-commute your way to big savings!

Carpooling is the practice of more than 1 person sharing a car for a common commute. It is also known as car-sharing or ride-sharing.

A carpool can be achieved through any of the following ways:

  • the group rents a common car, and everyone takes turns at driving. Alternatively, some people are designated as drivers.
  • one member of the group brings his private car and everyone shares a ride
  • Each member of the group takes turns in using his private car on different days, and others share the ride
Ride-sharing need not happen everyday. The group can decide to carpool on alternate days or certain fixed days of the week.

A carpool differs from public transport in that it involves private people and personal cars. The group may share costs, but no commercial vehicles or profts are involved.

Why is carpooling an interesting alternative for the new immigrant or migrant moving to America? Well, many reasons:

  1. If you haven't yet bought a car, you can ride-share with someone who has one.
  2. If you don't yet have a driver's license, you need not depend on public transport
  3. You save costs. With the group typically sharing gas and maintenance expenses, the per person cost of each ride is much less.
  4. You get to socialize, meet new people and make new friends.
  5. If you're commuting from the suburbs to a city, you can take advantage of HOV lanes ('High Occupancy Vehicle' lanes) which otherwise cannot be used by single drivers. This speedens commute time.
  6. Your car suffers lesser wear and tear if you use it only a few days a week
  7. You share on parking costs (which the group usually splits) and reduce parking and traffic congestion on the roads
  8. The stress of driving on long commutes is reduced
  9. You are contributing to a greener earth, lesser fuel costs, lesser pollution.
All this is great. What's the downside, you will ask?

Well, you lose your independence. You'll need to be on time, you'll need to wait to pick up the others, you'll need to make frequent stops to drop the others, you'll even possibly compromise on which radio stations you listen to! All the same, an option worth considering, especially in the initial few months, or if you have a particularly painful commute.

So how do you go about finding a partner or group to ride-share with?

The best way, of course, is to check with colleagues at work (simply because your destination will be the same). Alternatively check with your neighbors (because your starting point will be nearly the same). Also check or put up notices at your local grocery store, community center, place of worship or other public area.

Another good way is to search the internet. Here are some good websites that help 'match' people who are looking for a ride-share partner.

Finally, if you do ride-share, how much money should you contribute to the carpool?

If you are renting a common car as a group, its simple. You just divide all monthly expenses (rental, insurance, fuel) by the number of participants. If all of you don't take turns at driving, and want to give something extra to the designated driver, you could think about that. And if some of you go absent on a certain day, or only wish to participate for a few days a week, you could work out rules for that too.

If on the other hand, people in the group are using their personal cars, the practice is to typically pay the driver by the mile. You figure out the total operational cost per mile, multiply by number of miles in a regular trip, and divide by number of people ride-sharing. To determine operational costs per mile, refer to this excellent publication by the American Automobile Association (AAA).

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