The rise of the UK car club

It used to be that the phrase “car club” referred to that group of enthusiastic mini owners who meet in the Tesco car park once a month. Today, in the UK at least, car clubs now refer to a rising means for families and infrequent car users to ease the burden of running costs such as car insurance and tax by finally being rid of the vehicle that sits on the drive all day.

Car clubs are not an altogether new phenomena. One of the earliest organizations is said to have began in Zurich in 1948 although little is written of its success. Later, a pioneering project entitled Witkar began in Amsterdam in the late 60s, utilizing electric vehicles and an electronic reservation system – the concept still sounds futuristic today.

In the mid-90s car clubs began to pop up in cities across the world and today they bear many similarities to that which was established by Witkar. For example, companies such as Whizzgo leave their vehicles around the city, their users unlock the door by scanning a membership card against a sensor, and then type in a pin to retrieve the keys from the glove compartment. There is typically a membership cost, followed by an hourly rate that is noted by the car’s onboard computer.

Car clubs have seen a dramatic rise recently with growing social eagerness to become more energy efficient and to cut car ownership costs as well. They succeed in the former by offering more energy efficient vehicles such as Citroens and Honda Civic Hybrids to drivers who typically might not be able to afford such new clean cars. Increased accessibility via internet booking systems has also seen car clubs become even more popular.

However, it is certainly the cost of having an infrequently used car that is an attraction of the car club. Not only will customers soon see the benefit of less insurance and tax costs, but they will also find that they can save on maintenance costs too. However, it must be acknowledged that if an arranged return time is not met, then the car club company is liable to charge a significant penalty.

Alongside ordering insurance online and car sharing to work, car clubs are another method for families to save on transport costs, and they can also lessen their carbon footprint in the process. However, the question remains as to whether similar schemes will ever take off in more provincial towns.

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