I rented out my car in Melbourne for a year. Here’s how it went.

Would you still own a car if it was cheaper yet more practical not to? If you could get around in cars you didn’t own?

A few years ago I was about to sell my little car that I’ve had since I turned 19. I figured

  • I don’t drive much these days now that I live close to PT —roughly once a fortnight
  • Driving isn’t a hobby for me, I’d much rather be in the passenger seat
  • The parking situation is becoming a hassle
  • Cars are a terrible investment from an ROI perspective. They just cost you money — parking, fuel, servicing, registration fees, and parking fines... And I’d rather invest in things that make me money or things I actually enjoy.
  • Servicing is frustrating and time-consuming, so much so that one of the startups at the program I manage is tackling this problem — the folks at Repairy pick up your car from your house, service it, and drop it back to you because who wants to take a day off to service their car?

The actual costs

II worked out owning and driving a car would cost me $3500 — $4000 a year (that’s a modest estimate — $900 rego, $1500 parking, $1500 fuel, $250 servicing), owning and driving less often would be around $2500. Not to mention the lost time driving around looking for free parking…

Then I came across Car Next Door, an Australian startup that lets you rent your car out to neighbours. So I signed up. I’m always up for being an early adopter to aussie startups. A year on here’s what happened —

Car Next Door Booking Starts for Financial Year 2019/2020

My car was rented out 34 times and made $2,930.30 (44% availability). I’ve priced my car quite low, for me the reality is if I don’t need it — I’m happy for other neighbours to use it to make their life more convenient. Nowhere near this guy from Melbourne who made $20 000 a year renting out his SUV. I should point out I don’t have a fancy car -it’s a little Honda Jazz that I’ve called Jagga (short for Punjabi name Jagraj) that I bought for $4k when I was 19, it’s now earned more than it cost me to buy.

Why do people own cars?

This whole experience got me thinking about why people own cars. Car ownership is about four things:

  1. Convenience — being able to drive and get from A to B whenever you want. Also those who live where there’s less public transport don’t have as much of a choice if they want to get to places quickly or at all in rural Australia (I’m originally from a small country town).
  2. Comfort — some people are more comfortable in a car than on a train/tram. You can openly have private conversation with Bluetooth in your car, it’s awkward on a train.
  3. Status/culture — people own nice expensive cars do so because of status and what it says about them to others. It’s part of their identity. It’s also embedded in our culture, some people just “love going for long drives”.
  4. Luxury — this ties into status, but some people like nice white leather seats that heat up in winter.

I realised I mainly own a car for 1 & 2, that if 3 or 4 mattered to me I would have upgraded long ago yet I keep my old car precisely because it still works — gets me to where I need to go.

One time I forgot to block my car calendar on Car Next Door and needed my car but it was booked by someone else. I went to cancel the booking and instead the person renting offered to drop me to my destination since it happened to be on the way to their destination too.

Sitting in the backseat I realised the irony — I was being driven to my destination by a stranger and being paid yet it was more convenient for both of us.

I recently updated my car bio to reflect his personality too —

Hi I’m Jagga, short for Jagraj. I’m super easy (to drive), more spacious than other seemingly bigger cars and I have a stick — you’ll need to put me in the right gear to turn me on. I get around A LOT. Did I mention all the profits I make by getting around go to charity? I’m practically the guy you’ve been looking for on Tinder, you’ve just been on the wrong platform baby. I’m in an open relationship, so let’s go for a ride.”

A conversation I had with someone in the industry got me thinking about about the future of transport and what that means for Australia in ways that I hadn’t before.

Uberpool- ridesharing made even cheaper.

When I’m not taking PT I opt for ridesharing. I don’t love Uber for various reasons, I’d much rather use Shebah (Australian rideshare platform for women), but Uberpool is brilliant. It’s strange that you can get to where you’re going cheaper than public transport and sometimes more conveniently.

Having tried it several times, it’s my go-to option when I’m not in a rush. I’ve always wondered why airlines don’t partner with Uberpool, I once waited for 30 minutes in a line for a Taxi at Melbourne Airport and heard the person 10 spots ahead of me in the queue waiting to go to the exact same destination as me.

Airlines could look at offering their passengers an option of being dropped off home alongside other passengers going to the exact same destination — again better for traffic congestion, cheaper and more convenient. It would even make sense for government to seed such initiatives, they’ve already invested in 2+ lanes exclusive for those with 2 or more people in the car incentivizing and encouraging this behavior.

The future is closer than we think

Convenience, in the long run, will trump status and change our culture — especially when it makes economical sense too. Once upon a time, a lot more people loved going on horse rides. Now it’s a hobby for a small group of people, the same is likely to happen with car ownership. There will still always be people who like owning nice luxury cars, but it’ll be about the same number of people who go horse riding on weekends.

About me: I’m Daizy, an ex-law student, startup program manager at Deakin University and I host a podcast where we have meaningful conversations with entrepreneurs, change-makers and leaders (mostly women of colour) as well as exploring what it means to live a purposeful life. I’m based in Melbourne, Australia.

[this article was updated on 12/07/2020 with new statistics]



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