May 25

Alternatives to owning a car

Reading Time: 8 mins

Running and owning a car is quickly becoming un-affordable for lots of people. If you add up the costs of breakdown cover, insurance, servicing and maintaining a car, you’ll see how much of a dent in your wallet it makes. And with the credit crunch taking its toll we need to make savings where ever we can. Here at MoneyMagpie we’ve found you some brilliant money-saving alternatives to owning a car. So take a look and see what might work for you and how much you could save.

Car clubs

How does it work?

Young girlfriends in car

A car club gives you access to what are essentially pay-as-you-go cars. You can sign up with a car club like Zipcar or City Car Club and rent one of their cars by either the hour or day. Once you’ve signed up and paid the annual fee (around £60) you will be sent a special smartcard and PIN number which you can then use to access the cars and make your bookings. There are charges for returning the cars late but most give around ten minutes’ leeway and you can always call the club to extend your booking if you know you’re running late.

alternatives to owning a carClub cars will have breakdown cover and insurance (although you will have to pay an excess towards the insurance). You will also be fined if you leave the car in a mess, so don’t smoke or allow pets in there and clear out any rubbish before you drop it back to the parking bay. You will also be required to leave a certain amount of fuel in the tank (which the club will pay for) so that the next person has enough to get going.

  • Zipcar is the world’s largest pay-as-you-drive car club with over 731,000 members and more than 11,000 vehicles in urban areas across the United Kingdom, United States, Spain, Canada and Austria. In the UK, Zipcar operates in London, Bristol, Cambridge, Maidstone and Oxford as well as having local authority partnerships in Kent and Surrey. Members can reserve a vehicle using a Zipcar app on their smartphone, online or over the phone, which means they can book a car on the go, minutes or months in advance.  A flexible cost-effective alternative to owning a car: a typical Zipcar member saves £250 per month, compared to owning a car. To find out how much you could save check out the Zipcar Savings Calculator.
  • City Car Club has cars across several UK cities including London, Edinburgh, Bristol, Bath, Brighton, Birmingham and Norwich. Members can book for an hour, a day or as long as required, with a choice of cars from smaller hatchbacks, eco-friendly hybrids and larger estates. Book online, by phone or even from cars themselves, and gain access to the cars 24 hours a day, 7 days a week using a smart-enabled membership card.

How much will it cost?


Zipcar: Annual fee: £59.50 a year or, alternatively, you can pay £6 monthly for twelve months. No deposit. No monthly commitment.  Hourly rates from £5 per hour or £49 per day.

City Car Club: Annual fee is £60. Costs from £4.95 per hour, £39.95 per day, fuel is included in the mileage charge which is 23p per mile.

Package deals

If you are going to use the car for longer than just the occasional  short trip around town then a package deal may be best for you.

Whilst ZipCar no-longer offer package deals, City Car Club offers members the option of taking out a Discount Card for just £15 per month which gives 20% off all rental rates.

Any requirements?

alternatives to owning a carZipcar drivers must be 19 years old and have a valid driving licence for at least a year. You must have no more than six penalty points on your licence or no more than three if you’re under 30. You must have no major endorsements, no major violations in the past three years and no alcohol or drug related violations in the last seven years.

At City Car Club you can join as a member from the age of 19, UK or non UK licences accepted.  There is no upper age limit but members under 21 must pay a compulsory £500 refundable deposit which you get back once you are 22.

Visit and click on ‘find a car’ to see a map of your nearest car club destinations.


  • With a car club you only pay for what you use and if money is tight one month you can simply try to use the cars less.
  • Car clubs are ideal if you only need a car every now and want the option of having access to a car when an occasion crops up. All you have to decide is whether you want to pay-as-you-go (probably best if you won’t be using it for more than about ten hours a month) or pay a monthly fee and get a package deal (best if you’re likely to need a car regularly).
  • You can get rid of your car (along with all the costs that add up from owning one) but still have the luxury of being able to drive when you need to.
  • Londoners can avoid paying the congestion charge if they use Zipcar.


  • Renting a car by the hour is never going to be as flexible as owning a car – you will have to book and there is a chance that a car won’t be available when you need it.
  • Car clubs tend to be available only in bigger cities like London, Manchester and Birmingham but coverage is spreading so there will be more and more opportunities to get involved.
  • There tends to be quite a high excess to pay on the  insurance if you have an accident. At Zipcar you pay a damage fee of up to £500 or £750 for members under 21 years old.


Do a car share

How does it work?

