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A Guide to Car Clubs

Sean O'Meara 19/02/2013 09:05:03

A Guide to Car Clubs

Tax, insurance, breakdown cover, maintenance and depreciation - these are all costs that you, the car owner, will incur regardless of how often you drive. For many car owners, the expense of owning a car in no way correlates to the amount of use. If you are one of the many drivers who keeps a car on the drive, only to use it for the weekly shop and occasional trips out, you may be better off getting rid of your motor and joining a car club instead.

Car clubs provide many of the benefits of car ownership, minus the fixed overheads. Paying an annual membership and then stumping up only when you use the car is often far cheaper than covering the costs associated with car ownership.

Car Clubs Compared


City Car Club

Zip Car

Common Wheels

Annual Fee

£60 (Van and Car)


£25 (+£150 deposit if not using Direct Debit)

Weekday Hourly Rate

From £5.20 (£8.20 for van)

From £5

From £3.45

Weekend Hourly Rate

From £5.20 (£8.20 for van)

From £6

From £3.45

Extended Usage Rate

From £42 (£72 for Van)

From £49 per day, £55 at the weekend

Daily £27.50, weekend £55 Week £137.50

Mileage Charge

22p per mile

First 40 free, then 25p per mile

21p per mile


Bath, Birmingham, Brighton, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Huddersfield, Leeds, London, Manchester, Sheffield, Southampton and York.

Bristol, Cambridge, London, Maidstone, Oxford, Canada and USA

No fixed locations


Range includes Fiesta, hybrid Prius, Zafira to VW Transporter - all economical

Models vary from location, but range includes Polo, Golf, BMW 3 series and people carriers

All cars are privately owned and subject to change.


Is a Car Club Membership Right for Me?

If the below description sounds familiar, then a car club would probably save you money.

  • You live in or near a large city.
  • You don't drive to work every day.
  • You use the car mainly for short, local trips such as shopping.
  • You have good access to public transport.
  • You rarely make short notice, long distance journeys by car.
  • You want to keep your carbon footprint down.

The key benefit of a car club is that you maintain almost all of the benefits of car ownership, but pay only for usage. Convenience and cost are the key factors. The cars are located at city and suburban destinations all over the UK, so you can access a vehicle regardless of whether you're at home or travelling.

Other Benefits

In order to qualify for the government support required to operate car club schemes, car club cars are typically very green. Most use new cars known for high economy and low emissions.

By using a car club, you are reducing demand for new cars. Since you are sharing the car with other users, the carbon footprint of car manufacture is split between all of you.

Car club cars have dedicated parking spaces dotted around the country, so if you've ever struggled to find a space for your car or currently pay for on street parking, a car club membership solves this problem.

Since the cars are owned by the car club, they are well maintained and serviced, meaning the chances of break down are lower than in a privately owned car. Additionally, fuel costs are likely to be lower than older cars, so you'll save on that too. If you do breakdown, just call the number on the smart card and you'll either be given a lift to your destination or to the destination of another car, at no extra charge.

How Does a Car Club Work?

Car clubs, such as City Car Club (formerly Whizzgo) and Zip Car (which now owns Street Car) operate an hourly rental fee structure, so you only pay for what you use.

You are issued a smart card as part of your membership. When you want a car, simply log into the membership area of your car club's website and reserve your selected vehicle, or do it by phone.

Swipe the smart card across the reader on the windscreen to unlock the car, then punch in the pass code to retrieve the keys from the glove box. Now you're ready to start your journey.

The car is fitted with a tracker so your mileage and period of hire is logged. Insurance and tax are included in the hourly fee. When you return the car and replace the keys, the journey is logged and you are billed monthly for the previous month's use.

As well as the hourly fee, you pay per mile for petrol. This is added to your bill. If you need to fill up, you can use the swipe card at a variety of selected petrol stations. If you can't find a suitable petrol station, the you can pay yourself and get a refund from the car club.

Community car sharing clubs such as Whip Car and Common Wheels differ slightly. Cars are privately owned, but must be well maintained to qualify for membership. You pay per hour, via a website or Direct Debit, but the club only takes a cut. These schemes enable you to borrow cars or earn money from your own.

Wouldn't I Be Better Off Just Hiring a Car When I Need One?

That depends on your lifestyle. Car hire - with the exception of Hertz on Demand -  is almost exclusively done on a per day rate, rather than per hour. If you currently own a car, the chances are you use it at least intermittently. Car hire typically suits those of us who don't own or need a car, but occasionally want a vehicle for one off trips to remote locations.

The major downside of hiring car, aside from the expense, is that you need to book in advance and then travel to pick the car up. You need to pay a deposit, take I.D, proof of address, both parts of your licence and return the car before a specified time.


Sean O'Meara is editor of


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