Would you like to have a fleet of company cars at your command for a fraction of the normal cost? Innovative car-sharing systems let you and your employees drive sedans, minivans and trucks without leasing or purchasing a single vehicle.
A successful concept in Europe for 20 years, car-sharing is beginning to catch on with U.S. business owners. If you don't need a company car 24 hours a day, it can save you time and money. Flexcar, for instance, covers overhead costs such as gas, insurance, parking and maintenance.
Here's how Flexcar works: You decide how many hours you need a car, and Flexcar works out a monthly or weekly plan for you, with a monthly invoice. (You can also call to reserve cars for as little as an hour on short notice.) You get a gas credit card in your company name, and a skeleton key that opens the door of every car in the fleet. You then punch in a code in a specific car's lockbox to retrieve the ignition key.
The company's Hondas, Toyotas and Fords are parked at downtown multibusiness buildings and at transit stations, or can be delivered directly to your office. Flexcar currently serves Long Beach, California; Portland, Oregon; Seattle; and Washington, DC. More cities will be added in the next few months.
Other car-sharing programs include Zipcar, which serves Boston, Washington and New York City; E-Motion, which plans to offer electric cars in Atlanta late this year; and several others. One of the most successful is San Francisco's City CarShare, with more than 1,000 members. Others are listed at www.carsharing.net.
Editor and consultant Jill Amadio has been reporting on the automotive industry for 24 years.
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