Today I used my Flexcar membership for the first time. Started in Seattle in 2000, Flexcar is a vehicle-sharing company that can now be found in many major cities in the U.S. The idea is simple – there are cars, trucks, minivans of various types owned by Flexcar parked throughout the city. Members pay for the use of any of the vehicles in the network only for the time they use it. Fuel and insurance are included in the hourly rate.
The idea of enrolling in Flexcar came to me since I’ve been living 5 blocks from work. I can walk to most of my favorite eating places, watering holes, and grocery stores. I use my car maybe once a week, usually less, and the only thing I pay for is insurance (between 45 and 50 bucks a month) and gas (I might buy 13 gallons of gas every 4-6 weeks). I began to wonder if I really needed a car. Then they parked a few Flexcars near my path to/from work, and I began to wonder even more. One of the cars I pass twice every day is a silver Mini Cooper with a black top – my current dream car (I have a model, even). After picking up a brochure one morning and doing a bit more research online, I decided to enroll. I had two goals in mind. One, drive the Mini Cooper. Two, figure out if using Flexcar how I would use my own car would cost more, less, or the same. If it cost the same or less, I would try very hard to convince myself to get rid of my car.
The problem is, I really like my car. It’s old and the paint’s peeling, and I don’t keep it clean. But I’m from Texas, and I like driving. I love the feel of getting behind the wheel and putting the pedal to the metal. It’s a rush. And while I absolutely detest traffic, and while most of my driving these days is inner-city, I still have daydreams of flying down the highway to a far-off destination. It’s not like I can’t take a Flexcar out for a joyride. They have sports cars available, presumably for that very reason. But I know what my car feels like when it’s going 85 miles an hour. I also know that I own my car outright, and if I drive it into a tree, the only things I’m hurting are the tree and myself. I don’t think I could feel as free in a car owned by a corporation as I can in my own automobile. Perhaps that’s for the best.
I have been a member of Flexcar for several months. Up until now, I’ve been unable to justify using my membership. I’ve been a little intimidated by the process of estimating the time usage, checking into the car, checking out of it. Today, however, a buddy of mine needed a new bed frame but had no way of transporting it. So I reserved a Toyota Tacoma pick up truck a few blocks from where I live and we drove to Ikea. The bed frame in its boxes fit perfectly, and we returned the truck to its spot with almost a half hour to spare. That’s the only pitfall I see in the whole Flexcar scheme. If you reserve a vehicle for 3-1/2 hours and use it for 3, you still have to pay for 3-1/2. (unless someone takes it before your time is up) That’s been part of my hesitance of using the service. However, my trepidations about the process appear to be unfounded. The whole thing was really easy, and I’m pretty excited about finally driving that Mini.
I think Flexcar is a great idea. It’s difficult to get people to stop using cars altogether, but if more people shared a few cars the world would be a lot different place. A nicer place. Like kindergarten. Ok, so maybe that’s going too far, but you get my drift.