Idle cars could be moneymakers 

Most cars in The City sit around on streets for untold hours a week, in a lot, or in a garage, unused.

So why shouldn’t their owners earn a little cash by letting somebody use them?

That’s the concept of a new car-sharing venture that proponents say could widen the reach of such programs into the suburbs and beyond. The venture, currently a collaboration between San Francisco-based nonprofit City CarShare and startup Spride, could be launched in a pilot form by the end of the year.

The new venture builds on the model and technology of existing car-share programs, which amass a fleet of vehicles that members can pay to use by the hour. Instead, Spride’s fleet would consist of private vehicles that their owners aren’t using at the time.

The car owner would receive a portion of the payment made by the user for that period and could earn “as much as hundreds of dollars a month,” depending on how much their vehicle is used, Spride CEO Sunil Paul said. The vehicles would have to be less than 5 years old and nicer cars could earn a premium rate, he said.

The concept has been rolling around the offices of existing car-sharing companies for years, but it’s been held up in part because insurance companies wouldn’t allow it, according to City CarShare President Rick Hutchinson.

To solve that problem, Assemblyman Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, has introduced a bill that would require insurance companies to continue to insure personal vehicles used in these programs. Spride would secure insurance for the vehicle during the periods it’s being driven by other people in the network.

The technology in the vehicle would be similar to that employed by CarShare: electronic keys that allow users to unlock the vehicle and enable the engine. However, the keys would turn off the car’s regular insurance and trigger Spride’s insurance, and could send information to the owner of the car that it’s being used.

At the end of the month, the car’s owner would be paid for the hours the car was used. Paul said that if the vehicle is used four to five hours a day, the car owner could earn hundreds of dollars a month — enough to cover a typical car payment.

Hutchinson said that because the concept reduces a car-sharing program’s overhead by using private vehicles, it could easily spread into suburbs and other areas that have, until now, been out of the reach of urban car-sharing operations.

And it could bring car ownership within reach of people who otherwise might not be able to afford it, Paul said.

“You’re not using it anyway. You may as well make some money off of it,” he said.

kworth@sfexaminer.com


Bringing cars to the masses

3.5 Average hours City CarShare members check out vehicles

180 City CarShare locations in the Bay Area

12-18 Average mileage of City CarShare trip

35 million Pounds of carbon dioxide saved by City CarShare users in 2009

Source: City CarShare

 

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