Carsharing, anyone?

Written by Alex
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cambioHave you ever considered getting rid of your car?

Let's face it - we all like the convenience of having it just outside the door waiting to be used and take us wherever we want to go. But who wouldn't want to be rid of all the hassle that comes with owning a vehicle: filling it up with expensive gas, checking tyre pressure, refilling window cleaning liquid, standing in line at the Contrôle Technique, expensive insurance, repairs... the list goes on forever. What if there were a way to use a car whenever you really needed one without assuming the responsibility of ownership?  Well, there is: it's called Cambio.



Cambio is a company specialized in carsharing that has been active in Belgium since 2002, starting out in the Walloon Region. At the time of writing, there are over 500 users, 330 cars and 130 stations in almost 20 cities. New stations are opened constantly and chances are you have already seen the orange sign with a big C on it - each station is located close to public transport, so you can easily get there. Cambio also has partnerships with all the major public transportation companies (STIB/MIVB, De Lijn, TEC and SNCB/NMVB) and the VAB automobile association of Flanders. Because of this, Cambio users can now use their MOBIB card to open the vehicle (after having it activated by Cambio).  The company is also active in Germany and Ireland, serving about 30,000 users in total.

Usage is billed according to the time you have possession of the car (there are hourly, daily and weekly rates) and by the kilometers you actually drive: gas, insurance and everything else is included. The bigger the car, the more you pay. Other than that, you pay a one-time activation fee of 35 €, a deposit of 150 € (which you'll get back when you cancel your contract) and your monthly subscription starting at 4 € (for the "Start" category). If your spouse or partner wants to use the service as well, they can get a partner card for 25 € (one-time activation) plus 2 €/month.     Sound good All you have to do is click through to the Cambio website and fill in the membership application form. Just go with the "Start" membership category for starters and decide whether you want the SafetyPack: For 45 €/year, Cambio will restrict your financial liability in case of an accident to 200 € instead of 1000 € (Take it from me: You want this!).

Once you're a member, using Cambio is very straight-forward. First of all, you need to book the car you want at the nearest station in advance (well in advance if you need it over the weekend or on a holiday). This is done via telephone (it's a 070 number, so you always pay the local fee) or via the member's area on the Cambio website. You'll receive a confirmation e-mail containing all the information you need.  To pick up your car, simply head to the station, find your car and swipe your magnetic member card over the reader under the windscreen: the doors will open automatically. Now, all you have to do is enter your PIN into the on-board computer and retrieve the keys. You're good to go! (Don't forget to put the parking barrier back up after pulling out of the parking space. Sometimes people will just ignore the Cambio sign and use it as a private parking space.)

What kind of cars does Cambio offer?

In general, Cambio has different kinds of cars available for different purposes: small cars such as the Opel Corsa or Ford Fiesta for basic needs, the Opel Astra Caravan or the Opel Zafira for your family trips and even an Opel Combo transporter for your IKEA shopping spree. However, availability is restricted by demand, and not all kinds of cars are available at every station.

Is it really always available?

It depends - weekends and holidays are peak days for Cambio, so book early if you really need a car. Otherwise, if your nearest station is out of cars, you'll almost certainly find another station not too far away.

Can my company use Cambio?

A company membership is also available upon request. In fact, about 40% of all reservations are made for professional purposes.     Are you curious now If you're not willing to get rid of your car just yet, Cambio is also an option if you are thinking about a second car.

It's worth a try - happy carsharing!

Tihs article was originally published in the November 2010 edition of the Sunbeams Newsletter.

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