Car ownership alternatives


Want to use a car occasionally but don't fancy owning one? Here are four clever alternatives:

Streetcar
Streetcar is a car club that lets you book a range of vehicles by the hour, day, week or month. You pick a slot online or by phone, then pick the car or van up. Members are given a smartcard that you swipe to get on your way. The scheme won't suit everyone though as it currently only operates in London, Oxford, Cambridge, Brighton, Southampton, Guildford and Maidstone. However, the firm claims members typically save £2,000 a year by using Streetcar rather than owning their own vehicle. Members are expected to cover the cost of fuel.Cost: £59.50 (annual fee), daily rate £39.50 Typical car: VW Polo Bluemotion Streetcar website

Zipcar
Another car club, but this time it's only good for Londoners as it currently operates exclusively in the capital. Members get 60 miles free fuel with every booking – more than enough if you're staying in town – and the club even takes care of the congestion charge.
A fuel card is left in the cars, which are parked at locations across the capital, so you can fill up without any worry. Members are charged 23 pence per mile after the initial free allocation. When you sign up you're sent a 'Zipcard' that unlocks the doors when swiped on the windscreen, but you do need to book vehicles online or on the phone first.Cost: £50 (annual fee), daily rate £29 Typical car: Toyota Prius Zipcar website

Car Hire
IT sounds mad, but considering car hire as an alternative to ownership isn't stupid for everyone! Compared to the options here, hiring is sensible for those that need a vehicle infrequently. There are no annual fees to worry about and it often gets cheaper the longer you borrow the car for. Insurance and servicing is taken care of and, with a firm like Europcar, as long as you hand the car back with a full tank of fuel there are no additional charges. There are a huge number of hire firms operating in the UK though, so shop around for the best price – and try and book your slot well in advance.Cost: daily rate £44 (Europcar) Typical car: Renault Clio Visit Compare car hire or Europcar

Lease Hire
Similar to buying a car on standard finance, but the difference here is you never actually own the vehicle. You agree a fixed monthly charge to rent the car for a set time period then, at the end, hand it back. You'll have to find a deposit though, and this can often be the first three months' rental charge up front. However, if you're looking to fix your monthly outgoings, the fact some agreements let you factor in servicing costs to the monthly bill makes keeping an eye on your finances easy. Lease hire is getting more popular in the recession too: specialist lease firm Lings Cars has reported visits up 40 per cent. Cost: Varied monthly payment Typical car: Your choice on the Lingscars website
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