Would eliminating your monthly car payment, and other related costs, like insurance, gas, maintenance and repairs make a difference in meeting your budget?
Maybe you should consider sharing rather than owning a car.
More than 300,000 drivers have already joined more than two dozen car share programs across the country, which allow the to use — and pay — for a car only when they need it.
It’s possible to save $300 to $500 a month, depending on the cost of the vehicle you’re giving up and how often you take to the road in a shared car.
You can find car share programs where you would expect them, in urban areas like New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles.
But they are also in less obvious cities, such as Waterville, Maine, Nashville, Tenn. and Winona, Minn.
Fuel-efficient compact cars comprise the bulk of car share fleets, but some larger car-share fleets offer pickup trucks, crossovers and midsize cars.
Rental rates vary by program, but most let members rent by the hour or the day. Hourly rates range from $3.50 to $13, while daily rates range from $50 to $115.
Operational costs such as parking, fuel and insurance are often included.
Other costs may include a small one-time application fee and either annual membership dues or a minimum monthly charge.
How much can you save?
Let’s say you were going to buy a 2009 Honda Civic EX four-door, which will cost right at $30,018 to own over the next five years using Edmunds.com’s “True Cost to Own” calculator.
That’s $500 a month for a relatively frugal model that depreciates at a lower-than-average rate and gets better-than-average fuel economy.
Zipcar is the biggest car share program with operations in 50 cities. Here’s what it costs to use a car for four full days a month with its “Extra Value Plan” in Atlanta:
- A $50 minimum monthly commitment fee which is applied against the first $50 in rental charges.
- A daily rental charge of $62.90 per day.
- 45 cents for each mile over 180 miles on any single rental.
That works out to $202 a month if you don’t incur any extra mileage charges — or $298 less than it costs to own the Honda Civic EX.
The savings are even bigger when compared to the cost of owning a bigger, more expensive car or truck. Owning a 2009 Ford Taurus SEL, for example, would cost $469 per month more than car sharing.
The tradeoff is obvious. Your ride isn’t waiting right outside the back door.
But car share programs park vehicles in convenient locations around participating cities that can be reserved months in advance or picked up with just a few minutes notice.
Most programs post an easy-to-navigate area map on their Web sites pinpointing each reserved parking space around the city and identifying the vehicle parked there.