Are you unsure what a Car Club is, and how to use them?
I joined and went through the stages so I could share my experience with you and hopefully clarify any doubts you may have.
So, what actually are Car Clubs?
Car Clubs are essentially pay-as-you-go community car hire scheme
s where members can hire vehicles from convenient locations across the UK. Most clubs have a range of vehicles from vans and cars in different sizes to fit multiple purposes.
Several companies in the UK offer this service, Enterprise and Zip Car Club are the two biggest clubs; however, the company we use in Norwich is Norfolk Car Club, operated by Co Wheels.
There’s a small fee of £25 to become a member of the Norfolk Car Club, you then pay for the duration of your booking. Per mile/Hour etc, which obviously varies based on how long you use the car for.
The booking process
I booked a day in advance via the website, which I found is very quick and easy once your account is set up.
You start by typing in your location, the date of your trip, the duration you require and then the fun part… choosing a car.
Most vehicles are small hatchbacks, there are lots of VW in my area such as Up! or Golfs, with few vans and estate options. You are free to choose what you would like, but we recommend making the decision based on what you’ll need it for. Vans can get booked up quickly, so I’d advise booking at least a week in advance. If you don’t need a particular car type, you shouldn’t have to worry as much.
I needed the car for a few hours but overestimated on booking times as I was travelling to somewhere new and wasn’t sure exactly how long I needed.
I went for the closest car to the office for convenience, which was just at the bottom of St Mathews Road, Norwich. The cars all have designated parking spots which is handy if you live close by. The car in the spot was a little red VW UP, a perfect economical city car and very easy to drive.
Unlocking the car is possibly the strangest obstacle you’ll come across.
After registering with Norfolk Car Club, you will be sent a card to the chosen address; this card will be your key to gain access to all Co Wheel cars across the country. You must tap your card on the pad in the front windscreen, wait for the green light to flash, you will then hear the doors unlock.
The car is not completely keyless, you will find the keys inside the glove box. Make sure you do your checks, and you will be ready to start your journey.
My journey was estimated to take an hour from the Smarter Travel office to the development I was visiting in Red Lodge. The journey is mainly on dual carriage ways, and my chosen vehicle had no issues. I arrived, left the keys in the glove box, and locked the car by tapping my card on the windscreen.
Norfolk Car Club ask that you leave the car with at least a quarter of fuel left in the tank. I was nearing that point, so before I set off, I checked the fuel station locator on the All Star Card website. To locate a compatible fuel station, you must first find out which card you have, this is normally slotted into the left-hand corner of the onboard computer (on the inside of the windscreen). With this you will be able to locate all the fuel stations that refill car club cars.
Fill up the car (make sure it’s the correct fuel) and pay by just inserting the card as you normally would, no pin, just give the cars mileage to the sales attendant.
Car Clubs are perfect for those who live in a city, where there is no need for a car as you can reach everything, you need by either walking, cycling or a short bus journey; when you do by chance need to use a car, if it’s just once a week to do the shopping, or to visit family then it’s a handy membership to hold and cheaper than owning a car.
Even for those not living in a city it can serve a purpose, those that have but do not use their second car as frequently as they thought, or those that are moving house or collecting furniture, you may need to hire a van for a few hours.
They are also excellent for business use; the Smarter Travel team uses the Norfolk Car Club on most site visits, serving essentially as a company car that you share with others. The ability to share with others allows for fewer cars on the road and therefore less Co2 emissions.
To summarise; it’s great for infrequent journeys, cheaper than running and maintaining a car and ultimately leads to fewer cars on the road.