Transport Self-help kit: Providing transport services to your community

How to set up a car club

Introduction

A car club consists of one or more ‘pool cars’ which members can hire, as and when they need to make a journey. Vehicles can be hired for an hour, day, a weekend or longer. It gives members the flexibility of using a car, without the costs associated with buying and maintaining one.

The car clubs usually own or lease the cars and hire them out to their members. Members pay an annual fee and per hour/mile rate when they use the cars. The club covers the cost of the insurance, tax, servicing and fuel. Members book the use of the car and pick up the keys from a central key safe.

Case Study: Hour Car, Hebden Bridge

Hour Car is a not-for-profit community car club in the Calder Valley, West Yorkshire. The organisation was formed in 2001, with the car club becoming active in 2004, after the completion of two feasibility studies.  Initially the scheme was started with two cars, but has since expanded and currently operates a fleet of six vehicles which are shared by its 66 members.

Kevin Hogan, Scheme Manager, said "Our Car Club has thrived for over 7 years because of two things: price and reliability. In a way we work like a budget airline - frills are unnecessary: keep costs down!"

Case study: Moorcar, Dartmoor

Moorcar started in 2002 with one leased car and six members as part of a Carplus sponsored rural car club programme in partnership with Sustrans and the Countryside Agency, which funded the project. By the end of the pilot period in 2004 the car club had 27 members and two leased cars. It now owns six cars, has about 150 members and has grown to serve the neighbouring towns of Buckfastleigh, and Chagford and is looking to expand into South Brent with an additional two cars.

Moorcar is a not-for-profit community co-operative with a paid part time co-ordinator. The members of the club jointly own the cars and share the cost of insurance, tax, breakdown cover and servicing. To join people fill in membership form and submit a copy of their current driving licence, pay their membership fee, sign their contract and receive an induction. Members pay an annual membership fee, along with a returnable deposit. The cost of using a cars depends upon the vehicle, length of time its hired and the miles driven. Members booking online where members can see which cars are available. At the end of each month records are downloaded from the online booking system and a statement is generated giving members details of hours of usage, mileage and any credits due from paying for fuel. Members are then billed for their usage each month.

Case Study: Hooky Car Club – Hook Norton, Oxfordshire

Hooky Car Club is a rural car club based in the village of Hook Norton.  Although Hook Norton has a regular hourly bus service the majority of Hook Norton’s 1,000 households rely on their cars to make journeys in and out of the village.

The car club was started by the villages Hook Norton Low Carbon group with the aim of reducing the community’s carbon footprint. The group purchased three cars (£20,000 in total), using money awarded from the Low Carbon Communities Challenge Fund.  They also use the web-based booking services, insurance and invoicing services from Moorcar for a cost of £1,500 per car per year.

Hooky car club has been operational since April 2011 and has 8 members and 3 vehicles. Bookings are on-line. Usage costs 24p per hour and 29p per mile or a car can be hired for the whole day for £29.  There is also an annual membership fee of £60 which is paid directly to Moorcar.

Usage for the first two months of operation has been low, with one car being used for three and a half days and one of the others for only six hours. This will have to substantially increase for the club to be economically viable.

When might a car club be suitable?

Car clubs can be a cheaper alternative to owning a private car and are particularly suitable for individuals who don’t need a car every day, but want the convenience of a car from time to time. Car clubs are best suited when most people who need transport have driving licences (but don’t necessarily have access to a car).  They are often most successful when a wide variety of people use them, (retiries, families, one car families, low income groups) as this spreads demand for vehicles (day time, school runs, evening, weekend etc).   Car clubs are also a viable alternative to a family buying a second car, where the first car is used for a daily commute, leaving the family without access to a car for most of the working day.

Most schemes have a lower age restriction, require members to have held a full driving licence for 12 months, have no more than 6 penalty points and have a good driving history. These qualifications can exclude some members of the community.

Resources needed

  • At least one car. Vehicles can be brought, leased or donated. Buying older vehicles can reduce the start-up costs.
  • A local champion to act as an advocate for the club.
  • An administrator to deal with membership applications, invoicing, bookings, and other day to day administration tasks. There are organisations, such as Moorcar (see below) who will provide these services to car clubs for an annual fee.
  • A booking system.  For a small car club a telephone-based booking system, using a central administrator can be sufficient.  Larger schemes may want to offer online booking.
  • A key safe for the car keys to be kept in which allows members access at any time.
  • Someone to make sure that the car(s) stay in good condition: clean and tidy, serviced on time, and any problems are fixed promptly.

Typical costs

  • Employment of a Car Club Champion (for larger schemes) and an administrator. However both these roles can be filled by a willing volunteer.  
  • Buying or leasing vehicles and their replacements (long term).
  • Tax, insurance, roadside breakdown cover and servicing of vehicles.
  • Up-keep of vehicles (cleaning, regular checks).
  • Operating a booking system.
  • Invoicing users.

Car Clubs should ultimately become financially self-sustaining, some funding may be required for the initial set up and the period in which the service is growing (up to 2 years).

What to do next:

  • Consider what size of scheme is appropriate to operate (how many vehicles, phone based or web based bookings, size of vehicles etc).
  • Talk to other organisations who run similar sized schemes.
  • Look at funding sources and work out your finances (membership fees, usage charges, vehicle running and purchase costs etc).
  • Consider all aspects of scheme e.g. which vehicles, insurances, parking, key safes, booking system, invoicing, breakdown cover etc.

Where to get further advice?

Carplus (The National Car Club Network)
Telephone: 0113 234 9299

Hour Car (Hebden Bridge)
Telephone: 01422 847971
Email: Info@hourcar.org.uk

Hour Car can advise on the time and technology required to set up and run a club depending on its size and nature and talk to individuals about their own experience.

Moorcar (Dartmoor)
Telephone 07753 325 014
Email: info@moorcar.co.uk

Moorcar is a rural car co-operative that provides support to communities wanting to set up their own car club by providing an online registration service, access to the internet booking system and insurance for the vehicle for an annual fee per vehicle.

Documents and weblinks

Community Guide on Car Clubs and Car Sharing produced by Carplus

Rural car clubs: tackling social exclusion in rural areas - solving the problem  produced by Improvement and Development Agency for Local Government (IDeA)

Rural Car Clubs produced by The Countryside Agency

Hooky Car Club’s homepage.