New European Trend: Renting Tiny Cars...By The Minute

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We're all familiar with daily car rental. Even hourly car rental is becoming a growing trend, with car-sharing services allowing you to pick up a car somewhere in a city and deposit it somewhere else, paying for the hours in between.

In Europe, things are taken one step further, with rental by the minute.

Popular Daimler-owned car-sharing service Car2Go is flooding the streets of Berlin, Germany, with Smart ForTwos as part of its by-the-minute rental service, attracting those who might not need--or be able to afford--a car. For many, the concept of not owning a car but being able to use one when required makes a lot of sense.

While the fleet of distinctive blue and white Smarts partly takes aim at BMW, whose DriveNow rental fleet is now half that of Car2Go's 1,000-strong ForTwo fleet, it's also a burgeoning business, reports Bloomberg.

Car-sharing membership in Europe is expected to rise from 700,000 at the end of last year, to a staggering 15 million by 2020. As the cost of driving rises, many are discovering that they can do without owning a car altogether

City centers in Europe are becoming increasingly car-unfriendly, with traffic, road-charging schemes and restrictions. Throw in a wealth of excellent public transport options in the average European city, and the appeal of car ownership is waning for city-dwellers.

For making short trips, like a commute to work, the benefits of car-sharing are clear. Both Daimler's Car2Go and BMW's DriveNow services charge an identical 29 cents per minute in Berlin, making short drives quite cost-effective--particularly since there's no worries over paying for parking or gasoline.

The services also have an ulterior motive. With car ownership among younger drivers expected to dwindle over the coming decades, short-term rentals are vital to carmakers for getting people behind the wheel of their products. Automakers can make money in the short term via the rentals, but also encourage users to stick with the brand if they decide to buy their own car.

While the U.S. market is still very different to that of Europe, car-sharing is still growing in popularity, with Car2Go now operating in several cities (with some even going electric), and other firms like Zipcar also making car-sharing incredibly easy.

Is short-term car rental the future of personal transportation? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.


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Comments (3)
  1. On the radio this weekend they were saying that transportation is the second largest expense in American homes (after the home itself). Transportation costs are higher than food costs.

  2. It sounds like it is working good in Europe, but here in America the share owners would place the per minute charge so high that it wouldn't make sense. Just like the price of an apartment in America costs more than the payment on a house. Rent or own, it makes more sense and cheaper to own a vehicle or house in America. It would be nice though to see those little three wheel vehicles sitting around town so people who cannot drive or afford to buy being able to rent one when they need it.

  3. Realistically, there's not much difference between renting/owning a car (or indeed renting an apartment/paying mortgage payments) over here in Europe, but we seem to be screwed over by the extra stuff, like fuel costs, parking, road taxes and so-on (or for houses, huge deposits that kill the market for first-time buyers), which does make rental attractive for city types.

    If my own hometown was adequately set up for a rental scheme, I'd seriously consider it myself. Unfortunately, it isn't really suitable.

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