Sustainable America Blog

Car Sharing Beyond Uber and Lyft

People standing beside their Maven car share

GM's Maven car sharing service features an app-based key system


Ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft have gotten their fair share of attention lately, and their popularity and controversies have overshadowed other car-sharing models in the emerging sharing space. A variety of app-driven companies are working to use technology to meet our personal transportation needs. When used in conjunction with a ride-hailing service and local public transportation and bike-sharing services, it’s becoming possible for more and more people to go car-free. Here’s a look at the options, including a few you might not have heard of yet:

Fleet-Based Car Sharing
A group of car-sharing companies offer access to a shared fleet of vehicles, similar to traditional rental car companies, but they are designed to better service car-less urban dwellers’ day-to-day driving needs and weekend trips. This means they are more conveniently located and can be rented by the hour, and in a few cases, even by the minute. Here’s a comparison of the main players:

ZipCar: Serves the most geographic areas; wide range of vehicle types; one-hour minimum; must return car where you picked it up. Subsidiary of Avis Budget Group.

Car2Go: Offered in 11 North American cities; three Mercedes-Benz vehicle options; rent by the minute, hour or day; can leave it in any legal street spot in your city’s “home” zone. Owned by Mercedes-Benz.

Enterprise CarShare: Offered in 23 North American cities and at more than 130 U.S. college campuses, wide range of vehicle types, rent hourly or daily, must return car where you picked it up.

ReachNow: Offered in Seattle, Portland and Brooklyn; BMW and MINI vehicles only; rent by the minute, hour or day; can leave it in any legal street spot in your city’s “home” zone. Owned by BMW.

Maven: Offered in 17 U.S. cities; GM vehicles only; rent by 30-minute increments; app-based key system; return car where you picked it up; one-way trips in select cities. Owned by GM.

Coming soon: BlueLA will offer a network of shared electric vehicles at self-service locations in low-income areas of Los Angeles.

Peer-to-Peer Car Sharing
Often compared to Airbnb, these companies make it possible for car owners to rent their vehicles to nearby customers when they’re not using them. It’s a way for car owners to make a little money on a depreciating asset and drivers to find wheels right in their neighborhoods, or even at an airport they’re flying into. (Like Airbnb, however, renting personal property can come with some issues.)

Turo: Available in 4,500 U.S. cities and at more than 300 airports; rent by the day or week; doorstep pick-up and drop-off, owners earn 75% of rental fee.

Getaround: Offered in 8 cities, rent by the hour or day; remote unlocking and tracking system, owners earn 60% of rental fee.

TravelCar: This five-year-old French airport car-sharing company just launched services at Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International. Fliers park for free and offer their cars for rent while they travel. If the car is rented, the owner gets a small cut of the rental price.

Services like these are one piece in the evolving transportation puzzle, and could help lower emissions by helping eliminate the need for ownership for some or make going to from a 2-car family to a 1-car family possible. A study of Car2Go users by the University of California, Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center (TRSC) found that users decreased their greenhouse gas emission by 10% on average, and each car2go vehicle removed between 7 to 11 vehicles from the road.

Take a look at car sharing in your area, and you might be surprised at the options. Even smaller cities are getting on board. Indianapolis has BlueIndy, an electric car-sharing service, and nonprofit car-sharing organizations operate in Vermont, Ithaca, N.Y, the Twin Cities and more. You can even start your own car-sharing club.

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