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Car sharing a lesson of lockdown

COVID-19 has inspired more and more Australians to ditch petrol-guzzlers and opt for the greener and decidedly less costly option of car sharing.

Jessica Pilon-Summons

Written by Katelyn Catanzariti for The Canberra Times 3 October 2021

Nothing is more frustrating than paying for a car unable to be driven anywhere for months on end, thanks to lockdown.

Rego, insurance, maintenance, loan instalments ... perhaps having to fork out for a parking space? None of those payments has stopped, although drivers have been.

COVID-19 has inspired more and more Australians to ditch petrol-guzzlers and opt for the greener and decidedly less costly option of car sharing.

"A lot of Melbourne and Sydney residents are concerned about catching the virus and haven't been taking public transport," according to Will Davies, founder of Australia's largest peer-to-peer car sharing network Car Next Door.

"If you don't own a car ... there are other options."

In 2018, five years after Davies founded the business, more than 100,000 people had booked to borrow a private vehicle through Car Next Door.

But while most businesses felt the pinch of the pandemic, it's gone from strength to strength, recently passing the half a million bookings mark.

Membership to the network has increased by over 50,000 people since the start of 2021.

"Earlier on in the pandemic, we were seeing huge surges in sign-ups, there were months that bookings were as much as 80 per cent higher than they were the year before," Mr Davies said.

Although recently rebounding, the figures were being reflected in car sales too. Victoria's extensive lockdowns led to a 65.9 per cent decline in sales in August 2020 alone, near to where they were 20 years ago.

"It's a good sign, we really need to be scaling our car use back - and making use of the resources we already have," Mr Davies said.

"There are more than 18 million cars in Australia - and up to a third of the land in our cities is used to store cars."

Car sharing isn't the only way people have been making a difference.

Bike sales have spiked across the country, with many stores either completely sold out or busy hiring more staff at the height of lockdown.

The City of Sydney is building six new pop-up bike lanes around the CBD to cater for the increase in pedal traffic, while Brisbane City Council data shows an extra one million people using bike paths.

The Royal Automobile Club of Queensland estimates the average cost of maintaining even a small car to be about $8500 a year including fuel, registration, insurance, loan payments, depreciation and wear and tear.

But research shows cars sit idle for 95 per cent of the time - even more in cities.

And that was before lockdown.

Learning to save money and the environment in one go might be the lockdown lesson no one expected to learn. That and being able to make a killer banana bread.

Interested in trying car share? Search cars near you.

Written by Katelyn Catanzariti for The Canberra Times 3 October 2021

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