If you were building a time machine, you need only find a way of travelling back two years to find a land of plenty. Remembering how good it was almost brings tears to your eyes. Every week a bank, credit card company or finance company would mail you their latest offers. Cheap overdrafts, reduced interest with expanding credit limits or yet another way of converting that positive housing equity into cash for spending. There seemed no possibility of this coming to an end. Yet suddenly the price of gas was up to $4 and more a gallon. That proved just a passing straw in the wind. A month or so later came the bank failures, the credit crunch and a full recession with major problems of unemployment. Comfortable lives disappeared. Family budgets suddenly had to pay for debt reduction. Everyone was looking for ways to save money.
Lives must go on but the problem was how to stay mobile. During the good times, towns and cities had exploded. Gone where the high density housing developments close to workplaces. In their place came suburbs and then exurbs. People were organizing their lives around private transport and expecting to commute further and further to get anything done. What do you do when you find you cannot afford to replace your current vehicles but live too far away from work, schools and convenient shops? There is no private transport so, as a first response, you are looking at constantly patching up your old vehicles to keep them moving. But small repairs become major repairs, particularly if your mileage is high or you get into a traffic accident. You look around the neighborhood for carpools. This can work for routine journeys, but it ties you to other people's timetables. That leaves renting.
If you decide to drive other people around and take payment, you need to check whether your existing policy covers you. The majority of insurers believe taking money makes you a taxi business and they want a higher premium. As with all insurance, use the online search engines to find affordable cover. But, in some parts of the US, it's now economic to give up ownership. There are new rental systems allowing you to take a vehicle from a local pick-up point as and when you need it. Booking online, you only pay for the vehicle for the hours you use it. Economists have calculated the average yearly spend on car ownership is about $8,000. The average hourly rental rate is $15. That's 533 hours a year in a rental car before you pay more than an owner. But here comes the warning. The rental car always comes with cheap auto insurance, but the companies are only interested in protecting their capital. You are usually asked to pay more to top up on cover against medical expenses for your own injuries. But even with this extra premium, it's often significantly cheaper to rent as needed. Even better, you do not pick up from local offices where sales agents pitch extra options. Pick-ups and drop-offs are in local garages with no formalities. Check out what services are on offer in your area. If the cheap auto insurance terms are right, you will save to go down this road.