Overview of car clubs in London

What are car clubs? 

Car clubs are short-term car rental services that offer members access to a locally parked car without owning one. Car clubs offer an alternative model to private car ownership and can help to encourage a reduction in private car ownership and a mode shift away from car travel.

Car clubs tend to be organised on an area basis with cars often located in clusters so if one car is not available, a member will only have a short walk to access another car.

The following car club models operate in London:

  • Back-to-base/Round-trip – vehicles are available at a fixed location, either at dedicated parking bay or within a specific area.) These vehicles can be booked for a specific period of time and must be returned to the same location after use.
  • Flexible one-way/free-floating – vehicles are available at flexible locations within a specific area. These vehicles can be booked for use. After use, the vehicle must be returned to any available fixed location provided by the car club operator.

Alongside the traditional forms of car club, Londoners are able to rent out their private cars on a short-term basis. These peer-to-peer car club services provide Londoners with a means of sharing their underutilised vehicles with their neighbours and other members nearby and are not relevant to the role of borough councils.

Car clubs operating in London

There are currently five CoMoUK accredited car clubs operating in London:

Car clubs operate in every borough in London, providing Londoners with access to over 4,000 vehicles – specific areas can be found on CoMoUK’s car club map.

All car club vehicles available in London comply with Low-Emission and Ultra-Low Emission standards, and, in addition, car clubs are increasingly introducing electric and hybrid vehicles into their fleets. This provides Londoners with opportunities to access clean vehicles.

London Councils' position on car clubs

London Councils recognises that an increased use of car clubs in London could offer a range of economic, logistical, public health and environmental benefits including:

  • Freeing up parking spaces and reducing congestion on London’s roads – through members selling a car or deferring a planned purchase of a car and encouraging individuals to defer less essential trips and potentially increase their use of public transport.
  • Reducing road emissions and improving our environment – through members utilising cleaner vehicles (particularly if electric vehicles are offered by the car club operator) for essential car journeys, while using more sustainable transport for other journeys.
  • Increasing public familiarity with electric vehicles – by making electric vehicles more visible, desirable, and accessible to a wider audience.
  • Reducing costs of living – through members switching from private car ownership to utilising car clubs, and not having expenses like: vehicle tax, MOT, fuel, servicing, repairs, and parking. CoMoUK estimate that car club users who drive less than 6-8,000 miles per year could save up to £3,500 a year, compared to owning and running their own car.
  • Reduced business costs –through enabling rationalised business travel and reduced staff commuting by car.
  • Improved accessibility – by communities to share assets and improve access to transport options.

Given the importance of evidence-based policy development, London Councils values close collaboration between the car club sector and London local government and encourages car club operators to share operational insights and relevant data. Through the Car Club-Local Authority Data Standard, London is setting a standard for data sharing, and establishing evidence-based car club policy.

Whilst car clubs currently tend to operate in the areas of strong public transport access and high levels of active travel, London Councils sees considerable potential in Outer London where private car ownership and potential for mode shift are significantly higher.

London Councils is determined to work with key partners in supporting a responsible growth of the sector to ensure it contributes to the capital’s sustainable transport strategy.