Carsharing or car sharing (AU, CA, & US) or car clubs (UK) is a model of car rental where people rent cars for short periods of time, often by the hour. They are attractive to customers who make only occasional use of a vehicle, as well as others who would like occasional access to a vehicle of a different type than they use day-to-day. The organization renting the cars may be a commercial business or the users may be organized as a company, public agency, cooperative, or ad hoc grouping. Car sharing is part of a larger trend of shared mobility. Shared mobility includes all modes of travel that offer short-term access to transportation on an on-needed basis either for personal transportation or goods delivery[1].

Carsharing services are available in over 1,000 cities in several countries.[2]

As of December 2012, there were an estimated 1.7 million car-sharing members in 27 countries, including so-called peer-to-peer services, according to the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at U.C. Berkeley. Of these, 800,000 were car-sharing members in the United States.[3]

As of July 2017, car2go is the largest carsharing company in the world with 2,500,000 registered members and a fleet of nearly 14,000 vehicles in 26 locations in North America, Europe and Asia.[4], followed by Zipcar with 767,000 members and 11,000 vehicles [5].

According to Navigant Consulting, global carsharing services revenue will approach US$1 billion in 2013 and grow to US$6.2 billion by 2020, with over 12 million members worldwide. The main factors driving the growth of carsharing are the rising levels of congestion faced by city dwellers; shifting generational mindsets about car ownership; the increasing costs of personal vehicle ownership; and a convergence of business models.[6][7] Carsharing contributes to sustainable transport because it is a less car intensive means of urban transport, and according to The Economist, carsharing can reduce car ownership at an estimated rate of one rental car replacing 15 owned vehicles.[8]

International terminology

Hertz on Demand vehicles in designated parking area in Park Ridge, New Jersey

In the United Kingdom, where it is a recent development, the term "car clubs" is used for what in the United States is called "carsharing", "car sharing" or "car-sharing".[9] In the UK, "car sharing" refers to what is called "carpooling" or "ride sharing" in the US, namely the shared use of a car for a specific journey, in particular for commuting to work, often by people who each have a car but travel together to save costs;[10] in South Africa, this is called a "lift scheme". In the UK, a "car pool" refers to a fleet of cars made available by an organization to its employees (which is usually referred to as a "motor pool" in the US), for example to travel to customers or between different office locations.

In India, in contrast to the vast majority of the Indian car rental market that is defined by chauffeured-service, Indian people refer to car-sharing as "self-drive."[11]


Zipcar vehicle in downtown Washington, D.C.
Zipvan is popular in London
Enjoy car in Turin, Italy

Carsharing benefits individuals who can gain the benefits of private cars without having costs and responsibilities associated with car ownership.[12] Instead a household accesses a fleet of vehicles on an as-needed basis. Carsharing may be thought of as organized short-term car rental.[12]

Carsharing has sprung up in different parts of the world and operations are organized in many different ways in different places. Sizes of organizations vary from one shared car, and only a handful of sharers to organizations that serve a complete urban area.

Generally, carsharing programs can be qualified as one of four sharing types: Roundtrip, one-way, peer-to-peer, and fractional. In roundtrip carsharing, members begin and end their trip, often paying by the hour, mile, or both. One-way carsharing, on the other hand, enables members to begin and end their trip at different locations through free floating zones or station-based models with designated parking locations[13]. Peer-to-peer carsharing (sometimes referred to as Personal Vehicle Sharing[13]) operates similarly to roundtrip carsharing in trip and payment type; however, the vehicles themselves are typically privately owned or leased with the sharing system operated by a third-party. The fractional ownership model allows users to co-own a vehicle and share its costs and use[14].

Carsharing differs from traditional car rentals in the following ways:

  • Carsharing is not limited by office hours
  • Reservation, pickup, and return is all self-service
  • Vehicles can be rented by the minute, by the hour, as well as by the day
  • Users are members and have been pre-approved to drive (background driving checks have been performed and a payment mechanism has been established)
  • Vehicle locations are distributed throughout the service area, and often located for access by public transport.
  • Insurance: state minimum liability insurance (only $5000 in some states), comprehensive and collision insurance. They do not provide uninsured, under-insured or personal injury protection insurance.
  • Fuel costs are included in the rates.
  • Vehicles are not serviced (cleaning, fueling) after each use, although certain programs (such as Car2Go or GoGet) continuously clean and fuel their fleet

Some carshare operations (CSOs) cooperate with local car rental firms, in particular in situations wherein classic rental may be the cheaper option.

