With the exception of a home, a car is the most expensive purchase a person will likely make (and we hope that home and car aren’t the same thing). Considering the improvements in safety, powertrain, and infotainment technologies, it’s not surprising to see vehicle prices rising at or above the rate of inflation. So, with the fiscal scope of a vehicle purchase firmly in mind, we have to ask: why don’t more people share cars? We posted an earlier article about the prevalence of ride-sharing services and their impact on consumer purchasing trends. While Uber and Zipcar have certainly given drivers more ways to get around, car ownership still seems to be the clearest path to unlocking the flexibility and freedom that a set of wheels can provide.
Or is it? After a wild brainstorming session, we’ve come up with ten kinds of cars we’d be happy to share with other people. Whether it’s a father and son splitting the cost of a new project car or a group of soccer moms chipping in for a community kid-hauler, these are all cases in which group ownership makes sense.
We’ll to start with what’s most likely the least likely of our selections: the Tesla Model S. At first glance, the Model S is an aspirational vehicle. It’s expensive. It’s fast. It’s even trendy. While it’s easy to imagine someone coveting a Model S to boost their personal status, it’s also a car with access to an outstandingly well-developed charging network. Think about it: if Tesla had not deliberately worked to connect their cars to a shared grid, the company might still be floundering. Construction on Tesla’s Supercharger network began in 2012, and today it includes nearly 600 stations around the globe. The greatest challenge facing EVs may be their limited range, but Teslas have a better range than any other production EV. If we were to choose any aspirational car to split between friends, it would definitely be a Model S.
Like the Tesla, this may be a counterintuitive example at first blush, but why not share a commuter car with a friend or family member? This situation would obviously not work between two nine-to-fivers, assuming they don’t work at the same place. But if they have the schedules to make it work, splitting a workhorse of a car to eat up the miles day after day between two people would be good news for whatever other cars they might own, as people may not want to expose the car they love to the abuse of a daily commute. So invest in something that has more-than-decent fuel efficiency and the durability to withstand all the miles you’ll be putting on it. Basically, this car would be more of an appliance for you and your friend/family member than a car to love. A while ago, we looked at the cars with the longest range; this might be a good place to start. There are plenty of pickups, namely the Ram 1500 and Ford F-150, whose large fuel tanks and solid mileage produce excellent range. But pickups aren’t the best commuters. Rather, consider splitting the cost of a Honda Accord Hybrid, an extremely efficient car that can get you 754 miles between trips to the pump.
Driving a great compact manual-transmission roadster on a windy back road with the roof down and little to no other traffic offers one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences a person can have in a car. But today’s busy young people don’t have tons of time or money to spend on driving, so persuading a couple of friends to pitch in on a roadster for occasional back-road therapy sessions might be a smart approach. The classic English MGs and Triumphs that helped popularize roadsters are legendarily unreliable, and the prices of used Porsche 911s and even Honda S2000s have risen lately, so where should folks who want to share a great roadster look? A used BMW 3 Series or Z would offer German precision and feel, but would also require German maintenance. The Mazda MX-5 Miata, new or used, offers an incredible roadster experience with Japanese reliability and maintenance, has earned a spot on pretty much every list of the world’s best roadsters we’ve seen, and we love it.
Ask any boat owner, and they’ll tell you the two happiest days of their lives were the day they bought their boat and the day they sold it. Classic cars aren’t really so different. When you’re preparing for your big purchase, images of cruising across the Kancamagus Highway or down Route 1 quickly flash across your mind. Once that purchase has been made, however, you’re likely to find your ‘67 Lincoln Continental or ‘74 911 Carrera burning yet another hole in your wallet, thanks to the local specialist mechanic. With 40-, 50-, or even 60-year-old internals, your four wheels suddenly seem less glamorous and more cost-prohibitive. Of course, if you’re willing to trade some of your time behind the wheel, you may be able to find a trusted friend or family member to share some of the cost. Considering most classics can’t really be driven daily anyhow, this seems like a fantastic way to enjoy the experience of vintage motoring without filing for bankruptcy.
Let’s say a vintage air-cooled 911 in working order is still outside your and your car partner’s budget (and based on the way the 911 market is going, it may very well be). But you desperately want a cool, older car. What do you do? We think “project cars” make a ton of sense for people looking to chip in with a group of enthusiasts for an exciting set of wheels. Whether you opt for an early 90’s Mazda RX-7, an E30 BMW M3, or an old F-100 pickup, choosing one in need of some serious TLC can save you plenty of coin, and splitting the work with a close friend or family member can enhance the experience even more. Just be sure to split the cost with someone you don’t mind spending plenty of time around, because if you want your project E30 looking like the one above, you’re going to need to dedicate plenty of time in the garage.
