Rising petrol prices and fuel duty hikes have pushed up the cost of running a car, meaning motorists are really feeling the pain of the credit crunch.
While there are a number of ways you can reduce the cost of running a car, for many people it might be cheaper to ditch the car altogether, and walk, cycle or get public transport instead. But for many people, this simply isn’t viable.
Another alternative is joining a car club. Research suggests that this could save families £1,000 a year – and also saves you worrying about car tax, parking permits, cleaning and service bills. And you don't have to worry about depreciation.
How much does it cost?
The cost of hiring a car through a car club varies, although most companies charge an annual membership fee plus an hourly or daily rental rate. This may or may not include petrol. Be aware that mileage caps may also apply.
Here are three examples of car clubs and their associated costs:
* City Car Club charges its members £50 for one year, and partners can be added on for just £25. On standard cars, you’ll pay £4.95 for one hour or £49.50 for 24 hours. Using the car for 72 or more hours will cost from £103.95.
To book a larger car, such as a Vauxhall Astra, you’ll pay £5.95 an hour or £59.50 for 24 hours. Booking the car for 72 or more hours will cost from £124.95.
The company also offers a discount card for a monthly fee of £12.50 a month, which reduces rental rates by 20%.
City Car Club members receive 50 miles of free fuel each day. Although there is no mileage limit, if you drive more than 50 miles during your booking you will be charged 24p per mile. This does, however, cover your fuel.
Insurance comes free with the scheme up to £500 excess, but if you are aged 19 to 20 then you will have to pay £10 a month for cover, for a reduced excess of £250. You can opt for a smaller excess of £100 for £5 per month.
* Whizzgo offers membership for £5 per month, at long as you join for at least 12 months.
Once you've joined, you can hire at car from £5.99 per hour for short bookngs or £2.08 for 24-hour bookings.
You'll recieve 40 inclusive free miles per day with a 25p charge per additional mile.
Insurance is included with an excess of £500. If you are over 21 then you can opt to pay a 5% premium on your monthly usage costs to reduce this excess to £250 or a 10% premium to receive an excess of £50.
* Streetcar offers cars that can be rented by the hour, day or week. Membership costs £59.50 a year, including free insurance up to £750 excess, or £99 for two years.
After that, the cheapest option – hiring a VW Polo BlueMotion – will cost £3.95 an hour, £49.50 for 24 hours or £125 for five days. If you want to use the car for seven days, you’ll pay £165 or £635 for 30 days.
This includes 30 miles of free petrol, with a 23p per mile after that. Bookings for more than 48 hours receive free fuel but there is a mileage cap of 200 miles per day.
Streetcar also offers one-way trips, where for £24.50 you can pick up a car in one location and leave it somewhere elae.
* You could also consider car sharing. The biggest car-sharing organisation, Liftshare.com, has 253,000 members with a further 550 people joining every day. Membership is free and could save you around £1,000 a year, according to its founder, Ali Clabburn.
Advantages and disadvantages
Carplus, a national charity promoting responsible car use - including car clubs - says car clubs take the hassle out of driving and you don't have to worry about repairs, servicing and renewing insurance.
One of the biggest claims about car clubs is that they are cheaper than owning your own vehicle. And as long as you are not a very heavy car user, then hiring a car to use a few times a week could save you money.
Carplus estimates that if you drive less than 6,000 miles per year then a car club could save you up to £3,500 a year. Replacing a second family car with car club membership is likely to bring even more cash savings.
Car clubs also say they are a greener way to drive, reducing traffic, congestion and CO2 emissions.
Another advantage often cited is that car clubs offer drivers more flexibility, as you'll only be charged for when you use the car rather than when it is sitting in your drive. However, the fact remains that you don't have the instant access to a car that ownership offers.
Some people also dislike the idea of now having the same car each time they drive, and the potential risk to privacy.
Car clubs don’t always cover the whole UK, so if you don’t live in a city or big town then your ability to hire a car may be restricted.
Many of the car clubs offer online calculators that enable you to work out how much renting the car would cost you. Depending on the journeys you expect to make, the cost can really add up which begs the question: why not just buy?