Carsharing can provide numerous transportation, land use, environmental, and social benefits.[15] Neighborhood carsharing is often promoted as an alternative to owning a car where public transit, walking, and cycling can be used most of the time and a car is only necessary for out-of-town trips, moving large items, or special occasions. It can also be an alternative to owning multiple cars for households with more than one driver. A long-term study of City CarShare members found that 30 percent of households that joined sold a car; others delayed purchasing one. Transit use, bicycling, and walking also increased among members.[16] A study of driving behavior of members from major carsharing organizations found an average decline in 27% of annual vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT).[17] That said, it is important to note that the success of carsharing programs depends on if it provides the consumers with "better mobility or sufficient mobility at reduced cost." [18]

Carsharing is generally not cost-effective for commuting to a full-time job on a regular basis. Most carsharing advocates, operators, and cooperating public agencies believe that those who do not drive daily or who drive less than 10,000 kilometers (about 6,200 statute miles) annually may find carsharing to be more cost-effective than car ownership.[19] But variations of 50% on this figure are reported by operators and others depending on local context.[citation needed] If occasional use of a shared vehicle costs significantly less than car ownership, then carsharing makes automobile use more accessible to low-income households.

Carsharing can also help reduce congestion and pollution. It is noted as a tool for achieving VMT and GHG reduction targets in the California Transport Plan (CTP) 2040[18]. Replacing private automobiles with shared ones directly reduces demand for parking spaces. The fact that only a certain number of cars can be in use at any one time may reduce traffic congestion at peak times. Even more important for congestion, the strong metering of costs provides a cost incentive to drive less. With owned automobiles many expenses are sunk costs and thus independent of how much the car is driven (such as original purchase, insurance, registration, and some maintenance).[20]

Successful carsharing development has tended to be associated mainly with densely populated areas, such as city centers and more recently university and other campuses. There are some programs (mostly in Europe) for providing services in lower density and rural areas.[citation needed] Low-density areas are considered more difficult to serve with carsharing because of the lack of alternative modes of transportation and the potentially larger distance that users must travel to reach the cars.

People who have joined carsharing tend to sell either their primary, secondary, or another off-hand car, after using the service. This reduces the cost of transportation per month by an average of $135 – $435, based on University of Berkeley's Research in 2008.[21]


The technology of CSOs varies enormously, from simple manual systems using key boxes and log books to increasingly complex computer-based systems (e.g. partially automated and fully automated systems) with supporting software packages that handle a growing array of back office functions.[22] The simplest CSOs have only one or two pick-up points, but more advanced systems allow cars to be picked up and dropped off at any available public parking space within a designated operating area.

While differing markedly in their objectives, size, business models, levels of ambition, technology and target markets, these programs do share many features. The more established operations usually require a check of past driving records and a monthly or annual fee in order to become a member. The cost and maximum time a car may be used also varies.

To make a reservation, one can either make a reservation online, by phone, or by text messages depending on the company’s flexibility. There is a higher chance of availability the earlier the reservation is. If a reservation is cancelled however, one may still be charged.

Once the reservations are completed and confirmed, the car will then be delivered at the time and place scheduled. There will be a small card reader mounted on the windshield. Once the customer places their membership card on the reader, it will use what is called blink technology to activate the time and unlock the car. The reader will not work until it is time for that specific reservation. The keys can then be found somewhere inside the car such as the glove compartment. Depending on the company, the customer may be provided with a key to a lock box that contains the ignition key itself. Once the customer is set, they are off to their next destination.[23]

Although members are often responsible for cleaning the car and filling up the tank when low, the car sharing company is generally responsible for the long-term maintenance of the vehicles. Members have to make sure that when they are finished, the car is ready for the next user to move on.[24]

