Join a UK car club?
March 16, 2010 1:19 AM   Subscribe

Your experiences with online car rental UK "car clubs" like City Car Club, Streetcar or Zipcar?

I'm considering joining one. I would be using it occasionally, mostly at weekends, from London in the UK.

What's the availability of cars like? Are some clubs better than others? Are there hidden charges to look out for?
posted by TheophileEscargot to Travel & Transportation around United Kingdom (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'm a member of Streetcar, although I've only used it a few times. I've found it to be pretty good. They have a lot of cars dotted arouns my part of London, and the few times I've used it I've always been able to find one available within walking distance, at short or no notice. The caveat is their small vans: I haven't tried to get one for a while, but about six months ago if you wanted a van on the weekend you had to book it at least a month in advance. Extending the bookings worked fine for me - I used the car's built-in phone to connect to their office and told them I wanted the car for another couple of hours. This gets charged at the normal hourly rate, but I think if you keep the car out late *without* telling them, you have to pay some sort of penalty.

No hidden charges that I ever ran in to, but you used to have to pay the congenstion charge if you hired a car outside the zone and took it in, which was made clear on their website but I thought was still pretty cheeky. However, in one of their recent emails they said that they now pay the congestion charge, so this shouldn't be an issue any more.

When comparing clubs, you might want to look into insurance terms. Becuase I'm paranoid I paid to reduce the large insurance excess, and because I'm a young male that was expensive. You should also check how much fuel is included in the rental; I remember thinking that Streetcar's allowance is enough that I'm not going to go over by driving around London for a day (and I didn't) but I can't remember what the figure actually is.
posted by metaBugs at 2:11 AM on March 16, 2010

Best answer: I've been in city car club (formerly whizzgo) in Leeds and it's great. You book the car online in advance so you know it's there. The only problem is that sometimes other road users use the dedicated parking spaces, and so the car's not quite where you expect it to be, but it's always nearby and we've never had difficulty finding the car when we've booked it. The insurance and petrol is included in the price, so it really does take all the hassle out of driving. We're much more efficient in the car use now too - we'll get a car for 2 or 3 hours and do supermarket/homebase/garden centre/dump, rather than letting the chores spread out over a whole day. We've been members for a few years now and it really works for us.

Economically it doesn't really make sense for long journeys or day trips so for those we do a cheap hire from somewhere like Enterprise.
posted by handee at 2:11 AM on March 16, 2010

Can second Streetcar. Good customer service also. In terms of availability if you request a little in advance they can usually arrange something for you. As someone who once made the mistake of taking a streetcar for a weekend away - handee is correct. Streetcar is perfect for going around London but any serious distance / time and go the traditional route.
posted by numberstation at 3:30 AM on March 16, 2010

Seconding handee. Have loved City Car Club. In Bristol, I've never seen the designated parking spaces filled though.

Have always had great customer service when I've had to call in about something.
posted by ursus_comiter at 3:34 AM on March 16, 2010

Best answer: Was a member of City Car Club in west London for 3 years and found them to be very good on the whole. Our council (Ealing) got right behind the scheme and allocated loads of spaces for cars all around the borough, so even if the closest car was booked, there was always an alternative a short walk away.

The thing that I kept on forgetting to watch out for was that they have 2 tiers of car size with the larger ones being slightly more expensive. It's not immediately obvious on the website which are which (particularly if you're in a hurry). Their website went through a really flakey spell but is much better now - I don't know if the new whizz-bang booking system has gone online yet?

We used them for weekends/holidays occasionally - if you catch the train to your destination then pick up a car there (we did this on a weekend in the West Country, for example) it works out quite economically - they also used to run discount promotions for extended bookings.

CCC use Oyster cards to unlock the cars and, if you give them a call, they can programme your TfL oyster to double up as a CCC one, which makes it incredibly useful to have just one card for everything (or incredibly annoying if you lose it).
posted by dogsbody at 4:12 AM on March 16, 2010

Best answer: I use Streetcar occasionally and am happy. They have a lot of cars within walking distance of me (in WC1), and I have never had trouble getting a nearby car.

As Handee says, it's not always (ever?) the cheapest option, but it is very convenient. I especially love that I can just drop the car off in its spot late at night when I finish the booking.

I don't know how you feel about automatic vs. standard transmission, but Streetcar now has more automatic options in my immediate vicinity, which makes me very happy. And actually there's a nice Prius very close by that "lives" in an underground lot in view of the 24-hour human attendants.

Streetcar has also rolled out a new free iPhone app with which you can book cars, find nearby cars and also unlock your booked car. It's great.
posted by sueinnyc at 9:26 AM on March 16, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks all! Sounds like the clubs work OK. I have a refresher driving lesson in a few days: if that goes well I'll join one.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 2:15 AM on March 17, 2010

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