Sharing the Same Car

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Experts believe that the days of two-automobile households, or driving alone in a vehicle that you own, are numbered. The future, they say, is all about shared vehicles. As a result, major automakers are investing in car-sharing programs, so they appeal to customers who want to use an automobile but aren’t interested in owning one.

At least 1.9 million consumers are members of car-sharing services in North America, which is more than twice the amount that it was 5 years ago, according to University of California-Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center. Unlike rental-car companies, which typically charge by the day, car-sharing services charge by the minute or hour—typically $7–$9 per hour, which includes fuel and insurance.

To join a car-sharing service, you have to provide a valid driver’s license and a credit or debit card and submit to a background check of your driving history. After you’re approved, you use a mobile app to find where one of the service’s vehicles is parked, unlock the vehicle with your membership card and locate the keys inside. Most car-sharing services require at least 30 minutes of advance notice before you pick up a vehicle.

In 2008, Daimler, which owns Mercedes-Benz, introduced Car2Go, which now is the largest car-sharing service in the world. Zipcar, which is the largest car-sharing service in the United States, was bought by Avis Budget Group in 2013.

BMW started ReachNow, which is its North American car-sharing service, in 2016 and now has members in New York City; Portland, Oregon; and Seattle. General Motors formed its car-sharing service, Maven, in 2016. Experts say that as a result of automakers investing in car-sharing services, more availability and a broader range of vehicles exist than ever before.