Consumer Watch: Car sharing ramps up

As gas prices peak, so does interest in alternatives to paying at the pump, like car sharing.

CNN Wire

2:08 PM CDT, March 19, 2012


Gas prices have been steadily climbing, sending some drivers in search of alternatives. Popular in big cities, car sharing puts ready-to-go wheels in neighborhoods for those short trips to the grocery store or the mall.

As gas prices peak, so does interest in alternatives to filling up your own tank, like car sharing. Matty Griffiths uses Zip Car, the leader in a market that's getting more crowded. Drivers get a vehicle by the hour, or by the day, gas and insurance, included.

"Anything from chauffeuring theatre sets around to artists and their work, or going to see my mom and family who live out in the suburbs," said Griffiths.

"A typical Zipster is looking for cost savings," explained Ellice Perez, Zipcar D.C. General Manager. "They're looking for simplicity, convenience, and we provide all of these things with gas, insurance and a reserved parking space being included."

The parking spots evolve from partnerships with localities where car sharing makes sense, like Arlington, Virginia, along Washington's bus and train lines.

"Car sharing is a great option for those who bike, walk, take public transportation, and sometimes you need a car. So car sharing fits that lifestyle," added Chris Hamilton, Arlington (Va.) Commuter Services Bureau Chief.

And other companies are looking to share the road. Hertz "On Demand" is the rental giant's version of car sharing. Its Washington fleet includes some electric cars. And Daimler's Car-2-Go is about to drive into more cities, adding more options.

"Sometimes on weekends they can be a little scarce. My fleet gets thinner," said Griffiths.

There's also a growing market of peer-to-peer car sharing. Startups like Relay Rides and Getaround let drivers rent from neighbors, and car owners, rent out their wheels, for extra cash.