There’s nothing quite like bringing your own car to the track. It can be a tremendously fun—if expensive—experience. On top of the initial cost of a track-capable vehicle, you’re going to have to invest in prepping your car for track day, which means making sure your tires, suspension, engine, brakes, and seat belts are in tip-top shape. That maintenance cost will surely be a substantial addition to your weekly budget. Also, if you’re going to commit a car to the track, you probably won’t be taking it on the road much (or at all), so why spend all that money on a car you’re going to drive only once a week (at best)? And seeing as how not everyone can afford a Porsche 911 GT3—even if you split it among friends—you should probably look to invest in the more affordable range of track-capable cars. Why not form a team and go in on a $50,000 race-spec Miata. Or better yet, find yourselves a used Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution for around $35,000; it’s practically track-ready right out of the box.
Pickup trucks can do things cars can’t. And we all occasionally have to do things like move, tow a boat, or haul a load of mulch from the garden-supply store to the backyard. But most of us don’t do truck-ish things all the time, and trucks are louder, less efficient, and less comfortable than cars. Wouldn’t sharing a pickup with a small group of people make sense, particularly since doing truck-ish things often requires a group anyway? Unfortunately, trucks have evolved a lot recently, so you’ll have to assemble a group of people with similar needs and tastes in order to agree on one. Folks happy to get dirty doing truck things have decades of options to consider, with used Ford F-150s available in huge numbers and with a wide variety of helpful options. Folks who prefer to maintain appearances while using a truck will want to look at more recent versions, which reflect automakers’ efforts to add class and luxury to their cargo-bearing products. Ram’s new 1500 is capable and efficient, particularly with a diesel engine, and available with a very swanky interior. If your group wants to be able to navigate rough or dirt roads, too, Toyota’s new Tacoma TRD is worth a look.
Fun cars should be shared, especially fun cars that are prone to repeated and substantial abuse. Off-roading vehicles are a prime example of cars that are just meant to take on those bumps and ruts. And off-roaders can generally run a pretty high premium, so why not reduce the cost substantially by splitting it a few ways? People love the Jeep Wrangler. They love it so much that the price tag on a used Wrangler doesn’t dip too far below its original MSRP. And because Wranglers hold their value ridiculously well, purchasing one is a rather expensive endeavor, new or used. So buy it with someone else, split that high premium, and get the most out of that Wrangler. It’s also not the most practical daily driver, so splitting it will allow you to live the Wrangler lifestyle while having a more practical vehicle for your day-to-day errands. But when the weekend does arrive, remember not to bogart that Jeep, my friend.
Pontiac’s retired Pontiac Aztek has gotten lots of recent attention thanks to “Breaking Bad” and Walter White. We, like most, don’t love the Aztek’s looks, but we love the fact that it was available with a camping package that included a tent. Folks who want to use a vehicle as home base for camping trips have lots of options to consider, including just about every Jeep and Subaru, but what vehicles would offer the best platform? Toyota’s FJ Cruiser might once have been our pick, but since used versions now cost more than they did new, that won’t work. A Wrangler could certainly get a pair of folks out into the deep woods and back, but wouldn’t be very comfortable overnight. A Jeep Grand Cherokee will cost more, but also has lots more room and luxuries, so finding one with the features you want should be relatively easy, and if multiple campers will pitch in, why not get a swanky camper?
The unfortunate fact is that despite how useful a minivan may be, nobody actually wants to own one. But minivans can be ideal vehicles to share amongst friends or neighbors. They’re perfect for shuttling the kids to and from school or practice, and why else would you need a high-occupancy vehicle? It’s a very practical and important single-use case. If you’re looking to save even more money, a used Honda Odyssey or Toyota Sienna will get you plenty of space, comfort, and entertainment for a more-than-reasonable cost. Even if you and your neighbors want to go all-in and buy a new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, you can expect the cost to be around $30,000. That price tag will get you the latest in comfort and entertainment for your passengers and a built-in Stow ‘N Vac vacuum to keep the van as clean as possible. That’s not outrageously expensive, so splitting the cost two or three ways would make it even more of a bargain. Just think of the children.
Would you consider sharing a car you don’t need all the time?
–John Harrington, Matt Smith, and Steve Halloran
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