Car sharing is something that we’ve talked about before – whereby someone owns a car, then “shares” it with their neighbours. There are a variety of car sharing models, including the profit model, where owners can make money from hiring out their car when its not in use, and the non-profit model, where owners cannot make a profit from hiring out their car – instead, the benefits are focused towards the environment. BlaBlaCar, for example, a new car sharing agency, does not allow its members to profit from their hires, which keeps everything really low-cost – you can get to Paris for just £33, which is probably cheaper than virtually any other method of travel.
Put simply, BlaBlaCar is an organised means of hitchhiking, where travelers announce their journeys online before they head out. Anyone interested in sharing the journey just posts the details online, and then travelers can sign up to sit in the spare seats. It’s an easy way to make your way across the continent, as it’s very popular in Europe, but it’s also a brilliant way to make long car journeys and holiday treks a little more interesting. The journey distance is calculated, and then the website gives you two figures: a suggested price, and a maximum price. This is intended to cover insurance, which also helps to reduce costs for both sides as it excludes commercial vehicle insurance.
Only a few clues are given to the driver’s personality: how chatty they are, whether they allow dogs, whether they allow smoking and whether they listen to music as they drive. You can’t choose the car or the route, and some aspects of the journey will be out of your control – for example, if the driver is late picking you up. But the price of the journey is dramatically lower than similar coach or bus services, and the benefit is that you get to sit in a homely environment with (hopefully) like-minded travelers.
One thing to keep in mind is that if you’re travelling for a specific reason – for example, to an airport or to a train station and you cannot be late, book the journey well in advance so that you don’t have to worry about keeping to a timeframe.
Other car sharing sites offer drivers the chance to make a little extra money on the side, but this negates the environmental benefits. A site such as BlaBlaCar means that greedy people are immediately dismissed and weeded out, offering benefits to drivers and travelers alike – plus, travelers have the peace of mind that the people that they are travelling with have been vetted and approved, and that the process is far safer than traditional hitchhiking.
All in all, it’s a fab way to get from A to B – just be prepared for some eclectic personalities!