Culture of Sharing: Car Sharing in Germany

Culture of Sharing: Car Sharing in Germany

Cars have long been a symbol of independence, status, and a key part of German identity. For years bringing home a new car was like bringing home a new baby for many German families, but in today’s culture young people see the key to mobility not in owning—but in sharing.
by Sarah Mann

Rebecca McKeand is exploring Berlin. Originally from Toronto, Canada she has been living in the neighborhood Mitte while looking for work after finishing graduate school in Melbourne, Australia. “My friends and I are all in the same boat, I guess. We are international and mobile, but we aren’t in a position to buy a car and carry the expenses [like parking] that come with it.”

Rebecca isn’t alone. Earlier this year The Associated Press reported new vehicle registrations dropping below 3 million in Germany—a decline that has been happening over the last 20 years.

“I’ve never owned a car. I don’t think I would ever own one if I lived in a city,” says Rebecca. For 30 to 40 percent of young people living in urban centers, cars can feel more like a burden than benefit.

So in a country famous for its automobile brands, car culture, and world-renowned autobahn—where are the drivers going?

Germans embracing car sharing

Germans are not strangers to sharing automobile space. Mitfahrgelegenheit is a service connecting passengers to drivers, often online, to share a ride to a mutual destination. Depending whom you ask it is either a clever method of car-pooling or a modern form of hitchhiking.

But this is not necessarily the most popular method of car sharing.

Car-sharing services where users can log in, locate the closest available vehicle, wave a membership card, and drive off are becoming increasingly popular. Instead of using online or mobile apps to find drivers these companies are helping users find cars.

According to Bundesverband CarSharing, an “umbrella organization” of German car sharing providers, there are 140 car-sharing services currently operating in Germany.

Who are the providers? How does it work?

Some of the more prominent names include car2go, DriveNow, Multicity, and Flinkster.

The approach for each is similar: for a one-time registration fee (ranging from 9.90 euro for Multicity to 50 euro for Flinkster members who do not have a BahnCard) users become a member and receive their chip card in the mail. From there they can access the company’s fleet of vehicles strategically located throughout the city and reserve a car via the respective smartphone app or online.

Members pay only for how long the car is in use—either with slightly cheaper pre-purchased time or a standard rate—and once parked simply walk away. Insurance, fuel, and parking are all taken care of.

The popularity of car sharing can be linked to its focus on user convenience, as Rebecca notes, “They’re easy to spot. They’re moving billboards. You don’t have to look far, especially in Berlin.” For most users getting started is just a matter of signing up online with the closest service, and some even maintain memberships with more than one provider.

“It’s so helpful for IKEA!” Rebecca insists, “Taking public transit with all your stuff isn’t fun. We only needed it for a couple hours so we didn’t want to rent a car and taxis are way too expensive.”

It is estimated taking a taxi, for example, from Washingtonplatz/ Hauptbahnhof in Berlin to the heart of Kreuzberg will cost approximately 13 euro. The same trip with a car sharing service hovers around the 1.50 euro mark.

For people like Rebecca car sharing offers an easy and reliable solution to city-life.

“People are good about it too – I mean, the cars from my experience have always been clean, and are charged or have gas in them.”

Car sharing companies available: an overview

car2go

Registration fee 19.00€ / 0.29€ a minute

Available: Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Cologne, Stuttgart, Ulm

Parking: Free parking in any free-of-charge public parking locations or at designated car2go areas.

DriveNow

Registration fee 29.00€ / 0.31€ a minute

Available: Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Cologne, Düsseldorf

Parking: Free parking in almost all parking areas in the business area, no parking tickets required.

Multicity

Registration fee 9.90€ / 0.28€ a minute

Available: Berlin

Parking: Vehicle can be returned to any designated parking spot within the operating area.

Flinkster

Registration fee 50.00€ for members without a BahnCard, free registration

for members with a BahnCard / 1.50€ an hour

Available: Located in more than 140 cities across Germany with 800+ stations to choose from.

Parking: Station-based parking where vehicle is returned to the same station where it is borrowed. Offers one-way services to Berlin.

by Sarah Mann