Car sharing is attracting a growing number of American drivers away from the burden of monthly car payments and rising gas prices. Car sharing companies continue to crop up around the country, pushing commuters to wonder — why own a car when I can share?
Zipcar was the first car sharing company to really capture the public’s eye. The company appeared at the turn of the new millennium and now has hundreds of thousands of members. Zipcar allows drivers to reserve Zipcars online or by phone and grants access to cars using cards and smartphone apps. Gas, parking, insurance, and maintenance fees are all included in the membership fee. Just return the car to where you got it when you’re done.
Car2Go takes a different approach to car sharing. Customers locate nearby cars using an app on their smartphone, drive it wherever they want within the company’s designated area, and leave it anywhere within that space. Another customer can locate the same car using their smartphone, and off they go. Customers are charged by the minute, the hour, or the day, depending on how long the trip is. For people who only drive occasionally or have short urban commutes, a car sharing bill at the end of the month can be easier to swallow than the price of a car payment, monthly insurance, and gas.
“People of my generation believed that our private automobile said a lot about who we are, that [it] defined our power and our status,” Jeffrey Tumlin of Nelson Nygaard, a transportation planning firm, told NPR. “The younger generations don’t seem to be buying into that anymore, and they are seeing automobiles as simply a tool.”
Car sharing isn’t for everyone, particularly the millions of Americans whose daily commutes are longer than ever before. Yet Zipcar and Car2Go are not the only prominent car sharing companies to sprout up in recent years. Like Car2Go, DriveNow allows drivers to share cars with others without having to return a car to its home location. There’s Quicar and Greenwheels. Even traditional car rental companies have entered the car sharing business. Hertz on Demand and Enterprise CarShare seek to cash in on the growing trend. Avis, the third largest rental car company, bought the world’s leading car sharing network just this year.
The economy’s bouncing back, but it is taking a different, sometimes unrecognizable, form. Not everyone wants a two story house on a suburban lot with a white picket fence. Previous generations might have felt too ashamed to share a car, but with the success of car sharing companies today, consumers are showing that owning a car is no longer a part of the American Dream.