I ditched my car and joined a car-share program 3 years ago, and it's saved me well over $6,000 since

  • I don’t drive much, but I do need a car to get to the mountains, run errands, and take road trips.
  • I used to spend at least $3,600 a year on car expenses, which felt like too much.
  • Switching to car sharing helps me save thousands and feel better about my carbon footprint.

I will admit that I’ve never been obsessed with cars. In fact, I only learned how to drive as an adult and have been happy taking public transportation, walking, and riding my way around my hometown. Even when I travel, I opt to explore via bus, bike, or walking instead of renting a car. 

I’ve owned one paid-off car, but I hated the expense of car ownership and dealing with the continuous upkeep. Also, I got tired of moving my car on street-sweeping days. Then my car died and I discovered a new problem — the tickets I got when my car died and I couldn’t move it on street-sweeping days.

Finding a solution to my car-ownership dilemma

My hometown of Denver has a pretty solid public transportation system. But, living in Colorado, I also wanted to go hiking or skiing in the mountains, and you need a car to enjoy those activities. Currently, there is very limited bus service between Denver and mountain towns. 

On the other hand, I’ve really started to really worry about my personal carbon footprint and what I could do to be a better Earth-friendly global citizen. This internal conversation became more important to me after watching my state burn every summer for the past five years. 

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According to AAA, the average American spends around $9,282 a year on new car-related expenses. When I had my paid-off, used car, I felt like I was spending too much on transportation expenses. So, I began looking at how I could save money without lowering my quality of life. How could I continue having a car without driving my budget even further into the ground? 

Then, I stumbled upon a solution to my car ownership problem: the car share. Most people are familiar with ride shares that allow you to call and get a ride, but fewer people are familiar with car shares and how they work. The basic idea is you buy a membership, and then you get access to a fleet of cars owned by the car-sharing company. You book a car when you need it, and don’t have to worry about a car when you don’t.

Why I’ve loved having a car-share membership for the past 3 years

There are a number of different types of car-share companies, both for-profit and nonprofit. I’m fortunate enough to be a member of the Colorado Car Share program, which currently functions as a nonprofit. There are different payment tiers that members can choose from based on your personal needs and how frequently you plan on driving. 

My costs have gone way down

I decided to say yes to car sharing after evaluating how much I was spending yearly on car expenses and looking at my car usage throughout the year. I didn’t want to pay $300 or more a month on car expenses when I was in the process of paying off a massive amount of debt. Before becoming a car-share member, I was spending, on average, around $3,600 to $4,400 a year in car-related expenses such as gas, upkeep, and insurance. 

My current car share membership costs $13 a month, or $156 a year, plus an additional $45 at the beginning of each year for the Damage Fee Waiver program. Basically, I’m paying a little extra in the event that I’m in an at-fault accident. This lowers my insurance deductible to zero. Then I pay per hour for the use of the car and the cost of gas. Most of the cars in my car-share program are hybrids and very fuel efficient. 

In 2019, I spent around $700 on car-related expenses. I was still doing a side hustle that I would drive to on occasion. In 2020, I spent around $500 on transportation-related expenses including the occasional light-rail trip. In 2021, I plan on taking several road trips, so my usage will hit around $1,000 for the year. 

Here are some things I’ve learned from my years as a car-share member:

  • Relationships are key. Just like with any organization, building relationships with the members of the staff (especially at a nonprofit) is helpful in navigating any questions or concerns that you may have about your membership or the car that you’re using. 
  • Pay attention. In the first month or so of using my car share, I paid attention to the types of trips that I was taking. Was it worth spending money to take the trip? I changed my usage after those audits. 
  • Yes, you can get AAA coverage.

A few things to consider before saying yes to car sharing

  • If you have kids or other members in your family, you may want to own at least one car.
  • It can be difficult to just reserve a car on a whim during certain parts of the year. The summer and winter tend to be busiest for my car-share program because people are going to the mountains more for hiking and skiing. 
  • I have to be a little more intentional about my car usage, and if you’re uncomfortable with that, then car sharing might not be a good fit for you. 

With each passing year, I love my car-share program even more. 

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