There is a major trend afoot. Starting in Europe, the lack of parking & garages & condensed city living led to very successful car-sharing schemes. Why share a car? Because it’s smart. Having a car-share membership is cheaper than catching taxis, much cheaper than owning a car full-time, & much less hassle than renting a car. It’s also very environmentally friendly & responsible. Instant green-cred!
Car-sharing is for the savvy girl-about-town. Outfits like Love Me & Leave Me who rent designer gear & handbags give us the freedom to rent the hottest bag or an amazing dress for that cocktail party & hand it back for minimal outlay. We’ve been doing it with fashion for years. Now we can do it for cars – that cost a fortune to keep on the road – leaving much more disposable income for the smart ducks among us so we can invest in shares, shoes & properties instead. A pint-sized hatchback costs an average of $7K a year to keep on the road*, and that’s not even considering the purchase price, which is often around $30K. That’s a brilliant share portfolio, or fabulous overseas trip, massive home deposit contribution, uni fees or a Kelly Bag, every year.
In Melbourne, there are three key outfits running car sharing. They are GoGet, GreenShareCar & Flexicar.
This weekend, I decided to take Electron, a Flexicar Hyundai i30 out on a road trip. Let’s have a look at the nuts & bolts of it, shall we? Flexicar name all their cars (mainly so muppets, who book the wrong car by accident, remember which one is which).
With names like Giant, Noodle, Coyote, Rookie, Treasure & Igloo, there’s really no excuse to be all gormless & ring Flexicar in a panic because my swipe card wasn’t opening the car. Because. Uhm. The car I’d actually booked was a few blocks away.
So. Cough. Moving on. There’s a really simple sign-up process, but you do want to get it started, as it takes around 5 days before you can get your swipey card. Hop on the website, choose your plan, sign up, you DO need to verify your drivers license & driving track record, & wait. Once you’ve got your card, you’re good to go.
Flexicars come complete with fuel cards & keys in the car, so you roll up, access the car with your swipey card, hop in & you’re off. Words fail me at how much easier it is to use Flexicar than hire a car, with the forms & insurance options & the blocking out chunks of credit card space & all of that palaver. You can book on the spot once you’re set up. It’s just so easy & brilliant.
ROAD TRIP! I took Electron & travelled from Melbourne to Echuca, around 220kms each way of highways and dirt roads of varying quality. It was a very comfortable ride, especially when I got over the original horror of starting the car up and having the dulcet tones of SmoothFM battering my delicate ears. Karma will dictate that person shall be assulted by FoxFM or something when they next use the car. You’re welcome.
The little Hyundai was basic, but great. Flexicar doesn’t ‘do’ exciting cars, but there’s something exciting about hopping into a car – any car – when you don’t have one on a day-to-day basis. I gave it a solid go up hills, down dales and across country dirt roads at high speeds. Aside from some heart-stopping braking moments on the dirt road (the i30 has a slow & steady approach to braking, when sometimes you need to feel like you’ve just driven into a brick wall), it delivered. Electron did the job, and I have to say, a much better job at high speeds, up hills, and overtaking, than my wildest dreams. Three trucks in a row needing overtaking? It did the job.
I’ve been using Flexicar a lot this year as I put a lot of pressure on my car, & subsequently it’s spent a bit of time in pieces at the mechanics, the poor old thing. The car, too. Flexicar has definitely filled the gaps when I need to get around & the motorbike just isn’t going to do the job.
I won’t bore you to pieces with the pricing, the who, what when where how, when you can just head on over to the website & find it out – probably more eloquently – than over here. But here are the headlines:
- There is a big range of cars in different shapes & sizes, so there’s always something for the job available.
- There are hundreds of cars in the fleets.
- It is SO convenient. I can’t tell you. Can’t get a cab? In the rain? You can literally be in a Flexicar within five minutes & on your way.
- Prices start from $10 an hour, & you can book it for just an hour. You can literally grab one for the weekly grocery run.
- I can personally vouch for the customer service being epic & awesome – I’ve never been let down.
- The cars are all automatics.
- The cars are all clean, tidy, spotless & generally smell pretty. Is that the sign of a responsible car-sharing community? Maybe (I do hope so).
- Fuel cards are in the car (you can go to Shell & Caltex outlets), good to go. So are e-tags, & you don’t need to pre-book the e-tag use. Just drive wherever you want & the tolls just end up on your invoice.
- No smoking in the cars. Most cars are also pet-free, but there are some cars that you can use for your furry friends if you use a pet carrier & clean it out afterwards – check the car listings to find out which ones. As some people have animal allergies, being considerate is important, but it’s a brilliant option to have if you need to take one of the pupstars or Tabby Von Moonbeam to the vet.
- The cars are simple, but well serviced. Mechanically, they are in good nick, & coupled with roadside assist, they are a smart, safe option for anyone who doesn’t want to be left on a dark roadside with smoke pouring out of an engine bay.
I’m not the only person using these shared car services. A luscious redhead and girl-about-town, Natasha, is also a Flexicar customer so we had a chat with her. “I’ve never actually owned a car, and don’t need to. The low cost & convenience of Flexicar is just too good to make the change. I live waaay to close to the city to justify the cost of a full-time car”.
Natasha was living in Brunswick back in 2007 when she first signed up for Flexicar & didn’t need to buy a car as she cycles to work most days. The fact she had a selection of cars nearby made it a no-brainer. She now lives in Fitzroy & has more choice of cars, with the closest car being a mere 4-minute walk from her fabulous apartment. “The variety of cars is actually one of the most useful things about a shared car service, I’ve used Sunstreaker, one of the Nissan X-Trail wagons, to transport a DJ & his gear to a mate’s wedding, but the rest of the time I’m happy to peel about in an easy hatchback”.
No relationship is perfect, so we discussed the downsides; “If the closest car isn’t available it’s annoying, summer gets really busy, & sometimes you’ve got to pre-plan your booking a bit more than I like. But that’s just quibbles. I’ve had no administration issues, & they’ve always been available to take a query. I give it the thumbs up. And because I’ve been a member since about 2007 I’ve got a really low membership number, which I secretly like having.”
I do suggest, for the many mums who read this blog, to have a Flexicar membership as a backup for when car emergencies strike. It doesn’t cost a cent if you’re not using it. It’s also a fabulous option for uni students (or anyone, frankly) who has an old banger that is unreliable. If you’ve got to be somewhere and there’s smoke pouring out of your car, having a Flexicar membership in your back pocket is the smartest, most stress-free, safe way to roll.
It’s brilliant. And I can’t recommend it highly enough. Five choc-tops.