Anyone who regularly walks around the streets of K&C will have noticed new bays for car sharing schemes. My initial reaction to these was one of outrage – further erosion to our already limited residents parking bays, but having used them I’m coming round to the idea!

There are a few companies that offer this service now, the main three that I’ve noticed locally are Streetcar, Zipcar and CityCarClub. The idea is that you pay them an annual fee to be able to use their cars at your own convenience on an hourly or daily charge. Swipe card technology means that it really is as simple as that, you book the car of your choice, rock up, swipe your membership card across the windscreen – the car unlocks, the keys are in the glove box and you’re good to go.

Joining Streetcar is relatively straight forward. You pay your dues, they set up a conference call with the DVLA to verify your license and they subsequently send you a swipe card in the post next day. If you’re really itching to get your hands on a car and can’t wait for your card they can remotely unlock cars for you over the phone. The younger drivers out there will be glad to hear you only have to be 21 to qualify and the rental charges are fixed – the same price for everyone.

The availability of cars seems pretty good, obviously weekends are a little busier but you shouldn’t have to travel too far afield to find one that’s available. Booking ahead is of course advisable but I’ve often found you can get one as and when required which makes it even more convenient. If you get stuck in traffic (which invariably you will!) you can extend your booking very simply by texting Streetcar with “extend <hours>”. The cost of the cars range from around 4-9 pounds per hour and with Streetcar includes 30 miles of driving, fuel and any applicable congestion charge. As it turns out 30 miles is just about right for a trip to and from Ikea Croydon/Brent Cross.

So what of the cars? Streetcar have a fleet of solely VWs – mainly Golfs and some Polos and Tourans – a safe choice I guess. The cars themselves are all relatively new, reasonably clean and have aircon, four doors and a generous boot (especially with the seats down). ZipCar on the other hand have more of a selection with the Toyota Prius amongst the options – a great opportunity to see what all the fuss is about without the hassle of a test drive!

As someone who already owns two cars, it seemed a bit rediculous paying to use yet another car however as many of you will know, Smart cars aren’t the best for trips to Ikea! Perhaps you’ve got a sports car and don’t want to risk damaging the interior, or perhaps it simply doesn’t have enough space. Another option is StreetVan (unsurprisingly part of Streetcar) who offer exactly the same service (albeit with a lower annual fee) for VW transporter vans if you need that extra space. Naturally for those who don’t have a car in the borough, these car sharing schemes offer a low cost and flexible way to occasionally have use of a car.