Drivers save on gas with car sharing

March 22, 2012 9:15:33 AM PDT
Gas prices are at record levels for this time of year, so saving a little money at the pump is especially nice. Some drivers are doing more than saving money on gas. Some aren't paying for it at all.

Joe Sarabia hasn't given up driving. He's just found a smart way to go about it.

Joe is a member of Getaround, a peer-to-peer car sharing service where you can rent a car or rent your own car to someone else. Each owner sets the price. Today Joe's leaving his fuel efficient Toyota Prius in the garage and driving a rented electric Nissan Leaf.

"So one of the things I love about Getaround is the ability for me to go rent an electric vehicle because a hybrid, I'm still putting gas into it, I like to get to a point of no gas at all," Sarabia said.

Other cars Joe has rented include the sporty all-electric Tesla.

A recent study from the UC Berkeley Transportation Sustainability Research Center found most car share users end up renting cars that get 10 miles per gallon more than their previous vehicle. Some even take it one step further.

"We found that about 25 percent of the sample shed a vehicle and that another 25 percent of the sample postponed or avoided a vehicle purchase as a result of car sharing," researcher Elliot Martin said.

That's exactly what Mitra Massih did three years ago.

"Constantly looking for parking, getting expensive parking tickets, always searching for change to put in the parking meters, high cost of gas and high cost of maintenance of cars just proved to be too much of a hassle," Massih said.

Mitra estimates she saves $300 a month on gas and car maintenance costs by using Zipcar.

Zipcar users don't directly pay for gas.

"I gave up my car once I realized that there were alternatives to owning a car here in San Francisco," Massih said.

About 600,000 people in the United States have joined car sharing programs and that number is expected to grow.

"Car sharing in general is well established and car sharing is not going anywhere," Martin said.

"Not only are we saving gas, but we're having a thrilling time driving our car and it doesn't get much better than that," Sarabia said.

UC Berkeley researchers point to estimates that the average car share user saves up to $450 a month. Insurance costs, by the way, are covered by both Zipcar and Getaround.

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