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City Car Share: A Budget Friendly Alternative to Buying a Car

Kimberly Griffiths -- Whether for students or professionals, car sharing operations (CSOs), also known as City Car Share, carshare, or auto share, is becoming a budget friendly and environmentally friendly alternative to buying your own car.

"I don't want to buy another car! Between the car insurance, car maintenance, and gasoline, I'm spending thousands of dollars every year." exclaims my friend Bob.

During our conversation we talked about the annual cost of a car. Here were some of our observations:

Insurance runs approximately $1,000 per year depending on your driving record, age, and geographical location.

If you kept a $20,000 car for 10 years, the car itself runs you $2,000 each year. Now, Bob and I may be a bit more frugal than most, so figure the average car owner keeps their car for five years equating to $4,000 per year.

Gasoline prices are outrageous. Let's assume $40 per week for 52 weeks, which comes to $2,080 each year.

Oil changes and maintenance are hard to average, but let's assume at least $1,000 per year but obviously this could run into the thousands. In total, for our purposes, we can estimate that the average consumer spends roughly $6,080 - $8,080 per year for a car!

YIKES! That's a lot of money when you consider you are probably using the car 10-15 hours per week. On the high-end, using our estimates above, that works out to approximately $22 a day ($8,080 / 365 days a year). Wow, that's a lot of money for a car. Ask yourself this question, what percentage of your salary are you spending the luxury of owning a car, 10%? 20%? 40%?

Enter the alternative, Carsharing. Unlike car pooling, you aren't riding with other people in the car. This program is a cooperative of jointly owned users. The origins of car sharing came from western Europe where they have been perfecting a system to counteract the extreme expense of owning a car. I often think of carsharing like a timeshare, but instead of owning a piece of real estate, you're owning the right to use a car.

If you live in a city which offers a car share service, you may be able to take advantage of a city car share program.

Here are a few requirements of participating in most car share programs:

-- You must be 21 years of age or older;
-- You have had a driver's license for at least one year;
-- You haven't had any major violations in the last three years;
-- You haven't had alcohol violations in the last seven years;
-- You have had no more than two incidents including moving violations in the last 18 months;
-- You live in a city that offers a car share program.

The advantages of a car share program include:

-- You can reserve a car by the day or by the hour (rates are around $5 per hour and $55 per day. Additional per mile charges are assessed when you drive over 100 miles);
-- You don't have to pay for gas, insurance, or maintenance as it is included in your membership fee (usually around $20 - $50 per year);
-- You can share a car as often or as infrequent as you like;
-- No monthly subscription fees.

The disadvantages to car share are:

-- You have to be sure that the company you use has plenty of cars available;
-- You need to plan ahead and reserve the time you'll need a car. Each program varies, but most of the time it is self-service reservations, pickup and drop off;
-- You may not drive the same car every time;
-- You will need to provide your own baby seats;
-- Not all cities in the USA have a city carshare program

If you are planning a vacation which will require a car rental, whether it be with Hertz, National, Enterprise, Avis, or the like, consider joining a car share program before you leave. If the city where you are traveling has a car share operation, you may save yourself hundreds of dollars in car rental fees! This must be the car rental deal of a lifetime. Talk about cheap car rental prices. You can understand why the car share programs are becoming very popular on campuses throughout the USA.

Typically when you join a CSO, you can use the car throughout the USA and Canada, but it's important to become very educated about the rules and regulations as each CSO is different.

Visit some of the following sites for more details:

-- City CarShare
-- ZipCar
-- CarSharing
-- FlexCar

Happy and Safe driving!

One Paycheck at a Time Inc. is the leading source for sensible debt reduction solutions. Its products include the One Paycheck at a Time paperback (ISBN: 1591133327), as well as an ebook format, and the eTools program. The author of the book and president of the company, Kimberly A. Griffiths, has been through the vicious cycle of debt herself and has made it her personal goal to share her experience to help others. More information can be found about the company and its products at www.onePaycheckataTime.com.

© 2007 Kimberly A. Griffiths

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