car sharing is to care…

Posted on September 18th, 2011

This week in Sunday Life I car share

Photo by Charlotte Abramow

I own a power drill. It has moved house with me – shifting from one shelf under the sink to the next – three times. And you know how many times I’ve used it in our five years together? Twice. Which is normal apparently. The average drill emerges from under the sink for 12 minutes in its lifetime.

This sad statistic confirms a festering sentiment out there in the world: owning stuff is annoying and increasingly cluttery and inefficient. It’s like that itchy jumper you had to wear as a kid. It scratches at you incessantly, prompting a violent desire to strip.

But buying stuff is only a fraction of the equation. The real pain is living with it – storing the waffle maker in the bulging corner cupboard, servicing the lawnmower, packing up the Barbie campervan when you move house. And how can I explain it…it’s also the way it all just sits there idle, making you feel guilty like a dog needing a walk.

As Rachel Bosman author of What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption said when we spoke via email this week, “you don’t need to own a drill, you just need a hole in the wall…so borrow the drill, don’t own one”. Beautifully put. And indeed neighbourhood share schemes are popping up everywhere – in Australia there’s The Sharehood and Landshare, which launched in February and connects people wanting to grow veggies with folk who have a spare patch.

In March, sharing – instead of owning – was dubbed one of Time magazine’s Ten Ideas That Will Change the World. Since then much as been made of our itch to “live light”. Bosman confirms it’s not (just) an ethical or environmental crusade. It goes deeper than that.

This week I gave the concept a crack by signing up for car sharing, mostly because I find owning a car incredibly annoying. I also find this statistic staggering: on average we use our cars 8 per cent of the week. The rest of the time they hang about idle accumulating duco damage and parking tickets (at least mine does).

On Monday I joined GoGet, a scheme started in 2003 that has grown to a fleet of 600 cars used by 12,000 members around Australia. I was sent a security swipe and entered a lovely share-y world of “pods” (each car has it’s own parking spot; you might have seen them around town – in premium positions and free) and community decision-making (even the voice used for the tele-prompting service is voted on by members). There are few rules – we’re asked, if we don’t mind, to fill the car using a supplied credit card if the tank goes below a quarter.

And somehow it works.

I did the sums. Hiring a GoGet costs about $7 per hour including petrol and insurance. If you drive twice a week, as I do, it’ll cost you about $200 per month versus $800 a month to maintain your own. As the car manufacturing slumps, the car share business is estimated to be worth $12.5 billion worldwide, with car companies now investing in schemes.

As I drove “Derek the Hyundai” and “Stephen the Prius” around town this week I had two thoughts. First, share schemes totally stick it to the cynics who say the internet is killing connection. I have utter faith in our ability to correct pendulum swings. And look if we aren’t doing exactly that with this nascent trend. Sure we’re all working solo on our laptops to all hours. But now we can do it in share offices, like Melbourne’s The Hub, drinking bottled beer with strangers on a time-share basis. We’re connecting with like-styled folk on clothingexchange and sharing our books generously via bookcrossing.com. *

This style of consuming also sticks it to George Bush who was re-elected in 2004 declaring the supremacy of the “ownership society”. “The more ownership there is in America, the more vitality,” he said. How wrong could he have been?! Actually, that’s too vast a question to tackle here.

The other musing: this “less stuff used more often” thing makes us nicer. I was thrilled as other GoGetters waved to me as I passed them throughout the week. And as I dropped Derek off to his pod I double-checked I’d left him clean for the next user. I wanted to play nicely, to be a good sharer. As Time wrote: “We yearn to trust and be trusted”. We also yearn to help – drilling holes in walls for neighbours – and connect, far more than we yearn to own a power drill.

Also check out these other schemes….and please add more of your own below…or any sharing ideas you have.

  • Parkatmyplace.com.uk – has a range of parking options in people’s garages or driveways
  • Yours2share.com – specialises in expensive holiday homes, horses, planes and boats
  • Airbnb.com – offers travellers private accommodation around the world.
  • LandshareAustralia.com.au – matches people with excess land with people who need gardens.
  • Drivemycarrentals.com.au – has private vehicles across the country for rent
  • Givit.org.au – is a charity swap based in South-East Queensland, matching people’s excess goods with those who need them.
  • Bookcrossing.com – encourages people to leave books lying around for others to pick up and read. It tracks books across the world as they are picked up by travellers.
  • Rentoid.com (where you can rent out your drill!) and Drivemycar Rentals (peer-to-peer car rental)

Also check out these 7 ways to have more by owning less

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  • shanna

    What a great idea! Less purchasing, more sharing. There are so many things I don’t need, and I do clean things out and donate to charity. But really, some of the items, why buy in the first place? I also find the library to be wonderful, because there are so many books that I will only read once, no need to buy.

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  • Mia

    Great article Sarah! Every bit as good as the Witch one. Ha!

    I love living light. I loving being able to move house by throwing everything except my bed in the back of my car. I dont own a drill. I share a laptop. Whatever possessions and “ownership” are meant to do, I dont think they do very well, because I am MUCH happier when I have less shit. Disproportionately so. Even without taking into account how much more money I have for travel.

    Car sharing sounds awesome! I am happy with my 1989 model $1K bomb, which rarely breaks down and costs almost nothing to run. But if I were to ever move to a bigger city where this is feasible I would definitely look into it!

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  • http://www.openshed.com.au Lisa Fox

    Great article Sarah. Thanks for sharing your Go Get experience and getting the word out there about collaborative consumption. Its great to read that you so quickly felt part of a community – the GoGetter community, that waves to one another!

    I am currently developing a peer-to-peer rental site (Open Shed) with my partner. Our vision is to create a secure and reliable community marketplace that will help Australians live a more resourceful and sustainable life.

