Carsharing on the cheap in Germany

So if you read the previous post, you might be wondering about the details of the carshare I mentioned in the final paragraph.  What exactly is carsharing?  It’s a very common form of transportation in Germany and France, among other places in Europe, and this is how it works:

Imagine that you have a regular commute from one place to another, and at least one other space in your car. You like meeting new people and earning a little cash on the side. So you register with BlaBla Car (or any other ridesharing website) and make it known that you have so many spaces available at this certain time on these certain days and you give your contact information and you wait for the queries to arrive. And arrive they will.

As a driver, you can decide who you want to take and who you don’t. You decide when you leave and whether or not you want to be flexible about your route. You can charge more or less than the competition in your area, and you figure out how to claim the income on your taxes. BlaBla Car, the company, receives a small percentage of all of your fares, in exchange for providing the service which helps you connect with those looking for rides.

As someone looking for a ride, you simply enter the dates, times and destinations you’re looking for, and see what comes up in the search engine. Then you contact the drivers who offer the rides you’re interested in and wait to see how they reply. If everything works you, then you obtain a ride and they obtain a fare. Done. You show up on time and they deliver you punctually at a pre-determined location. Both sides are happy.

Naturally, it doesn’t always work out this cleanly, but most of the time it does. I went looking for a driver who would be leaving Hamburg and arriving in Kiel on July 29, between 10:00 and 12:00. Micha was offering just such a ride for five euros and he had specified that he had a van. I chose him because of this detail and let him know that I had a bicycle and would be willing to pay for 2 places. Micha responded with a departure time of 10:30 and gave me the location at which I should arrive. My train came into Hamburg at 8:30 and I was ready to depart at the location he specified at 10:00. I arrived early just in case, as I almost always do, and everything worked out perfectly. Micha only required payment for one place, since in all actuality, my bicycle fit into the back of the van and he still had two seats free for other passengers. There was one other person who rode along with us, Niela, a recently graduated furniture maker who was going to her first job interview in Kiel. Micha himself turned out to be the owner of his own transport company (hence the van) and regularly made interlibrary loan deliveries of books for the Leibnitz Institute of Global and Area Studies, which had a branch in Hamburg and a branch in Kiel. Since the institute paid him $150 euros to transport the books, and he still had seating available in his van, he had taken the opportunity to earn a little extra cash on the side, meet new people, and help facilitate independent travel. He enjoyed the experience and said that he thought it was a sensible solution to the more expensive alternatives of the train or driving one’s own car. Since he was already making the trip, it made sense to invite people to travel with him.

I was able to travel with a local from Hamburg to Kiel for five euros, along with my bicycle, in order to catch the next train to Flensburg.  And that’s my experience with carsharing on the cheap in Germany.

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