Car Sharing and Its Impact on Car Ownership

Could car sharing change the way people commute?

Absolutely! In fact, car sharing is already having a noticeable impact on urban transportation and vehicle ownership across the country. An option in more than 20 major metropolitan regions throughout North America, car sharing is the biggest shift in personal transportation since the creation of the cab. By distributing vehicles across a network of locations in the borough, our Brooklyn car share community has quickly grown to accommodate an increased need for on-demand automobiles.

Here at Carpingo, we’ve always stood by the benefits of car sharing, arguing that our service not only reduce vehicle ownership, but also improve vehicle efficiency. Today, we’re happy to announce that a study published in Access by Elliot Martin and Susan Shaheen has successfully evaluated these claims. The results will leave you wondering why anyone would ever invest in a personal vehicle when sharing is readily available.

About the Study

Conducted in 2008, this study was conducted as an online survey of various car share communities in North America. As part of the study, respondents were asked about their household’s travel behavior both prior to joining a car share and after. Additional questions focused on vehicle ownership; specifically how many vehicles the household owned and operated before deciding to join a car share and whether that number changed after utilizing a car share service.

The study also collected vehicle specifics, such as the make, model, and year of each vehicle present in the household before joining a car share. This information was used to determine fuel efficiency, which was then compared to the fuel efficiency of various car share fleet vehicles.

Like Carpingo’s Brooklyn car share community, the study looked primarily at “neighborhood” business models (i.e. car share companies that consist of vehicles positioned in residential and mixed-use neighborhoods for use by local residents).

Car Sharing Cuts Out Excess

Once all of the data was tabulated, it was found that car sharing lowers the total number of vehicles owned by its members:

Across the sample, households owned 2,968 vehicles before car sharing, which translates to 0.47 vehicles per household. After car sharing, the sample owned 1,507 vehicles, or 0.24 vehicles per household.

Source: The Impact of Car Sharing on Household Vehicle Ownership,
by Elliot Martin and Susan Shaheen

It’s worth noting that much of this shift involved households becoming entirely carless. According to the study, 80 percent of the sample owned no vehicle after joining a car share community. The shift from a two-car household to a one-car household was significantly smaller.

Joining a car sharing community, like Carpingo’s Brooklyn car share programs also deterred carless households from acquiring a personal vehicle:

This effect is hard to measure because a decision not to purchase something is hard to observe. However, in the survey we asked respondents whether in the absence of car sharing they would buy a car. The available responses included “definitely not,” “probably not,” “maybe,” “probably,” and “definitely.” This question gives insight into the degree to which car sharing substituted for a personal vehicle that would have been purchased. About 25 percent of the total sample indicated that they “maybe,” “probably,” or “definitely” would buy a car in the absence of car sharing.

Source: The Impact of Car Sharing on Household Vehicle Ownership,
by Elliot Martin and Susan Shaheen

According to data from the study, most households that join a car share program are carless to begin with: 62 percent of households that joined a car share and responded to the survey didn’t own a vehicle to begin with.

Car Sharing and Its Impact on Fuel Efficiency

Martin and Shaheen found that the average fuel economy of vehicles shed by car share participants was roughly 23 mpg. The fuel economy of vehicles added came in slightly higher at 25 mpg. The average efficiency of a car share vehicle was much higher: 33 mpg. As such, the average car share vehicle is roughly 10 mpg more efficient than the personal vehicle it replaced. You have to admit, that’s pretty impressive!

Conclusions From the Study

As we’ve long suspected here at Carpingo, our Brooklyn car share community is helping to substantially reduce the number of vehicles owned by member households. What’s more, households that participate in our Brooklyn car share community are more likely to exhibit a dramatic shift towards a carless lifestyle, trading in their old, inefficient vehicle for access to a newer, eco-friendly car share model.

As excited as we are to see this study substantiate our gut feeling, it’s the thought of future benefits that really gets our engines revving! Imagine a world where traffic congestion was a thing of the past, and efficient vehicles were the only option. Communities like our Brooklyn car share are helping turn this dream into a reality!

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