space – you don’t want someone turning up who is relocating their entire life and it won’t fit in your Mini
  9. Be considerate to their passengers – not everyone likes opera or thrash metal
  10. Let your passengers know if you’re a smoker before they commit to the ride

Passenger responsibilities

Carpool passengers must be:

  1. On time
  2. Understand where they will be picked up from and dropped off
  3. Don’t ride with someone who you think is a dangerous driver
  4. Respect the driver’s car, particularly around eating or drinking, smoking, putting your feet on the seats, etc

Joint responsibilities

Consider personal hygiene – it’s not pleasant to be sitting with someone with bad body odour or intense garlic breath for a long journey. Try to avoid conversation topics that might cause friction – Brexit and Bake Off probably should be left for later.

Why is car sharing good?

  1. It’s better for the environment because it saves fuel, thus reducing air pollution
  2. If you travel frequently you could save hundreds or thousands of pounds a year in vehicle costs; if you’re a two-car household you might be able to cut back to one car
  3. You can meet people who could become lifelong friends
  4. Car sharing helps reduce traffic congestion by effectively taking another vehicle off the road
  5. It’s a practical alternative when no public transport is available
  6. It can enable you to use high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes
  7. Your commute is less stressful as you can read or relax
  8. Companies sometimes provide incentives to drivers that share rides, such as closer parking or other perks and bonuses
  9. On long journeys, it can reduce the boredom

How do you organise a car sharing scheme?

There are apps and websites available for both consumer and business carpooling.

If you want to organise a car share scheme at work:

  1. Talk to your manager and start with a small group of people with a specific area in mind
  2. People should be able to register as drivers or passengers
  3. Your company may help with notices on the intranet; your administration team might be able to own it
  4. Agree on cost sharing
  5. Maintain a register of contact details for the people in the carpool, in case a driver is unavailable
  6. Run a trial for a fortnight then start to expand it if it works well.

If the company can see a benefit to it, such as reducing the number of carparks they have to pay for, you may be onto a winner.

What are the disadvantages of car sharing?

8 disadvantages of car sharing are:

  1. If you don’t like the person you’re riding with, you still have an obligation to get them to their destination safely
  2. Work ride sharing situations where you find you don’t like the person you’re sharing with can cause tension
  3. Car sharing relies on people being able to take their journeys at the same time; it’s suitable for people who work defined hours, but if one person is working late, this can be a problem
  4. Both parties must be punctual
  5. You’re more exposed to viruses and colds
  6. If you are a passenger and your carpool driver is sick, you need a contingency
  7. You can’t do errands on your way to or from work, for example, you would have to go home first before going to the gym, rather than calling in on the way home (unless it’s on the route)
  8. Car sharing companions from the same company can often breed gossip

Darren has owned several companies in the automotive, advertising and education industries. He has run driving theory educational websites since 2010.

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