Uhaul Car Share off-street drop/pick up area on Shattuck Avenue, Berkely, California


Car2Go Smart EDs electric cars charging in Amsterdam
Autolib' all-electric Bolloré Bluecars at a pick-up charging station in Paris
Peugeot iOn electric car from Ibilek carsharing service in Bilbao, Spain
Zipcar plug-in converted Toyota Prius recharging at a reserved public charging station in front of San Francisco City Hall
DriveNow operates with BMW ActiveE electric cars in the San Francisco Bay Area
EvCard car in Haikou

The first reference to carsharing in print identifies the Selbstfahrergenossenschaft carshare program in a housing cooperative that got underway in Zürich in 1948,[25][26] but there was no known formal development of the concept in the next few years. By the 1960s, as innovators, industrialists, cities, and public authorities studied the possibility of high-technology transportation—mainly computer-based small vehicle systems (almost all of them on separate guideways)—it was possible to spot some early precursors to present-day service ideas and control technologies.

The early 1970s saw the first whole-system carshare projects. The ProcoTip system in France lasted only about two years. A much more ambitious project called the Witkar was launched in Amsterdam by the founders of the 1965 white bicycles project. A sophisticated project based on small electric vehicles, electronic controls for reservations and return, and plans for a large number of stations covering the entire city, the project endured into the mid-1980s before finally being abandoned.

In July, 1977, the first official British experiment in carsharing started in Suffolk. An office in Ipswich provided a Share-a-Car service for "putting motorists who are interested in sharing car journeys in touch with each other."[27] In 1978, the Agricultural Research Council granted the University of Leeds £16,577 "for an investigation and simulation of car sharing".[28] The scheme was not intended for different drivers of a single car but for a driver offering seats in his car (Real-time ridesharing).

The 1980s and first half of the 1990s was a "coming of age" period for carsharing, with continued slow growth, mainly of smaller non-profit systems, many in Switzerland and Germany, but also on a smaller scale in Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the United States.[29]

Carsharing in NA was founded in Quebec City in 1994 by Benoît Robert, with a company called Communauto that is still a leader in car sharing globally. Cycling advocate and environmentalist Claire Morissette (1950–2007) played a major role in its evolution starting in 1995, when Communauto established itself in Montreal as a private company. The company goal is to provide a convenient and economical alternative to owning a car.

Zipcar, Flexcar (bought by Zipcar in 2007), and City Car Club were all started in 2000. Several car rental companies launched their own car sharing services beginning in 2008, including Avis On Location by Avis, Hertz on Demand (formerly known as Connect by Hertz[30]), operating in the U.S. and Europe; Uhaul Car Share owned by U-Haul, and WeCar by Enterprise Rent-A-Car.[31] By 2010, when various peer-to-peer carsharing systems were introduced. As of September 2012[5] Zipcar accounted for 80% of the U.S car sharing market[31][32] and half of all car-sharers worldwide[33] with 730,000 members sharing 11,000 vehicles.

Carsharing has also spread to the developing world (Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and Turkey) because population density is often a critical determinant of success for carsharing, and developing nations often have dense urban populations.[34]

Many building developers are now incorporating share-cars into their developments as an added value to tenants, and municipal government bodies around the world are starting to stipulate the implementation of a carsharing service in new buildings, as a sustainability initiative. These trends have created a demand for a new model of carsharing - residential, private-access share-cars that are typically underwritten by the Homeowner association.[citation needed]

Handicapped accessibility

Adapting carsharing vehicles to persons with physical disabilities presents special challenges not faced by traditional car rental. With car sharing no mechanic is present to install or adjust adaptive equipment, and that equipment is left unattended after each use. In 2008, City CarShare introduced the first wheelchair carrying car share vehicle, the Access Mobile, specifically designed as a fleet vehicle shared with, not segregated from, non-wheelchair users.


Car sharing operators are increasingly opting to brand parts of their fleets with third-party advertising in order to increase revenue and improve competitiveness. Transit media, as this out-of-home advertising medium is referred to, is a strategy currently (or soon to be) employed by larger car sharing operators such, Canada's AutoShare and the UK's City Car Club.

