During the last 5 years car sharing became a real alternative to using an own car. In hundreds of cities and communities different providers now offer their vehicles.
Car Sharing models
The principle of carsharing is basically always the same with all providers: The flexible and spontaneous availability of a car in the immediate neighborhood without having to own a car. The following three CarSharing alternatives are the most common:
There are dedicated stations where cars need to be picked up and returned. The car is booked in advance - online or via a smartphone app. The desired station is selected as well as one of the cars which are available. The booking period is set and confirmed before, but can usually be extended if necessary. The return of the vehicle is carried out at the same station as the pick-up. The advantage of this alternative is the low cost per hour, in addition to a mileage allowance to be paid on top. Most providers in Germany use this model.
Also known as "free-floating carsharing". This business model is based on a dedicated business district. Within this area, the car can be picked up and returned at any convenient place. The cars are distributed by the journeys of the members. If you happen to see a car, you can access the car via chip or app and a reservation is not necessary. Alternatively, one can search online or via smartphone app whether there is a car in the close vicinity and where exactly it is. A short-term reservation can be made to guarantee the car is still available once you've reached it. The advantage of this model is the high flexibility; the downside is the high costs for longer journeys. It is especially the car manufacturer which run this model.
In addition to the "professional CarSharing" of the big providers, there is also an increasing number of individuals who make their car temporarily available to their neighbors. Some websites specialize in bringing together lessee and car owner. It is an interesting alternative, especially for rural areas. The advantage of this model is the low price and the wide variety of cars. A drawback is that the cars are older and are not professionally inspected by a provider.
The following platforms facilitate private car sharing:
Increased prominence over the last years
In the last years, car sharing became an option which a serious alternative to owning a car. In hundreds of cities and communities, carsharing providers now offer their automobiles. Selecting the right car sharing provider is thus not the easiest task. In medium-sized and small towns, there is often but one provider or an association that organizes carsharing. In large cities, however, there are now a variety of small and large providers that offer different variations and fight for their customers. Altogether, there are now more than 150 carsharing providers in Germany, and over 1 million German citizens are registered (as of early 2015).
Some providers are backed by big automobile manufacturers such as BMW with DriveNow, Daimler with car2go or Volkswagen with Quicar. Other manufacturers are already thinking about offering private carsharing in the near future. In addition, the German Railways operates a large and nationwide active carsharing service called Flinkster.
The largest suppliers are represented in several towns and have thousands of customers and cars.
There are price differences between providers, and different types of vehicles are used. Before selecting a carsharing provider, you should consider in which business area the provider operates and where the next station is. Of course, you can also register with several providers at the same time, since often there is no monthly fee. As such you can enjoy the greatest flexibility.
As is usual for the car rental business, car sharing vehicles are insured. All major carsharing providers include liability, semi-comprehensive and fully comprehensive insurance in their prices. However, in case of an accident or damage, it can still be quite expensive depending on the provider, since almost always you will have to accept a deductible.
The "Kasko" insurance pays for damages caused by fire, explosion, theft or immediate effects of natural disasters. Even vandalism and self-inflicted accidental damages are covered. The "Kfz-Haftpflicht" insurance (a mandatory liability insurance), however, covers damage caused to a third party by the operation of a motor vehicle.
The deductibles vary largely and should be analyzed before entering into a contract.
According to the Bundesverband CarSharing per 1,000 inhabitants, there are about 0.84 carsharing cars (number 12 in city-ranking for Germany as of 2015).
In addition to the most famous and established carsharing providers Cambio (with English website) and Greenwheels also present a fair pricing model since the beginning of 2013. The German railway's company Deutsche Bahn is also offering cars via Flinkster. The two free-floating providers car2go and ShareNow (also with an English website) are represented in Hamburg and allow a spontaneous collection and return of vehicles in a specified business area.
The website www.carsharing-news.de offers a good and reliable insight into the availability of cars by all relevant providers.
More and more people in the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen want to use carsharing. Due to the strained traffic situation in the narrow old town, Bremen has invested in the development of CarSharing parking spaces. According to the Bundesverband CarSharing 0,39 out of 1000 citizens use carsharing as a mobility option - that's number 22 in Germany (Stand 2015).
So far, two of the biggest car-sharing providers in Germany are available at train stations in Bremen. Cambio (with an English website) is by far the largest provider in Bremen and Bremerhaven and operates approximately 60 dedicated stations in the city. Flinkster, the carsharing service of Deutsche Bahn is represented by three stations in the urban area.
Carsharing is also possible via different providers in Hannover. According to the Bundesverband CarSharing 0,71/1000 citizens in Hannover use that offer (number 13 in Germany - Stand 2015).
