Guide to Cooperative Car Schemes

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  1. Cooperative car schemes, also commonly known as car clubs, are schemes where members can rent cars for short periods of time, often by the day or even by the hour
  2. Over the past few years, such schemes have become increasingly popular with people wanting occasional use of a car but wanting to do without the hassle and costs of owning a vehicle outright
  3. The big benefit of being a member is that you can potentially save thousands of pounds a year. As a member, you don't need to worry about paying for parking, for servicing or for an MOT
  4. Some of the biggest schemes include City Car Club and Car2Go, though there are also many smaller, local schemes to be found right across the country
  5. Joining a scheme is quick and easy. Just apply online or over the phone and they will check your DVLA status, and maybe your credit score, and let you know if your application has been accepted or declined within just a few minutes
  6. Once you are a member, reserving a car is also quick and easy. But remember, the more in advance you make your booking, the less likely you are to be disappointed
  7. The technology used varies between different car clubs. But, generally, you will have to enter a code or swipe a membership card to gain access to a hire vehicle. You will then be required to drop the car off at a designated place

What is a Cooperative Car Scheme and How Do they Work?

Cooperative car schemes, also commonly known as car clubs, are schemes where members can rent cars for short periods of time, often by the day or even by the hour.

Over the past few years, cooperative car schemes have been booming as growing numbers of people realise that, while they would like to drive instead of relying on public transport, they don't want to own a car outright. Some of the biggest schemes include City Car Club and Car2Go, which serve customers in a number of UK towns and cities, while a number of smaller clubs have also sprung up, including those serving just small communities, neighbourhoods or even specific streets.

So, how do they work? The exact model might change between individual schemes, but the general process is always the same. Quite simply, cooperative car schemes work as below:

  • Joining Up: All car clubs will have a website and you will be able to sign up online, or you may be able to do this over the phone. To apply for membership, you will need to give the club all your relevant personal information, including a permanent address and your credit card details. The club will then carry out a background check, which may include running your details through the DVLA or carrying out a credit check. This will usually take just a few minutes after which you will receive notification of whether your application has been approved or if you have been rejected.
  • Reserving a Car: Once your membership has been approved, you are free to book a car. Again, this can usually be done either online or over the phone and, generally speaking, you can reserve a vehicle for anytime. So, you can book for the next weekend or even in just a few minutes' time. All cars are, of course, subject to availability, but, with larger clubs, you should usually have no problem reserving a vehicle. As with anything, however, the more in advance you book, the less likely you are to be disappointed.
  • Picking up the Car: The biggest difference between individual cooperative car schemes is how their members can pick up a vehicle. So, for example, you might be given a code to unlock the vehicle using a small keypad affixed to it. Or, you may have to swipe your membership card onto a reader fixed to the door. Once in, you may also then need to enter a code to access the box where the ignition key is kept.
  • Dropping the Car Off: Once you have used the car for the time you requested (again, this could be an hour, a day or even a week), you will then have to follow a special procedure to drop it off and end your session. You will usually have to park it at a designated spot and follow a fixed procedure to ensure it is properly locked. Once your session is over, the agreed amount of money will be taken either directly from your bank account or from an account set up with the club itself.
  • Cleaning Up and Filling Up: Many car clubs will have strict rules asking that you leave the vehicle in the state you found it. Any mess you make may (for example, leaving litter inside the car) may result in you being charged extra. It's also well worth reading up on the club's rules about who is expected to fill up the petrol tank. Generally speaking, you will be required to replace any petrol you have used before dropping the vehicle back off, but again, check that this is the case beforehand.

Again, the exact process will always vary between different schemes but, as a rule, car-sharing is designed to be quick, easy and hassle-free. If you do have any questions or doubts, most car clubs offer comprehensive, round-the-clock support to their members and are always happy to help.

Benefits of a Cooperative Car Scheme

Being a member of a car club or cooperative scheme can offer a number of benefits, not just financial. Here are some of the main reasons you may want to sign up to one:

  • The costs of motoring are brought down considerably. Unlike if you own your own vehicle, you don't have to pay for servicing and maintenance or for the MOT. What's more, your insurance costs will come down considerably as you will only pay when you're actually behind the wheel.
  • As well as not having to worry about the costs that come with car ownership, you also don't have to worry about many of the hassles. For instance, you don't have to worry about keeping your car clean and tidy inside and out as someone else will do it for you! What's more, since most car clubs have reserved parking spots, you will no longer get stressed out trying to find a place in a busy city.
  • One nice perk is that, as a member of a cooperative car scheme, you will usually be able to drive a range of vehicles. So, if you need a large estate car one day but prefer something smaller and sportier at the weekends, then you can have it. Similarly, rather than having an ageing car on your hands, most car clubs regularly update their models.
  • Car clubs are becoming increasingly easy to use and offering even more convenience. As growing numbers of people sign up to such schemes, the number of vehicles available to members also increases, as does the number of locations where they can be picked up or dropped off.

Alongside all the above, supporters of car clubs and cooperative schemes argue that they offer a number of environmental and social benefits. Above all, it can be argued that they cut down on unnecessary car journeys, reducing carbon emission levels. Plus, not only do they reduce the number of cars on the road, they also reduce the number of old, inefficient and dirty cars on the road, improving urban air quality and fighting back against climate change.

Possible Drawbacks of a Cooperative Car Scheme

Ditching your car and joining a cooperative scheme can bring a number of benefits, not least when it comes to saving you money. However, there can be some downsides to joining a car club, so you should think carefully and do a bit of research before you sign up. Some possible downsides include:

  • Car clubs may not always be so convenient. For instance, you may have to walk a considerable distance to pick up a car. Similarly, the designated drop-off point may also be out of your way, meaning that, while you may save a bit of money, you will lose quite a bit of time.
  • If you like spontaneous getaways, a car club isn't for you. While last-minute bookings are possible, you may have to book well in advance to get the vehicle you want when you want it.
  • Should you live outside of a major city, a car club may not be the best option for you. Rural areas and small towns in particular tend to be poorly-served by cooperative car schemes so may end up being more hassle than they are worth.

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