For future applications, many car sharing companies are now investing in plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV). With the use of these types of vehicles, cost of gas consumption can be greatly reduced. Since most customers do not need the vehicle for long amounts of time or distance, it gives the car sharing company time to collect and recharge these vehicles for additional use. This application can greatly reduce carbon emissions and improve city environments. Another innovation is to calculate and compensate all emissions on behalf of your drivers according to the Kyoto protocol, e.g. via reforestation schemes. The world´s first certified carbon neutral car sharing service is Respiro car sharing in Madrid.[35]

Also, car sharing can be considered as an example of a technological change in consumption, which is a ‘process of mutual adjustment between innovation and its socio-economic environment.’ This type of innovation poses much potential due to the current state of technological change based on today’s passenger transportation capabilities.[36]

Other countries are already moving into designing concept cars that is solely based as an urban public vehicle. The Phiaro P70t Conch, Japan’s new concept vehicle, is a completely battery-powered, three-seater vehicle which was designed for the purpose of car sharing. The vehicle was made to be small and compact enough to be driven around urban environments without sacrificing parking.[37] The promotion of these kinds of concept vehicles have caught the attention of automotive companies worldwide.

In Germany a pilot project has been started by the semiconductor manufacturer Infineon to replace regular pool vehicles with a corporate carsharing system.[38] Corporate carsharing is a more economical solution than company cars in regard to administration, travel and running expenses and maintenance.

Along with EVs, one of the most important technological innovations to affect the carsharing market is self-driving cars. It is expected that most self-driving vehicles won't be owned by individuals, but will rather be shared. Some companies, like Ernst and Young, have also started to use blockchain technology to record ownership, usage of shared vehicles and insurance information.[39]


