March 28, 2007

how to start a car/truck share

Last year a friend of mine came up with a great idea: sharing a pickup truck. He had been fantasizing about buying a little truck to haul mulch, lumber, furniture, whatever. A few other friends had recently bought fixer-upper houses or started some big home/garden renovation projects, so owning our own pickup truck seemed to many of us like both a good idea also a far-fetched one at the same time, financially speaking.

Enter the truck co-op.

Here's how we did it: five households (all within 2 miles of each other) agreed to buy a beat-up old work truck together. Price tag: $1,000. We split the cost 4 ways ($250 each), with the fifth $250 share going into the maintenance fund. One person volunteered to add the truck to his car insurance and to manage the maintenance fund. In repayment, he does not have to pay into the annual maintenance fund ($150/year).

red_betty1
this is what a $1,000 truck looks like

The truck, whose name is 'Red Betty' for her lovely coloration, is reserved by co-op members for 1/2 day blocks using a Google calendar. We each have a set of keys. Folks outside the co-op can rent her for $50 for one day, no more than 2 days in advance (so that co-op members get first dibs). The small number of rentals we've had so far have done well to keep our maintenance fund in good shape.

Our other 'rules' are, don't take Red Betty outside our 3-county region, and do bring her back full of gas. That's about it.

Red Betty lives at one co-op member's house, since she has a big driveway and plenty of parking. Since we're all close by, this is a really convenient arrangement. So far, my partner and I have used Red Betty to haul a huge load of mulch that we got for $12 from the city, a desk I bought (saving us a $25 delivery fee), some lumber, all the stuff from our shed when we moved in December, and a few other odds and ends. Red Betty also does regular duty at the Boys Club, where another co-op member volunters by running the kids' community garden there.

Some tips to make a car share successful (based on my experience):
  • Agree on all the rules/guidelines as a group and maintain them someplace, like on a website.
  • Make sure everyone has ample opportunity to use the car-share. Too many families sharing one vehicle can make it less useful for members. Five households means that our truck is always free when we need her - and that she gets relatively light use, an important consideration for an elderly truck!
  • Use a Google calendar or another easily-accessible scheduling tool to manage reservations.
  • Put one person in charge of vehicle maintenance, preferably someone with some skills in that area. Being able to change the oil and do minor repairs yourself will save the co-op a lot of maintenance money, but make sure that the maintenance coordinator gets some kind of stipend (as in our case, where he doesn't pay maintenance fees).
  • Go co-op with people you respect and trust, and be sure to treat them with that respect and trust in all interactions. If problems come up, work them out politely and in a full group setting.
Friends can go co-op on all sorts of useful items, like power tools, lawnmowers, yard-work, child-care, art supplies/equipment, community gardens, and all kinds of other things. Think of large purchases that you'd like to have but don't have the space, or may not use all that often - it may be perfect for a co-op arrangement. In our group's case, this co-owning has made other big investments (like do-it-yourself home renovation) possible where they might otherwise have been out of reach.

Of course, you don't have to manage something like a car-share yourself. There are plenty of memberships you can buy into that include the cost of management, like Zipcar. Here are a few resources to consult if you're in the market to share a car, truck or other significant item:

Car-sharing Library
Zipcar
City CarShare (SF Bay, USA)
LiftShare (UK)
Freewheelers (international ride-sharing - UK)
National Cooperative Business Association (USA)
Co-operative Child-Care (UK)
Stelle Community Cooperatives: Tool co-op

So the basic idea behind sharing instead of buying is to save money and natural resources by buying less stuff, particularly in the area of large, expensive, high-resource items like cars. But one of the best side-benefits of sharing stuff is the community-building. Taking on a large project like this with other people builds trust, caring and a shared sense of responsibility for our own greater well-being. Our co-op beater truck has generated quite a few group projects, including a notoriously fun afternoon of ripping apart an old porch at one co-op member's house (it was so much fun that the video made it to YouTube).

33 comments:

tracy said...

i l.o.v.e this idea!!! we are going to try and rally a group together asap... thanks ms. pea!

shash said...

RAD. i use citycarshare and think it's great. it cut down on my car use by more than half. probably more like by 80%. and people leave fun stuff in the cars like car journals and cd mixes. ;-)

risa said...

what a fantastic idea. i'm definitely going to keep it in mind.

heather said...

as one of ms. pea's co-op partners, let me say that the rest of us luv it as much as she does. so far, red betty has hauled a pallet of dirt and an entire wooden wheelchair ramp for me.

oh, and if you end up with a red beater truck, check out our schwag: http://www.cafepress.com/coopbeatertruck.

lisa s said...

such a good way to share/save $/and have use of a car. love it!

Kevin McLaughlin said...

THANKS for sharing such a great project. There are alot of places that this model of "car sharing" is the best - and only - way it will work.

ashb said...

this is awesome! what a great idea, good for you :) this definitely needs to become a trend!

cally said...

Excellent post, Red Betty rocks!

It's really encouraging to hear your story and your tips about making it work will be invaluable in avoiding any problems, which is usually the main thing that holds people back.

amisha said...

fantastic idea and very inspirational for a place like gainesville where having a car all the time is not necessary or desirable... thank you for this post!

kimono hime said...

Wonderful! it's the opposite of that bumper sticker that says "yes this is my truck, and no, I won't help you move."

sustainableisgood said...

Zipcar in SF is great highly recommend.

pseudobunny said...

i zipcar but this idea rocks!
really so happy you all started this blog!

susan said...

lovelovelove this. we are a small car, one to the family living in a rural area. if we lived in the city we would zip. glad you shared this here. cars are a drag!

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Man With a Van said...

I like your idea and I like result you have. When I have vocation I'll try to do the same with my car.

van man said...

But we can't use car by schedule. Sometimes we have unexpected events and we need a car. It's too risky.

Van Sales said...

But if you share a car with your friends, they can change schedule if you have unexpected appointment. Though for some people anyway it's not appropriate.

Michael said...

The Missoula Urban Demonstration Project - Montana, launched the Missoula Truck Share with a 1991 Nissan pick-up truck April 22nd. We have 20 members signed up and we hope to add a Toyota Prius in 2008 once funding is secured.
More information: www.mudproject.org

Susan Sides said...

Thank you. Thank you. A few close friends here in NC are talking about a pick-up truck share and yours was the only site we could find with information on how someone set it up. Maybe in a few years the idea will catch on. Susan

Will said...

What do you do about insurance? Is everyone listed as a driver? I called the insurance company and of course they want everyone listed, but is that necessary?

Great idea!
Thanks

joey holton blogger said...

Hey sharing is caring and I share me vehicles everyday with family and friends

Chrisophia said...

What a fantastic story, I love. Can I quote a couple excerpts from your blog entry on my website? I'm creating new community transportation education program in Ithaca, NY called Way2Go. One of our webpages is on informal carsharing. Let me know! We'll include a link to your blog.

lisa s said...

chrisophia,

i can't get to your profile -it's private - to answer you, so hopefully you'll check here.

i've emailed tracy, the writer of the post to see if it's cool if you quote her story. --- i imagine it will be fine, but i want to make sure first.

check back or send an email to us w/ your email : sewgreenblog {at} gmail.com

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Anonymous said...

How did your group decide to compensate the person the does the maintenance?

Ronnie Walter said...

These are very good information sharing for the car truck. The car truck is pick is good and it is use for professional. I read this idea, it is really good.

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Anonymous said...

There is a website called KangaCoop that does this exact thing. It finds people near you to share a pickup. It is kind of like MeetUp, but specializes in pickups.

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