Carpooling makes sense - after all, it saves money, fuel, and the environment, but figuring out a sensible arrangement isn't always easy. Sometimes it ends up being more trouble than it's worth! Below are some ways to avoid the pitfalls that can make carpooling a headache.
- Decide on a departure point. The first step is to figure out where everyone will meet. You have three options here, each with their pros and cons:
- The home of the driver. This is the ideal arrangement if everybody lives walking distance from each other, but it can get confusing if people take turns driving.
- A convenient location, such as a park-and-ride lot next to the highway, or a lot that's centrally located among all of the participants.
- Driver picks everyone up. Again, this works best if the participants live close together, and it can be impractical if you rotate drivers (like if the person who lives closest to the destination has to drive 10 minutes further away just to pick someone up).
- Decide who's driving. One person can drive all the time, while the riders chip in for gas and maintenance, or everyone can take turns driving. This can depend on a few different factors:
- Who has the most fuel efficient car? If one person in the carpool has a gas guzzler and another person has a hybrid, then it might be in the group's best interest to use the hybrid more often, because then everyone pays less for gas. This does, however, put more wear and tear on the hybrid.
- Who has the most comfortable car? If you carpool every day with several people for a long commute, a spacious interior might make things a little more enjoyable for everyone. There might also be the awkward situation in which one person has an uncomfortable car (no A/C or heat, for example).
- Who's in the best location? Sometimes it makes the most sense for the person who's furthest away from the destination to pick everyone up, presuming the homes are on the way to the destination.
- Set up a schedule. Figure out what time to meet, or what times people will get picked up. This might take a little trial and error, so be conservative when you start.
- Calculate the costs. For every day that you're carpooling, you should know who's driving and for how many miles. (If you all meet at the same spot every day, the number of miles won't vary.) You should also get a good estimate on each vehicle's fuel efficiency if you're going to rotate drivers and if some vehicles are much more fuel efficient than others. Be sure to account for maintenance costs, as well, especially if one person drives all or most of the time--gas is not the only cost. Here are some estimates for 2008 (US) which include the cost of fuel, maintenance, tires, insurance, etc.:
- small sedan - $0.42/mile
- medium sedan - $0.55/mile
- large sedan - $0.65/mile
- 4WD sports utility - $0.70/mile
- minivan - $0.57/mile
- Decide how people will pay up. For each day on your carpooling schedule, you should now know how much the driver is owed. Make a list for each day of the carpooling schedule, and divide the cost by the number of people in the carpool for that day--that'll be how much each person owes the driver on that day.
- Monday, Trudy, 60 miles, large sedan: $39 ($10 per person)
- Tuesday, Janice, 60 miles, large sedan: $39 ($10 per person)
- Wednesday, John, 65 miles, small sedan: $27 ($7 per person)
- Thursday, Ron, 55 miles, medium sedan: $30 ($7.50 per person)
- Make some ground rules. Ideally, you should have a little meeting to discuss these issues, or else they could create some discomfort and disagreements down the line:
- smoking in the car
- choice of music
- how long you wait if someone's late
- payment dates/deadlines
- food and drink in the car
- unscheduled stops
- work gossip
- talking on cell phones
- put on perfume/cologne AFTER carpooling
- Keep everyone in touch. Make a list of everyone in the carpool and how they can be contacted. If anyone doesn't need a ride or can't drive, it's important to have a chain of communication set up to prevent misunderstandings and inconvenience.
- Leave a little extra room in the schedule to allow for routine delays, and drive to keep your passengers comfortable so you all arrive relaxed and refreshed and they might even get some work done during the ride. But don't micromanage your fellow carpoolers' driving.
- Check with your insurance because they may offer a discounted rate for carpooling.
- Sometimes it's easier to figure out costs if you rotate on a weekly or monthly basis rather than on a daily basis.
- Be on time. Lateness will inconvenience people and make them upset.
- Do a test run for a week or two.
- If you don't already have some people to carpool with, start asking around at work, school, and in your neighborhood. You never know who's making the same commute you are. Online, you can use message boards and carpooling websites. Take extra caution when carpooling with people you don't know.
- Are they reckless drivers? Do they have road rage?
- Are they responsible? Will they pull their own weight?
- Are they a threat to your personal safety?
- Drivers should check to make sure their insurance coverage will cover all of the passengers in a carpool.
- Be Legally Covered when Using a Carpool Service
- Commute By Bicycle
- Shorten Your Commute
- Live Without a Car
- Drive Your Hybrid in California Carpool Lanes
- Start a Rideshare Campaign in Your Neighborhood