ZipCar has established itself as the short-term rental car leader in large cities and in university towns. The benefits rack up: no car payment, no expensive car insurance, and the big plus for the environment, since for every ZipCar available for rent, 15 cars are removed from the road.
Now other options have emerged for those who need a temporary set of wheels. In Australia, for example, DriveMyCar matches car owners to renters. Owners can vent potential borrowers, while DriveMyCar eliminates the hassle by handling any insurance issues. Now a similar service has launched in the United Kingdom: WhipCar pairs “sensible drivers with spare car time.”
Eligibility is fairly straightforward. If you are over 20 years old, have a reasonably safe driving record, and have not been caught driving without a license, consider yourself vetted. As for car owners, if the car is not more than 8 years old, can move, is insured, and is really a car (no vans or Harleys yet), you are set.
For those who are trusting and want to make a few extra pounds, the opportunities are obvious: help with the car payment and the chance to even know more people in your neighborhood. WhipCar has yet to add up any environmental benefits, but if there are less cars on the road, less traffic, and less emissions, towns across Britain can benefit. Furthermore, drivers using a car owned by the chap around the corner will most likely treat the car with respect—unlike those of us who rent a car from Avis, Hertz, or their competitors. The reduction in unnecessary driving is another plus as well.
The cost is free for car owners, and the grunt work is done by WhipCar, which checks with the drivers’ license registry to assure the owner that his or car won’t end up across the Channel. Owners receive email and text notifications about the blokes who want to borrow their cars, and can proceed or decline as they wish. Best of all, owners can set their own price, with WhipCar providing a guide based on the model and the owner’s post code.
Would a shared transportation system work here across the pond? New York City is experimenting with Snapgoods, where users can pay a small fee and borrow anything from a Wii to an iPad. Whether we’re ready to step it up to lending out our beloved cars is another matter. Perhaps in Silver Lake, Asheville, or Berkeley—my guess is that many of us are not ready for this step. But in a down economy, or in high-density neighborhoods where residents do not need their car daily, this could be a fiscal and environmental boon all around.