Last week, Flexcar stationed one of its hundreds of hourly car-share vehicles outside our house. So, there’s now often a car sitting at the curb that we can use.
Are we still car-less?
By our definition, yes. For my family, “car-less” never meant anything beyond not owning a car. Some people have misunderstood, thinking we’ve made a pledge not to drive (and teasing us for “cheating” when we do drive). We’re happy to drive; we just don’t own.
We don’t own the Flexcar. We didn’t pay anything to put it there (though we and our neighbors did ask for it). And it’s not standing by waiting for us. It’s shared with thousands of other Flexcar members, any of whom can reserve it for any period.
Still, it’s available to us a sizable fraction of the time. And when it is, it’s right there, staring us in the face—offering a private, door-to-door, non-aerobic ride, and the pleasures of a good radio.
Its existence blurs the boundaries of our fifteen-month-old car-less experiment. And that’s worth pondering.
The big difference between car-less and car-full, it turns out, is not whether you drive or not. It’s how much you drive: whether you purchase your driving by the car (and the tank) or by the hour (and the mile). (This incentive has trimmed our mileage by about two-thirds.)
It’s also whether you plan your trips in advance. (Because Flexcar must be reserved for a specific period, we have to figure out in advance when we’ll be back. This is sometimes a pain: if the softball practice runs over, we have to worry about getting back late and paying a fine for inconveniencing the next driver.)
On the plus side, we never deal with gas bills, oil changes, maintenance schedules, tire rotation, car dealers, insurance companies, car washes, timing belts (or anything else under the hood), theft prevention, repair bills, or the other dirty diapers of ownership.
We do not own a car, but we do have access to a fleet of about 200 cars in our metro area—and hundreds more in cities across the country: hybrid sedans, minivans, SUVs, pickups, convertible sports cars, Mini Coopers. They’re all standing ready to reserve for 30 minutes or three days. They’re all available at the swipe of a smart card: keys waiting in the glove box, (hybrid) engines tuned, 24/7 roadside assistance on call, gas tanks full or refillable for free with the onboard gas credit card.
So, are we car-less?
What do you think?