Using a car share rather than owning a private car can save you 80 percent a month.
Is car sharing just another word for ridesharing, such as using services like Uber and Lyft? No, it’s not. Car sharing refers to when multiple people rent cars for a short period of time. It’s a flexible, convenient and tech-savvy form of using a rental car that lets you pick up a vehicle anywhere, not just at a rental facility. With most programs, you can rent a car from a mobile app or website, without having to speak to or even see a human in some cases. Gotta love technology, right?
Still, the most recent data shows that seven out of 10 Americans have never used a car-sharing service, making it much less popular than ridesharing and the least-used form of shared mobility.
Car sharing is a type of car rental system that lets you rent a car 24/7 for any amount of time. The customer is billed for the usage only, in miles or time, and doesn’t have to pay for gas, insurance or maintenance. Unlike regular car rentals, where rental companies are located in cities and at airports, car shares are scattered throughout a city, making them more convenient for customers to walk to.1
Zipcar, one of the biggest players in the car-sharing market, released information showing how customers saved gas and money by using its services.2 While it’s always better to get metrics from an objective source, there is a lack of data surrounding car shares in the United States and beyond.
|Metrics for 2021 data||Zipcar compared to U.S. weighted average across all new light-duty vehicles sold in U.S. since 1975|
|Miles per gallon||23%|
|Number of miles||-73%|
|Number of people per trip||85%|
|Public transportation usage, 2021 vs. 2019||102%|
|Average monthly costs||-80%|
Compared to car owners, Zipcar members drove 40 percent fewer miles, with an average trip length of only 50 miles. Additionally, the cars in Zipcar’s fleet have miles per gallon 23 percent higher than the national average, and people in Zipcars are more likely to carpool, with 1.85 people onboard compared to 1.67 per trip nationally.
A single Zipcar serves anywhere from 50 to 80 members, reducing the per-member carbon footprint by 1,600 pounds a year.
Car shares let people who need cars only occasionally avoid spending money on private car ownership. With a $9 monthly or $90 annual membership fee as of 2023 (depending on your location) and an average monthly cost of $202 based on mileage and the number of days you rent a vehicle, Zipcar members avoid spending money on auto insurance, maintenance, operating and parking. On average, Zipcar users save $784 a month compared to car owners.
Car shares are much more convenient for users than traditional car rental businesses and much less expensive than owning a car. People can rent these cars for as little as an hour and pick them up close to where they live, rather than having to schlep to the nearest airport. For those who need cars on occasion, car sharing is a great option.
Peer-to-peer (P2P) car sharing is when car owners rent out their personal vehicles for short periods of time, earning a side income by providing cars to people in need of transportation. Examples of P2P car-sharing companies include Getaround and Turo.
With Turo, for example, would-be drivers can use the company website or mobile app to browse available cars by make, destination and experience. The company offers electric vehicles (EVs), luxury vehicles and pet-friendly vehicles and works the same way as any other car rental company from the customer’s perspective.3
To book a car, you must be 18 years old or older in the U.S., with a valid driver’s license and approval from Turo, which requires supplying your driver’s license number, along with other pieces of information. Typically, approval happens immediately, and then you can start renting a car. Some car owners will even deliver the car to you or you can find the vehicles parked near airports.
Business-to-consumer (B2C) car-sharing companies are private companies that rent out cars they own. Examples include Zipcar, Car2Go and DriveNow. B2C types can be broken down even further, depending on where you pick up and drop off your car.
In business-to-business (B2B) car shares, companies let their employees have access to a fleet of vehicles to conduct business operations.
Nonprofits like eGo Car Share, located in Boulder, Colorado, provide the public with car shares to reduce the number of private car owners and their environmental impact and to allow marginalized groups to access car shares more easily.4
The most recent data from McKinsey shows that the global car sharing market was worth $4 billion to $6 billion in 2019, making up less than 10 percent of the shared mobility market.5
|Type of shared mobility||Estimated global market size in billions of dollars, 2019|
|Dynamic shuttle services/pooled e-hailing||1-2|
|P2P car sharing/ridesharing||3-4|
|Shared micromobility, such as bikes and scooters||1-3|
|Urban aerial mobility||n/a|
|Robo-taxi and shuttle||n/a|
Compared to ridesharing, also known as e-hailing, car sharing is less convenient, as the customer still has to drive and park the car at their desired location. That may be why ridesharing made up 90 percent of the shared mobility market in 2019. Still, as noted above, many users find car sharing much more convenient than traditional rental car services.
As of August 2021, there was $3 billion invested in the car-sharing market, a fraction of the investment in rideshares.
As of 2020, China had the most car sharing users, where nearly one-fourth of the population used car sharing services frequently. It was least popular in Japan, where 82 percent of the population had never used car shares, according to a McKinsey research report.
|Frequency of car sharing usage by country, 2020||Never||Less frequently||Frequently|
Car sharing is still catching on in the U.S. In its survey, McKinsey found that seven out of 10 Americans had never used a car share, but nearly two in 10 used them frequently.
Public data about car sharing is hard to find, which makes predicting the industry’s future even more challenging than usual. However, McKinsey expects that by 2035, car sharing will still be a cheaper option than traditional car rentals. That said, with the rise of self-driving cars, autonomous vehicles will be cheaper than car sharing. Of course, the cheapest option is always public transportation, provided it’s available in your area.
|Type of car||Price parity between private car and mobility as a service, costs per passenger miles traveled, 2035 projection|
Car sharing is yet another example of how technology has disrupted the car industry. For more information on affordable travel, read our research on gas prices, one of the biggest costs of car ownership. See the answers to frequently asked questions about car sharing below.
To compile this research, we used data from third parties such as:
As of the most recent data from 2021, car sharing in the U.S. is not popular. Only 17 percent of the U.S. population uses car sharing frequently and 70 percent have never used it at all. Car sharing is most popular in China, where 24 percent of the population uses it frequently. Still, it’s much less popular than ridesharing overall.
You can make money by car sharing when you share your vehicle through a P2P car-sharing company like Turo or Getaround. Here are the average incomes per number of cars when a car owner works with Turo:
|Number of cars||Average annual income|
Sharing a car does save money. Zipcar members save $784 a month, on average, compared to people who own their own cars. With Zipcars, users only have to pay for their membership fee and trip costs (based on the number of hours they rented the car), but not gas, maintenance, insurance, or more.
Some potential disadvantages of car sharing include the following downsides.
Shared Mobility. United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2023).
Impact Report 2021. Zipcar. (2021).
Find your drive. Turo. (2023).
Car Sharing Market: Analysis, Trends and Automation in 2023. Parseur. (2022, May 4).
Shared Mobility: Where it stands, where it’s headed. McKinsey & Company. (2021, Aug 11).