How Car Clubs Work – StreetCar Review

1 Feb
Car clubs are an interesting phenomenon, an example of a meatspace enhancement which could not be possible without 1s and 0s. London is a city that's good for two legs, two wheels, or several dozen wheels. 4 wheels not so much, which is why it's attractive to be able to get a car only when you need one.

I used streetcar (http://streetcar.co.uk) – a London car club – for the first time last night. I never understood how these car clubs work, so here's my story from sign-up to walking away from the first journey:

* SIGN UP. I signed up by phone a couple months ago. Thanks to @BenJam's invite, I received a discount. 30 quid for the year instead of 60.

* VERIFY NUMBER. At the time, I had to verify a landline number. Home one was broken and I didn't get around to calling from work, so I never verified. So last night, with my new working phone line, and needing to move some stuff as I'm house-moving, I call them up to verify. They're open 24-7, bonus! I verify my land line and ask them for the closest car (since my 3G access is pants and I don't yet have broadband, which in the standard case, takes 2.5-3 weeks to get installed if your ISP isn't your phone provider, unbonus!).

* BOOK THE CAR. On the same call, I book the car. Would normally be done online, but phone's possible too. I have to tell them what time I'm picking it up and dropping it off. This is in units of 30 mins, so I ask for 7:30pm-10pm. It's ??6 an hour, so I'll be paying ??15, about a third the price of the return cab journey I'd need to take stuff in either direction. The operator helps me pick a car close to my place (it turns out to be a 15 minute walk, though it may be the closest one that was available at the time – helps to pre-book I guess).

* DRIVING AWAY. As I approach the car, I call again to tell them. This is because I don't have the card yet (as I have only just verified). I wait about 5 minutes for the operator, then he waits 5 minutes ??He "sends a signal" to the car and 15 seconds later, the doors open. I open the glovebox and find a handheld device similar to a credit card reader. I type in my PIN and withdraw the keys from this here device. I take some time to work the car controls out (headlights control gets me) and I'm away. I also pass by my place in the process to collect some stuff – one advantage of this car club deal is you can visit several places.

* EXTEND THE BOOKING. Once I arrive at my destination (the old place), I realise I need more time. No worries, I text "extend 0.5" to the car club and it texts back a confirmation. Did that twice.

* WALK AWAY. I park the car and put the key back in the handheld device, and it shows me the total time and cost for the journey. I close the glovebox. Again, I don't yet have my card, so I call StreetCar and they quickly pick up and remotely lock the door for me. I walk home.

—————

SUMMARY. Overall, this was a great experience and vastly more useful than relying on a taxi. A cab would have been much more expensive and less convenient insofar as I'd be waiting around for an unknown period of time. The only real issue was the distance to the car; hopefully they'll add more locations to their repertoire. Also, the service must be mentioned as it was a real highlight ??- extremely patient and helpful staff. It's also cool (and clever) that you can basically get a car the moment you sign up.

Will I use it again? Certainly.
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2 Responses to “How Car Clubs Work – StreetCar Review”

  1. BenJam February 1, 2010 at 2:43 pm #

    Hey glad you liked. You should check out their iPhone app too. The process then becomes iPhone -> book -> swipe card -> grab keys -> go. Did someone say zero-people-intensity?Long live commoditisation.

  2. daulfn February 12, 2010 at 3:22 am #

    I like http://www.zipcar.com better, cheaper… plus they leave cheekier messages… and they are in London too

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