Tequila-Induced Shared Car Musings

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So I was having dinner and drinks with a good blog buddy (and real life friend, *waves* at Wendy happily), and we were chatting about those things that women like to chat about . . . guys, house hunting, guys, politics, guys, yummy hand lotions, guys, and well, you get the picture.

During a lull between “guy themes,” we started talking about those shared cars that seem to be all the rage in Europe. I’m not sure that either of us really knows this for a fact, it’s one of those things you sort of imagine goes on over there (like topless sunbathing and unshaved armpits). But after a few margaritas, we weren’t too bothered by little details like whether what we were saying had any truth to it or not; no, we just went with the assumptions the tequila was fueling, and before long, we had a whole theory about why such shared cars have yet to really catch on here in the States (by now, I had convinced myself that no one in Europe even owned a car, they all just used the same one. Or maybe two.).

My contributions to the theory went something like (slurp up some margarita, er, sip daintily and in fine ladylike manner from margarita glass): as Americans we seem to be more focused on the individual, on that capitalist/consumerist I have to own it mentality. Americans like to own things. And stuff. And although the Cold War has been over for a while now, we also seem to think that “sharing” and ideas of “communal/community property” smack of pinko commie something or other that we don’t like much on this side of the Atlantic. Now philosophically speaking, community property makes sense and should work because then everyone can benefit from the same item, but then, all sorts of things make sense in theory but don’t turn out too well in practice, and we all know that neither communism nor socialism have ever really worked out that well in practice (pesky human flaws seem to get in the way of that).

But I ramble. These shared cars aren’t really community property; they belong to a company who then rents them for x number of hours or days. When you’re done with the car you’ve rented, you park it somewhere and I guess plug it in (they’re electric for the most part, it seems, though some are hybrids), so it will be fully charged for the next renter.

Apparently, however, companies like Zip Cars (if there are others, I’m not sure, didn’t bother to look too far into it) are doing far better than I had imagined. The Zip Car site says that they operate in 50+ cities and are on a 100+ college campuses. Who’d have thought? It’s a really good idea, I think, and all enviro-friendly and seems to be a good option during these tough economic times when people can’t keep up car payments (though anyone who can afford to buy a car now should do so if so inclined, I guess, as prices are pretty low).

Honestly, the college campus market seems like a great one to tap into. A lot of college kids can’t afford cars or don’t really need them except for day trips or beer runs. I’m not sure how insurance works on these Zip Cars (yeah, yeah, I could read the site, but I’m not that curious), but I know that younger drivers tend to be charged more (discrimination!) for insurance, so that’s another plus for the college student Zip Car driver (I imagine that the Zip Car rental fee includes insurance for the day or hour or whatever). But I’m not sure that it appeals to me, personally. Too many things could go wrong, and I could be blamed for someone else’s cigarette burned seat or blown speaker from too loud music. Or someone could get sick or leave other bodily fluids splattered around that I might touch (shudder). Or any number of equally disastrous scenarios could happen. Besides, I like owning my own car. It’s a thing. And I do like things. And stuff. I like stuff, too.

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9 thoughts on “Tequila-Induced Shared Car Musings

  1. i just saw a story the other day about for-rent bicycles in france. sort of the same thing. except the company that rents them out were losing money on them because they have to keep replacing them because people are vandalizing them.

  2. Aw, that’s a shame about the vandals, but I guess that’s yet another concern about it. Was it the same thing as this car deal? I mean where people are supposed to be using them for errands and the like rather than a gas guzzling car? Or was it more the vacation spot bike rentals (remember those tandem bikes you could rent at some resorts?)?

  3. What an interesting article, Kerry, thanks for the link. It almost sounds like they want to make it a government run thing in France; I wonder if taxpayers would step up and stop the violence against these bikes if they were paying for them? Or if vandals themselves would give it a second thought if it were a federal offence of some kind? Be interesting to see what they do.I also noticed that the article says San Fransisco was considering it…of all the cities in the U. S. that makes the most and least sense (most for, I think, obvious reasons and least because it’s a friggin’ huge, sprawling city, who’d want to bike it?). I could see something like that working more in Boston, though, actually, it’s not a very biker-friendly city unless you’re on actual bike paths (that aren’t everywhere).

  4. During a lull between “guy themes,”I had no idea such a thing existed on girly nights out! πŸ˜‰I think more so than continental Europe us Brits tend towards the American love affair with the car [just more modestly sized ones], which is partially to do I am sure with the fact that our public transport system is not as effective as some of our European counterparts.I am sure you are right about the cultural aspect too. Not only the more prominent individualism, wrapped up in the traces of the American pioneer spirit, but also in a suspicion of the State, which is often seen as wanting to ‘price us out of cars’.Aside from the anti-war demonstrations, the last big protest that roused our slumbering democracy was a campaign to get signatories to an online petition protesting against governments scoping of a road pricing scheme. The campaign was wildly successful and forced the government onto the back foot on the issue.It will come at some point though I am sure. We already have congestion charging in London, and I guess if these low-carbon, efficient, city runabout cars got a bye, or at least a reduction on road pricing schemes, then you will see people using them far more.

  5. hehe, well, the car sharing aside was pretty brief, then right back to guys! πŸ™‚I think we’re about to see a revolution in American thinking with Obama, though, as he seems to think the State can solve our problems and that government is the answer to social problems. We’ll see. I’m tepid about it, but if it works and the American consciousness can be shifted away from that suspiciousness . . . well, we’ll see. There’s a fine line being walked(anti-government in terms of wire tapping but pro-government in terms of setting up a zillion government offices and departments to oversee minute aspects of our lives), and I’m curious to see how it plays out.I suspect shared cars won’t be the only thing Americans resist.

  6. Gee Fuzz…I’m not sure about sharing cars. It isn’t that I wouldn’t be willing to share.. I would if the person before me didn’t leave McDonald’s bags or garbage in it for me. Yuck. Unless someone can come and clean the thing up before I use it (much like vehicle rental places do), I wouldn’t want to do this.That’s just my opinion, though. πŸ™‚

  7. I feel the same way, GG, I really do. I think a lot of these sorts of things aren’t that realistic. I mean it’s nice to think that everyone is wonderful and will be responsible and do the right thing, but the fact is that just won’t happen. Most utopian ideas (including this sort of social sharing) seem to forget that humans tend to come in all sorts of types, and some of those are less than warm and fuzzy.

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