    It been recently estimated that the average Australian has $3772 in unused goods. That’s $43b worth of stuff stashed away in sheds across Oz – think of all that renting potential!!

    http://www.openshed.com.au will go live in early October 2011 and will be the place for Australians to rent each other’s stuff with confidence. Our site’s feature include flexible location, private messaging, PayPal, bond and reputation system – you can read more about these features on our blog http://goo.gl/G66jM.

    If you are interested in learning more about Open Shed and the community we want to build, you can check out:
    * our face book page http://www.facebook.com/openshed
    * twitter @openshed

    Cheers!

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  • Grace

    *idle*

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  • http://themindfulfoodie.com Lesh

    Fab article, Sarah. I like the sound of clothing exchange :-) (PS: the Sharehood link doesn’t seem to be working).

    Cheers,

    Lesh

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    Bern Alexander Reply:

    Hi Lesh,
    just letting you know that I have recently launched http://www.findauniform.com.au for uniform buying, selling, exchanging – plus equipment and textbooks. Would love for you to take a look :)
    cheers
    Bern

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  • Jason

    Um, how does it cost $800 a month to maintain your own car? Cheers.

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    Alex Reply:

    I wondered the same and did a bit of research. Have a read of the following which might explain a bit more.

    And I’m guessing Sarah might drive an SUV to be spending this type of money per week (including parking fines). No wonder the $200 GoGet seems like such a bargin.

    http://www.drive.com.au/Editorial/ArticleDetail.aspx?ArticleID=62678&vf=1

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    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    I don’t drive an SUV…$800 is inclusive of rego, insurance, depreciation AND the cost of the car itself spread of the time of ownership.

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  • Amy

    $800 per month to run a car is just plain wrong – maybe made up to justify goget?

    I spend about $300 a month on my car when including petrol, rego, insurance and servicing. I get the car 24/7 too and don’t have to wait for a car to become free. What about attending parties or a wedding? Late night social events?

    $200 for 2 uses per week vs $300 for unlimited uses at any hour hardly seems money well spent. Nice idea but simply not practical or money wise in my view.

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  • Ella

    A great idea!
    There is a web site, which was developed using the same concept.
    http://rentgenie.com.au
    The idea behind the web site is that people can post things (ads) for rent or hire and make some extra money on things lying around in their homes un-used, or they can post Wanted ads if they require something they need to rent. e.g. Boat, Jet ski, Car trailer, etc…
    The web site has many categories from Antiques and Fitness equipment to Real estate. It is FREE to post an ad on the web site and it a great way to help people to rent out their things to other people and for other people to rent things they might not want to buy outright (or at all).

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  • Hilary

    Love your coloum each week. Please check your spell check twice idle has been slept idol!!

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    Mel Reply:

    Ditto Hilary

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    danika Reply:

    ha ha, *column*.. *spelt*. perhaps use your spell check also..

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    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    On the idol/idle front. Thanks for the pick up.

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  • Bella Matthews

    The last paragraph of this article made me think of the prayer of St. Francis, which I always remember hearing during my Catholic upbringing. Although I wouldn’t consider myself religious anymore, it’s still a beautiful sentiment:

    Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
    To be understood, as to understand;
    To be loved, as to love.

    It’s a surprising part of human nature how much we long to be kind and nurturing and sharing with others…

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  • Stephanie

    I really love this idea. In Canada, a similar car sharing sheme started up in 1994 in Quebec City to deal with the fact that the centre city, being a world heritage site and full of cobbled streets, did not accomodate much parking. I’ve actually never owned a car (I rent when I infrequently need one), which makes me a bit “weird’ in North America (I’m 41). I like it. I’ve always thought that owning a car is wasteful I have lots of better ways to make my money productive for me. Love the idea of sharing everyday items with neighbours!!

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  • Stephanie

    Sorry – spelling: accommodate. Also want to say that I’m very impressed with the “givit” organization!

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  • http://www.chitchatmedia.com.au Kirsten

    Fabulous article! Check out http://www.meemeep.com as well. They are another great spare capacity start-up launching in October, connecting people on the move with people with stuff to move.

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  • Sarah

    Great article Sarah. A good friend of mine is currently developing a site call Open Shed (www.openshed.com.au), which will be a place where you can rent of your stuff to people in your community. I think it will be live in a couple of weeks so look out for it everyone.

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  • http://www.jacintafleur.com Jacinta

    I so wish Go Get would rent to P Platers, I’m just about to buy a car so that my partner and I can learn to drive. Sadly, we have to own a car for 3 years before we can use great schemes like this

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  • https://www.findauniform.com.au Bern Alexander

    Hi Sarah, great article – love all the links for collaborative consumption. My friend just had her car stolen – rather than replacing straight away, has been using Go Get and gets great inner city car parking as well!

    I have a recently launched site for uniforms and equipment – http://www.findauniform.com.au – an online second hand uniform noticeboard. Mission: to make second hand uniforms as available as wearing uniforms is compulsory!

    Share Clothing: According to the EPA, an estimated 12.7 million tons of textiles were generated in 2009, but only 13.8 percent of clothing and footwear and 17.1 percent of items such as sheets and pillowcases were recovered for export or recycling. More importantly, how many garments are taking up room in your closet, even though it’s been years since they were worn? (courtesy http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/09/5-ways-to-reduce-waste-through-sharing–beth-buczynski/)

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  • Trevor Otto

    Hi Sarah,

    You are a great gal, posting these sharing sites info can really make the world a better place (sweeter place maybe ?),

    Regards, Trevor

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  • http://www.dng.com/member/365058 family home

    WONDERFUL Post.appreciate you share..more wait .. …

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