Car sharing clubs under threat as insurance costs soar

Community car sharing clubs that aim to offer a cheaper but equally convenient alternative to car ownership for people living in remote areas are under threat by huge increases in the cost of their insurance.

There are around 40 such clubs in the UK, many serving rural villages with fleets of fewer than five cars and staffed by volunteers.

Members can book a car for as little as half an hour up to several weeks. Supporters say the clubs provide a much-needed service that is affordable and convenient and which helps decarbonise a community.

Some have been operating since the 1970s, but in the past five years they have witnessed major rises in their insurance costs to the point that their viability is now under threat.

Already this year, two clubs have closed, and the future of eight more hangs in the balance. Others are anxiously awaiting renewal notices that could spell the end of the road.

Calder Valley Car Club, which operates under the name Hour Car, is one club facing the possibility of closure. Until recently, its fleet of five hatchbacks cost £6600 to insure, but at its last renewal the premium rose to £18,000. They also had an MG 5 EV but had to sell it when its premium increased to £5000.

“We increased our prices in January and have since tried everything to reduce our insurance costs,” said Java Berry, one of the club’s administrators.

“We’re in talks with insurers but keep meeting dead ends. They just say we’re a high risk and won’t help.

“It’s going to have a huge impact on local people if the club folds. Some members don’t know what they will do without it. Cars are expensive, public transport is unreliable and roads here are narrow so that even if you can afford to buy a car, it can be impossible to park it.”

Members of Derwent Valley Car Club in Derbyshire also have their fingers crossed awaiting their renewal notice. The club runs five electric cars, partly financed by the Department for Transport’s Car Club in a Box support initiative for community car sharing schemes.

Members can drive or be driven by volunteers. Now, 14 years since its foundation, the club’s future hinges on the cost of insuring its fleet.

“We’re hoping our insurer will do the honourable thing and take into account our unique position and the support we provide to the community, but we’re not banking on it,” said club founder Mick Marston.

Richard Dilks, CEO of Collaborative Mobility UK, the national charity representing shared transport organisations, said smaller community clubs are facing an “existential crisis”.

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