Group carpooling to work

You use your own car or ride in someone else’s so there are no contracts to sign. You register your details with a car sharing website and specify where and when you want to travel. The system then matches you up with other travellers going the same way. You can share a car for pretty much any journey, whether getting to work, going shopping, taking the children to school, or even going to a festival. The idea is that you split the cost of the journey, so that everyone can save money on their travel costs.

You can find out more by visiting which lists car sharing pools all around the country. All you have to do is click on a location near you and see who else is travelling your way.

If you have a car yourself and you drive to work, get started now by registering yourself for free with one of the car-sharing websites like Nationalcarshare and Liftshare.

You can choose whether to always be the driver or passenger and search nationwide or simply within you’re own area.

Another option is to share a car with a friend or relative. This is much more difficult because only one of you can be the policy holder and the other must be added as a named driver. This means that only one of you (the policy holder) can build up No Claims Bonus (NCB) – which is crucial to reducing your insurance premiums. One way around this is to contact your insurers covering the car you’re sharing and explain the situation. It’s likely that you will be able to build up the NCB as long as you agree to stick with the same insurers when you get insurance later on down the road.

If you do decide to share with a friend make sure you’re both absolutely clear about who is going to take the car on any given day, including holidays and weekends. Split all the costs (insurance, petrol) and set up an online calendar so that you both know who’s turn it is to take the car on any given day.

How much will it cost?

The only cost will be the petrol to get you to your destination, which you will split with whoever shares the journey. This figure could be really come down if you manage to find three or four people to share one car journey.


  • You can save a lot of money on petrol and parking.
  • You get to meet new people and have some company on long, boring journeys.
  • You’ll be doing your bit to reduce congestion and pollution.
  • Sharing a car journey is perfect for part-time and shift workers, or people that don’t own a car but need a lift every now and then.
  • Liftshare even helps you find walking, cycling and taxi groups so that you can find companions on all kinds of journeys.
  • You can use car sharing to take a break from driving whenever you feel like you’ve had enough.


  • You may not feel safe sharing a car with someone you don’t know, but there are steps you can take to feel safer.
  • It’s a good idea to arrange to meet in a public place (rather than at your house) when you first meet and show each other some personal identification. Also, inform a friend of who you’re travelling with and when/where you’re going.

Get on your bike

Get a motorbike

Riding motorbike down open road into the sunset

Could you be financially better off on two wheels instead of four? According to research by the Post Office 29% of people who have ridden a motorcycle did so because it cost less than running a car.

Women are getting in on the act too – experts at the University of Hull say that one in five new motorcyclists are female. Motorbikes are cheaper to run and insure than most cars, so why not grab some leathers and jump on?

Don’t forget to get some motorbike insurance – it’s a legal requirement for motorbikes. Read our full article to find out how to save money on your premiums.


Hipster Cyclist Drinking Coffee

TFL also provides Londoners with a cycle guide with handy tips to get cyclists from A to B with the least hassle.

Bicycle insurance can be really cheap, and with a bike being stolen every 65 seconds in the UK it could save you paying out a large sum in the long run. Read our full bicycle insurance article for more information about where to get insurance and what to expect.

If you can commute to work by bike do it – you’ll save hundreds of pounds and get fit in the process. You can even get a fold-up bike so it’s easy to stash away in the office, and once you’re a confident rider you can find the best routes and get to work in double-quick time.

Get your hands on a cheap bike from eBay or Amazon and check police auction site Bumblebeeauctions for some fantastic bargains on unclaimed stolen or confiscated bikes.

Take advantage of the government’s Cycle to Work scheme which allows you to save up to 32 per cent with tax-free bikes. Ask your employer to sign up to the scheme – it won’t cost them anything.

Using public transport is a great way to get around and there are ways to cut costs. Find out how by reading our full article on cheaper train tickets.

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FYI – Whizzgo pulled out of St Albans and Streetcar don’t have cars there. Their reasoning was lack of demand, though many users at the time complained of a total lack of advertising, apparently.

The wiki tells their side of the story; //


For a new type of car sharing try WhipCar. It enables people to rent their unused car to others in their local vicinity, and drivers in need of a car can hire from locally situated car owners. Car owners can set their own rates and decide on the times that the car is available. Since its launch WhipCar has gone on to create one of the most diverse car fleets of the UK, and it is growing by the day.

Andrew Pelt
Andrew Pelt

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Wow, thanks for the information. I really admire your writing style. I finally discovered this information by searching on Yahoo, I really did not think I was gong to find my answer, but I did. Thank you so much!

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