Car sharing: best cars and the best car sharing apps

Earn cash by renting out your car when you’re not using it: here are our choices for the best car sharing apps and cars for the job

John Evans
Oct 6, 2021

As Peter Kay’s Car Share TV sitcom showed, the offer to share a lift to and from work can lead to more than just sharing costs. However, if that’s all you want to do, sharing your car with others, or using a shared car, could be a wise financial move.

Even when it's just parked up outside, your car is costing you money, but you could turn this downtime into a money making opportunity by sharing it with other people. At the very least you might want to make it available to others, such as friends and family, from time to time.

If you don’t own a car, you can use a car sharing platform to borrow someone else’s for as little or as long as you need it, saving yourself the expense of running one 24/7. On that point, Carplus, a body that represents car clubs, reckons a person currently driving fewer than 6000 miles a year, could save £3,500 paying to borrow or ‘share’ a car through a car club.

How does car sharing work?

Car sharing takes many forms. It includes informal arrangements between family members on a common insurance policy (that is, between the principal and a named driver) or even with strangers via a Facebook group such as Car Share UK where you tell other members you need to get from A to B in the hope someone with a car is making the same journey, also referred to as carpooling.

There are company car sharing schemes but you might consider simply lending your car on a commercial basis through a company such as Hiyacar. These companies enable you to loan your car to members, for a fee. At the other extreme are plans by Tesla, for example, to establish a network of autonomous Teslas that can be shared and Volkswagen’s MOIA ride-sharing electric shuttle project slated to go live in 2025.

Schemes can be based around privately owned cars or on a commercial basis where the car is owned and made available by a company. An example of this is Zipcar whose branded VW Polos and MG ZSs are a common sight around London. Zipcar and other formalised car sharing schemes are also known as car clubs.

What’s the difference between car sharing and renting?

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Generally speaking, in a formal car share arrangement such as Zipcar, you’ll need to be a member of a car club which enables you to be pre-approved for any number of drives (there have been identity checks, your licence details have been logged and there is an automatic payment arrangement in place). The service is not limited by office hours and, at least in a major city such as London, there’ll be a car just a short walk away from you or close to public transport. Loans as short as 10 minutes will be possible and you’ll be able to lock and unlock the car using a phone app or membership card. The key will be in the glovebox or there will be an app-based means of starting the car.

Zipcar’s Flex scheme allows you to choose between booking a round-trip loan from dedicated on-street Car Club Only bays in London to which you return the car, or one-way loans where you drop the car off at one of the thousands of approved parking bays within the city’s designated Zipzone.

A traditional car rental arrangement is not this flexible and convenient, although some major renters are beginning to offer car club-style rentals. One of them is called Enterprise Car Club. Vehicles are parked in designated bays in major city centres across the UK and a car can be reserved via an app at the last moment. Unlike some car clubs there’s a whole range of vehicle types to choose from but the vehicle must be returned to the bay it was taken from to ensure there’s a parking space for it. Rental charges include fuel, breakdown cover and 24/7 support.

What about insurance?

If you share through an organised car club, insurance will be included in the booking price you pay. However, the rise of more informal car sharing has led some insurers to offer tailored insurance to suit.

For example, Admiral Insurance offers a car-share insurance policy it calls Veygo and which is for drivers without a car. This includes learner drivers as well as qualified drivers who simply don't own one. It’ll cover a car borrowed from a family member, a work colleague or a friend. To take out cover, you’ll need their driving details and licence number, as well as your own. Cover ranges from one hour to 30 days and can be taken out precisely when you need it, or up to 60 days in advance of the car loan.

The policy is in the borrower’s name, so a claim does not affect the insurance record of the person from whom they borrowed the car.

Veygo addresses the problem of being under-insured when borrowing someone’s car. Typically, a comprehensive insurance policy will only cover you third party on someone else’s car that itself must be comprehensively insured. Check with your insurer first because you may find it does not extend cover in this way.

How can I make money sharing my car?

At its simplest you could invite colleagues, say, to share your car and contribute to the travel expenses. But if you want to get more serious about it you could join a car club such as Hiyacar, a kind of Airbnb for car owners. Hiyacar claims members can earn up to £1000 a month sharing or renting their car to people when it would otherwise sit unused. One member has a £3000 Fiesta earning him £900 a month. You advertise your car’s availability and your terms and rates. Cars are insured by AXA.

Users must join Hiyacar and are vetted and DVLA-verified before they can rent a car. Hiyacar installs a QuickStart box on the car’s dashboard that allows the car to be unlocked and started via the user’s smartphone. Cars are inspected and reviewed on site by users.

The company, which had its first hire in 2016, now has 50,000 members nationwide and claims to be bigger in London than Zipcar. In May it plans to launch, with a major car maker, a scheme enabling people to lease a used car they can then rent out on Hiyacar. Most existing lease deals do not allow this.

How easy is it to share with friends and family?

If you have a Vauxhall car featuring the company’s OnStar concierge service, then very. Among its many features it enables a family member, to whom you have granted access to your OnStar smartphone app, to unlock your car via their smartphone and retrieve the key. However, you should make sure they are properly insured to drive the car.

What about other car-sharing schemes?

Volkswagen Group is developing a variation on the car sharing concept called ride-pooling. It has created a company called MOIA that will operate electrically powered, autonomous shuttle-type vehicles that can carry up to six people and which can be summoned via a smartphone app. The software compares your route with the routes of other users and directs only the most appropriate vehicle to pick you up.

Tesla is developing its cars’ autonomous functionality and when legislation permits, the company intends to roll out the so-called Tesla Network car sharing service..

Lynk & Co, the Chinese car brand that launched in the UK in 2019, says it is committed to providing a car-sharing function in its 01 model. Using cloud-based telematics software, users could share their car between family and friends.

Where do I find out more?

Most car clubs are represented by an organisation called Carplus while Transport for London also offers guidance and information on the city’s many car clubs.

Car sharing facts*

  • There are 565,505 car club members in London
  • There are 3,886 car club vehicles in the UK
  • 11% of London’s car club fleet is electric
  • Each car club car replaces 23.5 vehicles removed from the road in the past 12 months

*Carplus annual survey 2020, London area


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