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Could hourly car hire cut the cost of motoring?

A car key electronically opening a carNeed the flexibility of a car but don’t have your own motor? The good news is new short-term car hire firms are popping up all over the UK. We put one to the test.

Car insurance, MOT, tax, servicing, parking permits, cleaning, fuel; the list goes on. So with the cost of owning a car continuing to rise, many of us are opting to go without.

But while this may save thousands of pounds a year, there are times when having a car, makes life that little bit easier: from doing a big shop at the supermarket to visiting friends.

Of course, there are many car hire firms in the UK. But until recently, there’s been a gap in the market for short-term car hire.

Now this gap has been filled by a number of car clubs which allow you to rent a car for as short a time as half an hour and they are springing up all over the UK.

What’s more, the cars are conveniently located in reserved parking spots near your home or work making it easy for you to pick up and drive away.

How does it work?

Most car clubs initially require you to take out an annual membership which costs around £50 to £60. You’ll be sent a membership smartcard.

Once you’re a member, you book online or by phone. You can book for as little as 30 minutes with car clubs such as City Car Club and Streetcar. Bookings can also be made in advance or at the last minute, at any time of day or night.

Next, once the car is booked, you pick it up from the place you selected and unlock the car using your membership smartcard.

Once inside, the keys to the car are kept in the glove box. You just enter your personal PIN into the in-car computer to release the immobiliser and you’re good to go.

Test drive

City Car Club is one of the major players in this market, with cars in 14 cities around the UK, from Glasgow in the north and Brighton in the south.

We test drove one of their cars to see how easy it was to use for ourselves. Watch our video guide to make up your own mind.

What’s the cost?

To hire a car with City Car Club for example, the hourly rate starts from £5 and fuel is charged on top. Comprehensive car insurance is included in the price, although you’ll have to pay the excess if you have an accident.

If you need to refuel during your booking, pay with the car club’s fuel card stored in the car and the bill will go to them not you.  At the end of your trip, the in-car computer will calculate the number of miles you have driven. The fuel charge and hire cost will be  charged to your account monthly. 

Note: the firm charges a flat rate of £0.22 per mile for fuel, although it says they monitor this cost and adjust it in line with the changing price of fuel at the pumps. You are also sent a breakdown of your mileage and hire costs by email.

Talking to Confused.com, Richard Drew, a manager at City car Club, said car clubs were becoming increasingly popular with young professionals.

He said: “We find the service is most popular with those in their mid-twenties to late-thirties.

“They tend to live in city centre areas where it’s not easy to park due to space and cost. We also get quite a lot of students using our service. Car clubs allow drivers to keep motoring costs down.”