Car clubs and what they mean for businesses

If your company has limited parking, or if your staff do not need daily access to a car, then a car club could be worth considering.

Car clubs were initially aimed at private users, but they are now seeking to attract business users.

So how do they work? A car club locates vehicles in designated parking bays in a local area, which are accessed using a member’s smart card and returned at the end of a journey.

Car clubs offer:

  • 24-hour access to a range of vehicles.
  • Booking over the phone or the internet – well ahead of time or within a few minutes’ notice.
  • Pay-as-you-go charging, which includes maintenance and fuel costs.
  • Transparency. Accounts are sent to the company at the end of each month, outlining costs, mileage and times of every trip, or can be viewed securely online in real time.
  • Block booking for large organisations.
  • Peace of mind. Safety and duty of care concerns are alleviated as the cars will be young, regularly checked, fully insured and serviced by the club. The club will also carry out driving licence checks.

Housing association Servite Thames Homes set up a car club after the company merged with another organisation and 60 staff suddenly found themselves sharing 14 parking spaces at the merged premises.

Servite’s operational radius is the whole of London as staff visit tenants, so managing director Heather Thomas had to think of a way of keeping staff on the road. Car sharing was the obvious solution to the parking problem.

Thomas says: “Our car park at the Balham office in south London is far too small in comparison to the number of employees, together with their cars which we anticipate. We had to come up with a radical idea. A car club seemed to be the best idea. By having Zipcars based at Balham, we will end up taking lots of cars off the road not only just those of staff but also those of people who live near the office.”

“Users enjoy greater convenience as the car will be outside the office or front door, or very close by,” explains Paul McLoughlin, managing director UK of Zipcar, the supplier that won the Servite Thames business. Zipcar, like its rivals, utilises smartcard technology. Each member books online (up to 30 minutes before the car is required) and is given a smartcard to access the car and a pin number in order to be able to drive away. “You just place the swipe card against the window and the car opens,” he says.

Charity Carplus has more details about car clubs.

Accredited car club operators for business include:

  • City Car Club
  • Common Wheels
  • Connect by Hertz
  • Option C
  • Streetcar 
  • Whizzgo 
  • Zip Car.  

However, outside the main conurbations, many companies find car clubs unviable because they are inaccessible, according to Stewart Whyte, managing director of leading fleet consultancy Fleet Audits and a director of ACFO (Association of Car Fleet Operators).

“They offer an extremely limited range of vehicles – typically smaller cars – and there is limited checking of vehicles from a safety, maintenance and repair perspective, which is crucial if fleets are to comply with their occupational road risk management responsibilities,” he says.

Whyte adds that car clubs are also expensive.“Car club members typically pay an annual membership, an hourly usage charge and a mileage charge if exceeding a preset daily allowance, and costs can soon escalate,” he says. “If there is a high level of vehicle demand then a car club should be ‘internalised’ with pool cars, a vehicle rental arrangement, mileage allowances or company cars more satisfactory and financially attractive.”



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