A New Approach to Car Ownership

Philipp Muessig
Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance

Car sharing is the organized use of one or more cars with other people. It’s a way to have a car when you really need one, while relying on cheaper alternatives for other trips. Car sharing is designed to save you money and lessen your impact on the city and on the natural environment.

Walking, biking, carpooling and busing make for a more livable city. With fewer cars on the road, less urban space is needed for roads, parking spaces and sprawl development. Moreover, there will be fewer accidents and noise and less air and storm-water pollution. More walking and biking mean a more physically fit population, according to a 2000 study by the Active Community Environment Workgroup of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More carpooling and busing mean more citizen interaction and less crime, as studies of neighborhood block clubs and community crime prevention programs have shown over the last 10 years.

Drivers sharing a new small sedan less than every day and less than approximately 8,000 miles per year will find car sharing to be less expensive than the private ownership of a new or middle-aged car. According to the recent data on costs of owning a car, Twin Cities residents bear the burden of costs, such as loans, insurance, maintenance, gas and parking, which are calculated at $8,683 per household (or $24/day).

Car sharing organizations (CSOs) provide their members with access to one or more cars/trucks at a per-use cost. The process is similar to renting a car, but it is cheaper and easier. It is easier because CSO cars are placed within walking distance and cheaper because one pays by the hour rather than by the day or week, as is the case with car rentals.

Car sharing can be organized through co-operative ownership, non-profit organizations, for-profit corporations or private agreements among neighbors. Members in a CSO typically invest a refundable deposit of approximately $300 in addition to paying usage fees. For a CSO that owns several new, fuel-efficient, low-polluting and well-maintained cars, fees are approximately $2.50/hour plus 45¢/mile, with a maximum of $50/day. Cars are located three to five blocks away from members and must be reserved in advance.

Don’t confuse informal sharing and borrowing of cars with a car sharing organization. In order to last and grow, CSOs of any size must have clear, written agreements concerning ownership, liability, insurance, maintenance and repairs, scheduling, record-keeping, decision-making, and fees and payment.

Since 1987, hundreds of CSOs have sprouted around the world, and eight CSOs exist in U.S. cities. CSO members typically:

  • Express very high levels of satisfaction with car sharing.
  • Find the money savings more than compensate for the inconvenience of not having a private car.
  • Enjoy not hassling with a car everyday.
  • Sell their car or avoid purchasing a vehicle.
  • Bundle together trips that might have formerly been taken separately.
  • Enjoy more walking, biking, busing and carpooling.

The Twin Cities, as of fall 2001, does not have an incorporated CSO. The people listed in the Resource box are interested in forming a CSO. Contact them and consider starting a neighborhood car sharing organization yourself!

What You Can Do

* Learn more from web sites and local resources.

* Talk with neighbors within a 5-minute walk about whether a car or two could be sold and a car or two shared. 

* Ask your employer to buy/lease a car if you and other workers occasionally use your own cars for work tasks.

Nick Schutz

Contact if interested in starting a car-share



Jim Carbonneau

Contact if interested in starting a car-share



Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance



Car Ownership

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