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Can car sharing be part of a different transport future?

Your unused (or under-used) car can help in the fight against the climate crisis, says Simon Birch, in his latest Inside View article.

Also see our guide to ethical cars and electric cars.

Maimuna Ndow doesn’t mind lending her car to strangers, in fact it’s something she positively encourages.

Based in the swinging hipster suburb of Chorlton in south Manchester, Ndow is now part of a growing revolution of car-owners who are renting out their cars in a bid to tackle the climate crisis whilst making some welcome money on the side.

Ndow began her car lending journey last year, when the pioneering car sharing company Karshare launched in her neighbourhood in Manchester, following successful launches in Birmingham, Bristol, Coventry, Leeds and London.

“I’m the sort of person that likes to try something new,” says Ndow who works for Manchester International Festival.

“A few people were apprehensive about it, but I just see it as exciting. I wasn’t using my car and now someone else has the pleasure of using it.”

Car sharing and its contribution to fighting climate change

There are now around 33 million cars in the UK, but for a staggering 96% of the time they’re just parked up, quietly rusting away, doing nothing.

And with cars contributing around 25% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions, Karshare is now aiming to free up some of these cars to help drive the fight against the climate crisis.

“If we’re going to reach net zero there’s no way we’re going to do it with the existing model of private car ownership,” says Katie McPhee from Karshare.

“We want to enable the shift to net zero by reducing the number of cars that have to be made and make it easy to get around without having to buy a new car. For every one car shared, we can take 14 off the road.”

“Our goal,” adds McPhee, “is to make sharing cars the norm and if you can make a little bit of extra cash along the way, then great.”

Hand holding keys by side of car door

How does Karshare work?

Unlike conventional car sharing schemes which use cars that are owned by the scheme, usually a large car-rental company, Karshare lets individuals rent out their own cars when they’re not using them.

“Think of it like Airbnb for cars,” says McPhee.

Car owners list their vehicles on the Karshare platform, providing information such as the car make and a photo of their vehicle, a bit like an online dating site.

Prospective renters can then look up these cars and rent one that matches their needs, whether this is a few hours, a day, a week or sometimes longer.

What are the costs of car sharing?

The cost of hiring a car is far cheaper than regular car hire companies and you could easily find a car for around £35 a day. And if you rented your car out for 15 days a month McPhee reckons that you could earn about £550 a month after Karshare take 30% of any rental fee.

Plus, because Karshare operates in neighbourhoods, car renters are usually able to walk to their car rental to pick it up.

The other key benefit of Karshare adopting a neighbourhood type model, is that the money generated by the car rental stays within the community rather than being siphoned away by some vast multi-national car rental company.

Keeping safe with car sharing

Obviously security is a major issue, but McPhee reassures that Karshare has very strict verification procedures in place for both people renting their vehicle and for those looking to rent.

This includes fully comprehensive insurance and breakdown for every rental which wouldn’t impact on an individual’s own insurance if anything happened with the rented car.

Karshare also installs keyless technology in every vehicle that’s to be rented, “this allows renters to book and unlock your car without you having to lift a finger,” adds McPhee.

Back in Manchester Maimuna Ndow is happy with the way that it’s all worked out: “You’re supported by a great customer service team, it’s good for the environment and it helps with paying for your car costs,” says Ndow.

“It’s a win-win situation."

Note: if you don't live in a Karshare area, there are other car sharing schemes around. Read reviews and research them before joining.