“I’m really grateful that people are willing to rent their car out. It helps us live car-free.”
Jennifer and her family haven’t owned a car since they moved back to Melbourne after living overseas. They were among the first to join Car Next Door when in launched in Melbourne in 2014, and have been active car-sharers ever since.
The family chooses not to own a car mainly for environmental reasons, but also because it saves them money and lets them choose different cars to suit different trips.
“I think it’s really nice that the car owner has been willing to put their car out for people like me to use - I guess it’s a slight risk, and they don’t necessarily earn a lot, so I’m really grateful that they’re willing to put it out there,” says Jennifer.
“It’s really helpful to have the service available for people like us, because it means we can choose not to own a car.”
“It feels like you’re the co-adoptive parents of a car”
Jennifer says that borrowing a car regularly comes with a sense of connection and responsibility.
“When you borrow a car regularly, you start to feel like you kind of know the owner - even if you don’t actually meet them,” she says.
“You feel like you want to look after their car, because you are returning it home to its family and you’ve had the privilege of borrowing it for a short time. It suddenly feels like you’re the co-adoptive parents of a car!”
“Instead of us being a two-car family, it’s like we had a two-family car.”
There are a few cars nearby that Jennifer books regularly.
“I choose different cars depending on what I need to do,” says Jennifer. “If it’s shopping at the markets, I book a car with a big boot. For camping I get an SUV. And we often go and visit family for dinner on Wednesday nights, so I get a small car for that."
"In fact we got used to using this one particular car in our street for Wednesday night family dinners. Instead of us being a two-car family, it was like we had a two-family car."
"Then the owner started driving his son to Karate on Wednesday nights, so we had to switch. That took a bit of re-arranging. We’ve found some other cars nearby to use when our ‘regular’ is not available.”
Jennifer’s daughters don’t miss having a family car - they like the choice of different cars. They have some simple criteria for choosing their favourite cars:
“They always want to get the ones that have lollies in them,” says Jennifer. “I’ll be booking a car and the girls will say: ‘Oh, can’t we get that car with the caramels?”
Lollies or no, the girls get to have some fun with the Car Next Door cars.
“If we’ve booked a car for the day, we’ll sometimes do things that we wouldn’t be able to do otherwise,” says Jennifer. “Like the other evening, we visited the drive-in Cinema at Coburg. That was a lot of fun.”
Build-your-own car-share fleet
When Jennifer moved to a new suburb, there weren’t many cars around for her to rent. Rather than sit back and wait, Jennifer decided to create her own local car-share fleet. She dropped off flyers and talked to her neighbours about neighbour-to-neighbour car-sharing.
“The guy right across the road from us listed his car. That went well, so he put his second car on as well. His wife actually had another car, so she listed that too!"
"Now when people come to visit, they often comment on it - we’ve got a whole car-share fleet in our street.”
Jennifer says that her eldest daughter is keen for the family to buy a car that she can rent out to earn pocket money.
“She hasn’t convinced us yet, but she’s certainly working on it!”
“I can’t see us buying a car for the foreseeable future.”
“I tracked our total spending on transport for the year,” says Jennifer, “including Car Next Door, taxis, public transport and rental cars. All together, we spent just over $2,000. That’s a lot less than we would spend if we owned a car.”
“But the main thing for us is that we’re not putting another car on the road - that feels good. I can't see us buying a car for the foreseeable future.”
When Jennifer tells people that her family doesn’t own a car, she says “they often just kind of shake their heads.”
“I had someone say to me recently: ‘Oh, just wait until one child has to get to sport on one side of town and the other child has an activity on …’
“I just shrug it off. If that happens, we can just borrow two cars!”