All companies operate with dedicated stations for collection and return of vehicles. Most stations are located in the inner city area of Hannover. All cars must be picked up and dropped at stations of either Flinkster or Greenwheels. Also Stadtmobil mostly works with fixed stations, but also offers the possibility of flexible one-way cruises with their "Stadtflitzers". The available vehicles of the type Fiat 500 can be parked anywhere in public parking areas.
The idea of car sharing has actually emerged in Berlin. There are now by far the biggest selection of car sharing providers in Germany. Berlin is considered a pioneer concerning network and flexible mobility and is, therefore, an ideal testing arena for many companies. According to the Bundesverband CarSharing its a 0,85 / 1,000 inhabitants relation of people using carsharing (that's number 11 in ranks - as per 2015).
Because of the growing number of electric charging stations, you can experience real electric mobility in Berlin. Many providers have now added electric vehicles to their fleets, too.
Due to the large variety of offers, there is for almost any purpose an appropriate provider. Some companies rely on a dedicated business area, or dedicated stations to pick up and return the cars. The majority of the cars are available in the metropolitan area of Berlin's Ringbahn.
In the city of Cologne Carsharing is becoming increasingly popular. As in many other major cities, public parking spaces in Cologne are scarce. By using CarSharing car owners can leave their own car at home and so relieve the traffic and parking situation significantly.
The oldest carsharing provider in Cologne is Cambio (English website). Cambio is represented with 71 stations throughout the city and already lists more than 14,700 customers. Also, Flinkster relies on fixed stations and has a well-developed network of stations, even in the vicinity. The two free-floating provider ShareNow (English website) and car2go set to a fixed business district.
With Cambio, mre than 12,000 customers in Cologne can use more than 360 vehicles at 54 stations. Cambio represented in many other German cities as well, and where not, it is represented by its partner stadtmobil, and you as a customer can use the cars of this company without extra registration. Cambio offers several tariffs and it is worthwhile to checking which would suit your needs best. Without monthly basic costs you drive for between 50 EURcent and 7 euro the hour plus 22 to 24 EURcent per kilometer (tariff "campus" or "base"). Customer Experience has been very good (4 out of 5 stars).
ShareNow provides about 400 BMW and MINI cars in Cologne. The Cologne business area includes the extended inner city area of Cologne. In addition, you can commute between Cologne and Dusseldorf and park the vehicle in the other city. Furthermore, the parking costs in Cologne are charged directly with the city of Cologne, that means with ShareNow you never have to buy a parking ticket again (not valid for fines). They offer special prices for so-called hourly packages (3, 6, 9 or 24 hours) and generally the minute costs 25 EURCents (15 EUR/h). Customer experience has been very good over the past months (updated March 2018).
Car2go offers as big a fleet in Cologne as DriveNow. All in all about 350 SMART / SMART4TWO vehicles are available in Cologne, which can be rented in the business area (extended inner city area), irrespective of location. Like DriveNow, Car2go takes over the fees within the business district in Cologne in public parking lots (does not apply to fines). The fee per minute is slightly more expensive (26 EURCents for a SMART) but they offer a 2 hours package for 17,90 EUR. Customer experience is mixed. A lot of customers criticize the small number of kilometers allowed.
Flinkster offers various vehicle types in Cologne at more than 90 locations. The locations where the vehicles have to be picked up and put down are distributed over the entire inner city area. Their pricing is really competitive starting with 1,50 EUR/hour plus a km lumpsum of 18 EURCent/km. Customer Experience has been a solid 2,1 (good). Negative critism mentions the missing flexibility for parking.
In Frankfurt, three carsharing providers compete for the customer's favor. All operate almost the same number of dedicated locations in Frankfurt and its surrounding area.
The largest provider is currently book-n-drive with their "City Flitzers" at a very favorable rate of 1 euro per hour (as per July 2015). Stadtmobil (with an English website) is represented in Frankfurt for several years and currently operates 70 locations. For those wanting to be fully flexible and spontaneous the world's largest free-floating provider, car2go has started a business in Frankfurt in September 2014th.
In almost no other German city there are so many carsharing providers as in Munich, the beautiful capital of the Free State of Bavaria. The selection of carsharing providers in Munich has become really diverse.
Most vendors operate fixed stations for collection and return of cars. Two suppliers ShareNow and car2go (also English website) allow independent and spontaneous rent within a specified area. Two more providers who have dedicated stations, StattAuto (English website) and Flinkster and also belong to the biggest providers.
Customers of the Munich Public Transport can benefit from concessionary rates with the provider StattAuto. The cost of the deposit and recording decline by a good 50 percent (as per July 2015).