Carpooling 101: The Essential Ridesharing Guide

Back-to-school time for you or your kids? Starting a new job or in a not-so-convenient location? Finally joining that hiking group, soccer team, or pottery class? Planning the ultimate autumn apple-picking trip for your crew? Whatever your fall plans may be, chances are they involve at least a few hours of driving. Carpooling is an eco-friendly way to save time and money on the road. Whether you’re ridesharing for one weekend or five days a week, here are seven tips that’ll help pave the way to carpool bliss:

1. Stick to the schedule

This one goes for both the driver and the passenger. If someone else puts in the effort to be on time and you leave them hanging, they’re likely to feel both annoyed and disrespected — and probably won’t be so eager to count on you for future carpools.

Springing unplanned stops on your passenger is a also a no-no. Fill up before you pick up. And if you want to stop for coffee, ask ahead to make sure you’re on the same page. Better yet, give yourself time to grab coffee before you meet and ask your fellow carpooler(s) if they want anything.

2. Respect the senses

Be considerate of those around you. Tidy up your car. Go easy on the perfume, don’t air out those stinky feet, and always ask before smoking. Unless you already know otherwise, it’s best to assume that your co-carpooler isn’t a smoker, and would appreciate it if you refrained from smoking, even out the window. If you really think you’ll need a smoke en route, considering giving them a heads up beforehand that you’ll want take a cigarette/bathroom break on the road. (If they’re open to you smoking in their car, they’ll probably take this opportunity to let you know it’s fine to to do so.) Check in to make sure you’re all enjoying that music or podcast. When in doubt, go acoustic or choose a road trip playlist together.

3. Always offer

Even if the driver doesn’t ask for gas/toll money, offer to split the costs.

4. Be the ultimate shotgun

First, be socially aware, especially if you don’t know each other well. Pick up on the driver’s cues as to whether they’re feeling chatty or would prefer to drive in silence. Offer to help navigate. Go the extra mile and twist the cap off the bottle they asked you to pass. Gas getting low? Use TankWallet to find the cheapest nearby gas station.

5. Say thanks

If you’re not trading off driving, give your driver a treat to show your appreciation. A “Thanks for driving,” plus coffee and pastry is a great way to say thanks for one ride. Put more thought (and money) into a gift for that person who has been driving your daughter home from tennis once a week all season.

6. Drive safely

We hope you do this when you’re on your own, too: Drive with caution and breathe through any tinglings of road rage. Keep in mind that quick acceleration, speeding around curves, and sudden braking is usually way more uncomfortable when you’re not the one behind the wheel. Bonus: Driving steady can also help you cut down on fuel spending.

7. Set ground rules

If this is a regular carpool, get organized. It’ll help you avoid future awkwardness and last-minute chaos. Have a backup plan for when the driver is sick or unavailable. Establish a routine for swapping rides and/or paying the driver.

Follow these seven tips, and you’ll be on your way to a smooth rideshare. Have a piece of carpool etiquette advice we didn’t include? Comment to share!

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