The amount of insurance provided greatly varies among companies, but all carsharing firms provide insurance that at least meets the legal minimum requirements for the given region of operation.[citation needed] However, critics such as Rob Lieber of The New York Times has criticized firms such as Zipcar for the paltry coverage afforded carsharing drivers.[40]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ "What is Shared Mobility?". Shared Use Mobility Center. Retrieved 2017-09-09. 
  2. ^ "One Thousand World Carshare Cities in 2009". World Carshare Consortium. Archived from the original on 4 February 2016. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  3. ^ Steinberg, Stephanie; Vlasic, Bill (25 January 2013). "Car-Sharing Services Grow, and Expand Options". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  4. ^ "car2go Crosses Two Million Global Member Milestone". 
  5. ^ a b "Zipcar Reports 2012 Third Quarter Results" (Press release). Ir.zipcar.com. 8 November 2012. Archived from the original on 22 January 2013. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  6. ^ Martin, Richard (22 August 2013). "Carsharing Services Will Surpass 12 Million Members Worldwide by 2020". Navigant Consulting. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  7. ^ Navigant Research (22 August 2013). "Navigant forecasts global carsharing services to grow to $6.2B by 2020". Green Car Congress. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  8. ^ "Seeing the back of the car". The Economist. 22 September 2012. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  9. ^ "West Sussex County Council: Car clubs". West Sussex County Council. 11 December 2015. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  10. ^ "Car hire and car clubs - Driving your car". Which? Car. 2014. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  11. ^ Bergen, Mark (8 August 2013). "Indian Drivers Attract Larry Summers". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 14 November 2015. 
  12. ^ a b Shaheen, Susan; Sperling, Daniel; Wagner, Conrad (Summer 1998). "Carsharing in Europe and North America: Past, Present, and Future" (PDF). Transportation Quarterly. pp. 35–52. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  13. ^ a b Shaheen, Susan; Chan, Nelson; Bansal, Apaar; Cohen, Adam (November 2015). "Shared Mobility: Definitions, Industry Developments, and Early Understanding" (PDF). Innovative Mobility Research. 
  14. ^ Martin, Elliot; Shaheen, Susan (July 2016). "The Impacts of Car2go on Vehicle Ownership, Modal Shift, Vehicle Miles Traveled, and Greenhouse Gas Emissions: An Analysis of Five North American Cities". Innovative Mobility Research. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 2016. 
  15. ^ Shaheen, Susan A.; Cohen, Adam P.; Chung, Mellisa S. "North American Carsharing: 10-Year Retrospective". Transportation Research Record. 2010: 35–44. Retrieved 14 November 2015. 
  16. ^ Cervero, Robert; Golub, Aaron; Nee, Brendan (2007). "City CarShare: Longer-Term Travel Demand and Car Ownership Impacts". Institute of Urban and Regional Development University of California at Berkeley. Retrieved 14 November 2015. 
  17. ^ Shaheen, S.; Martin, E.; Lidicker, J. (2010). "Impact of Carsharing Household Vehicle Holdings". Transportation Research Record. 2143: 150–158. doi:10.3141/2143-19. Retrieved 14 November 2015. 
  18. ^ a b Shaheen, Susan; Chan, Nelson; Bansal, Apaar; Cohen, Adam. "Shared Mobility: Definitions, Industry Developments, and Early Understanding" (PDF). Innovative Mobility Research. 
  19. ^ "Bringing Carsharing to your Community" (PDF). City Car Share. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  20. ^ https://groups.yahoo.com/group/WorldCarShare/files/%20Research%2C%20resources/ (registration required)
  21. ^ Pisani, Joseph (4 December 2009). "Car Sharing Takes Off". CNBC. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  22. ^ Shaheen, Susan A.; Cohen, Adam P.; Roberts, J. Darious (2005). "Carsharing in North America: Market Growth, Current Developments, and Future Potential". Transportation Research Record. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  23. ^ Toothman, Jessika (16 May 2008). "How Car Sharing Works". howstuffworks. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  24. ^ Weston, Liz Pulliam (2009). "Should You Share a Car?". MSN Money. Archived from the original on 10 February 2009. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  25. ^ "The CarSharing Handbook (Part 1)". Rain Magazine. Archived from the original on 20 July 2007. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  26. ^ Shaheen, Susan; Sperling, Daniel; Wagner, Conrad (1998). "Carsharing in Europe and North America: Past, Present and Future" (PDF). 52 (3). Transportation Quarterly: 35–52. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 March 2012. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  27. ^ Young, Robin (19 July 1977). "Experiment in car-sharing". The Times. p. 2. 
  28. ^ The Times, 15 February 1978, p. 12
  29. ^ Shaheen, Susan; Sperling, Daniel; Wagner, Conrad (September 1999). "A Short History of Carsharing in the 90's". Journal of World Transport Policy & Practice. Archived from the original on 7 February 2016. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  30. ^ Loveday, Eric (20 July 2011). "Hertz on Demand is a bit like ZipCar without membership fees". Autoblog Green. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  31. ^ a b Belson, Ken (10 September 2010). "Car Sharing: Ownership by the Hour". New York Times. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  32. ^ "Wheels when you need them". The Economist. 2 September 2010. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  33. ^ "The connected car". The Economist. 4 June 2009. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  34. ^ Dhingra, Chhavi; Stanich, Rebecca (28 May 2013). "Car-Sharing Picking Up Speed in the Developing World". Sustainable Cities Collective. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  35. ^ Green, Caryn (16 September 2009). "Car-Sharing – Good for the Environment and the Budget". Organic Green and Natural. Archived from the original on 1 March 2012. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  36. ^ Prettenhaler, Franz E.; Steininger, Karl W. (March 1999). "From Ownership to Service Use Lifestyle: The Potential of Car Sharing". Ecological Economics. 28 (3): 443–453. doi:10.1016/S0921-8009(98)00109-8. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  37. ^ English, Andrew (1 October 2009). "Tokyo Motor Show: Phiaro". The Telegraph. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  38. ^ Bartsche, Alina (9 October 2012). "How to Cut Costs Through Carsharing". CFO Insight. Archived from the original on 12 October 2012. Retrieved 6 February 2016. 
  39. ^ "EY debuts blockchain technology in car sharing and other news". 1 September 2017. 
  40. ^ Lieber, Ron (April 22, 2011). "Consider the Worst Case With Zipcar". The New York Times. 

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