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).
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.
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:
City CarShare (SF Bay, USA)
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).