Ever since I’ve started tracking every penny I spend on my new car, I got this feeling that I put a whole lot more value into it than it is returning. So for me this was definitely an area which needed to be looked into and optimized a little bit. The first idea that came to my mind was to ditch the car and use public transportation. This would probably work if I didn’t live in Romania, where the public transportation is horrible, the buses are too crowded and there are no special lines dedicated for them, so a trip from A to B in the city takes a lot longer than it would by driving. Taking the train to travel longer distances is also very uncomfortable, because it usually takes double the time that it would take driving. So nope, ditching the car and using public transportation is not an option for me.
You can think of solutions like being less aggressive in traffic to reduce fuel consumption or choosing a cheaper insurance, but the best solution I’ve found is sharing my car. Don’t worry I love my car probably more than anything, so I would never let anybody drive it, but when driving long distances and having empty seats in the car, it pays off to offer those places for other people who would like to travel in the same direction. I’ve actually done carpooling a while ago, when I was a student, but didn’t continue sharing my ride after getting a job and being more spontaneous when it came to traveling.
But in the past few years I could say that I’ve matured and now I plan my trips a few weeks beforehand. As a result, about a month ago I started ride-sharing again, which had a lot more benefits besides reducing my fuel costs. During the past month I’ve shared my seats with unknown people over 3 longer trips totaling more than 1000 kilometers and I was pleasantly surprised when I did the math and found out that around 3/4 of my fuel expenses were covered. I would have traveled alone, but by deciding to take 3 extra passengers I’ve managed to significantly reduce my costs. I’ve always been the driver during these trips, but having some company on a 5-6 hours long drive was a lot more pleasant than traveling alone, even though the extra weight made the car less jumpy and the whole driving experience less enjoyable.
One of the benefits of carpooling is that it forces you to plan ahead. If you want people to join you in your trip, you must decide when and where are you going to leave from. You are no longer that flexible, you can’t change your mind in the last minute and leave an hour earlier or cancel the whole trip, because you feel tired and you’d rather drive the next day. Actually… yes you can, but that would be super rude… But once you’ve decided when to leave, the whole planning thing takes maximum one hour, including the approval of the reservations and discussing the details with your passengers.
Another benefit of carpooling is that you will instantly become more responsible. You will no longer drive as a maniac (if you did before) because you’re responsible for the lives of another 2-3 persons, not only for your own. Even though I’d say that I’ve been a civilized driver before, when sharing my ride, I take less risks and I pay more attention to the traffic and overall my driving has become more defensive.
But the greatest benefit of it is meeting new people. I’ve had passengers that have hardly spoken 3 words during the whole journey, but also met some fun persons who made those usually long hours pass as quickly as minutes.
There are a lot of sites where you can offer a ride. Since BlaBlaCar has bought all of its major competitors, I’ve started using their services. You simply publish your offer and wait for your future passengers to make the necessary reservations. You are able to set the price and the number of passengers you are willing to take. When somebody makes a reservation, you are able to look at his/her previous ratings and decide if you would like or not to take them with you, thus you can filter out unpunctual people or you can make sure that you won’t let a weirdo or serial killer in your car. At the moment BlaBlaCar is free in my region, but in France for instance you already have to pay to use it. I think I am going to stick with it till it’s free, but will look for other alternatives once it becomes a paid service. There are thousands of Facebook groups for example that offer the same services for free.