I RECENTLY heard about two country households who share a car.
They say having just one car between them saves them money, keeps them fit (they ride bikes a lot) and cuts their carbon dioxide output.
I asked them to tell me about it for this column, thinking it might inspire others.
They say they are ordinary people making very conscious choices about when and how often they drive.
Cath James and Joel Meadows, both in their 30s and their kids Lloyd, 7 and Micah, 4, entered into the car sharing arrangement with Kathryn Ridd and Luke Smith, both in their late 20s, two years ago.
They share a $3000 second-hand Holden Barina.
They live within 10 minutes' walk of each other in Castlemaine, which is well serviced by trains to Melbourne, and all six of them have good bikes equipped with panniers.
They are not merely friends sharing a car.
They are near neighbours negotiating a serious choice, so they keep a well-detailed account of who uses the car and when and how many kilometres they travel.
It works like this. The car is housed at Cath and Joel's. They own it.
They pay the registration, third party insurance (those at fault in accidents would pay the excess) and sometimes the service costs.
Joel, an environmental and energy consultant, set up an Excel file that all four adults share online.
They must book the car ahead of when they want to use it.
They book it online. At the end of each journey they record the distance they've travelled and the fuel in a log book kept in the car.
Usage is tallied every three to six months so all parties know what they are owed or owing.
Generally, they like to avoid money changing hands so Kathryn and Luke will put more fuel in and occasionally pay the service costs.
The car uses 7.6 litres for every 100 kilometres.
In the latest yearly tally, their figures showed petrol cost $1714 and fixed costs (including, rego, insurance, servicing and depreciation) were $1750.95 or $3464.95 in total. That's $1732.47 for each family to run a car. Not bad!
It's especially interesting when you consider the vehicle owning rate within Mount Alexander Shire where they live is 1.59 a household, about the same as the national average.
Theirs is 0.5 a household.
There are a few vital ingredients to this so-far successful car sharing story.
One, the car is not worth much.
Two, one household has children and the other has none which means they mostly need the car at different times.
They take holidays at different times and in any case, Kathryn and Luke like to holiday by train or bus.
Three, they live in town within cycling distance to shops, schools and the train station.
Four, all four adults are personally committed to cutting the use of resources, and reducing their CO2 footprint.
Or as Luke says, "for us the environment comes before convenience".
Says Joel: "all four of us had the same view. None of us wanted to use the car as their main form of transport."
Kathryn says because the car is parked 10 minutes away at the other household, there is less incentive to use it and planning to drive is a much more conscious process.
Both families tend to shop by bike.
Says Cath: "there are certain things that come with sharing anything. At some stage all of us are going to stuff up and not clean it, return it late or forget to book it. If you keep that in mind and respect each other, it works."
- Joel is happy to share the costing model he's developed with others. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org