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For $9 an Hour, Car-sharing is a Great Option for Urban Residents

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【Summary】Is it possible to replace your private car with car-sharing? Let’s crunch the numbers and find out.

Original Michael Cheng    Jan 04, 2017 6:05 AM PT
For $9 an Hour, Car-sharing is a Great Option for Urban Residents

Many people boast about how much money you can save by participating in car-sharing programs around the city, but no one really knows how much the rates are. Ironically, some individuals use unverified price points to discourage people from replacing their daily subway commute with a car-sharing vehicle.

Today, we're going to bring clarity to all the talks surrounding the cost effectiveness of car-sharing, defined as a last-mile program that allows individuals to "borrow" a car for a short time, usually charged by the hour. In most cases, companies will shoulder gas and maintenance fees associated with car-sharing. For customers, all they have to worry about is ensuring the vessel's safety during operation. They also have to return the vehicle to a drop off point after usage.

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Costs and Benefits 

When it comes to costs, car-sharing rates (at this time) go for roughly $9 an hour or $45 a day. This price point comes from the Green Commuter Chattanooga program located in Tennessee. The location is a mid-size city that serves as a median for comparison against other highly populated areas, such as San Francisco, California (with generally higher rates) and Austin, Texas (slightly lower rates at $8.78 an hour).

"The car-sharing program works a lot like the Bike Chattanooga blue-and-yellow rental bicycles, with Leafs located around town that members can find, borrow and then return to the original starting point — via a smart phone app that's used to unlock the car and start the engine. No key is involved in the app-based system," said Tim Omarzu from Times Free Press.

At these rates, is it possible to replace your private car with car-sharing? Let's crunch the numbers and find out. According to Edmunds.com, the average monthly car payment for new vehicles is $479. Considering that private car owners leave their vehicles parked 95 percent of the time (according to Time Magazine, the RAC foundation and the 1995 UITP Millennium Cities Database), an individual would be paying roughly $455 a month just for leaving one's car in the parking lot.

With $455, a person could benefit from 50.5 hours of car-sharing. Or from another perspective, a private car owner could completely offset his or her monthly payments when the vehicle isn't in use for a total of 50.5 hours per month. The remaining $24 is not counted here because that is part of the five percent that the car is being used by the owner.

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Other Factors

It is important to consider that the projected $479 figure does not take into account fuel, parking, maintenance and taxes or interest that comes with car ownership. When factoring in these other components, car-sharing becomes a more viable option for urban residents. At $958 (double the estimated figure), which would accommodate the other upkeep expenses, people could rack up around 101 hours of car-sharing effortlessly. This would allow people to car-share up to 3.5 hours daily every month (including weekends). 

"It just adds another transit option," said Brent Matthews, CARTA's director of parking.

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