How to Get Started Carpooling
To work well, carpooling does require some coordination, cooperation and flexibility from participants. Keep in mind that it can take some time to create a good, functioning carpool — so be patient. If your carpool is brand new, everyone should agree to try it out on a trial basis for a few days. Then, if you decide it's not for you, there's no obligation to continue.
You probably have many of these questions about carpooling. Don't worry, we're here to put you at ease.
- How will carpooling benefit me?
- How do I know if carpooling is right for me?
- How do I find other carpoolers?
- I’ve just found some matches using RideShare Connection. What should I do now?
- Is carpooling safe?
- Are carpoolers supposed to take turns driving?
- Do I have to carpool every day?
- What are some ways to organize picking up and dropping off people on carpool days?
- Are there any insurance or liability issues I need to be aware of?
- How much should a nondriver in a carpool pay?
- What if I have an appointment or errands to run before, during or after work?
- Is there such a thing as good carpool etiquette?
The benefits of carpooling are many. If you are currently driving every day, you’re going to save money on your commute costs by carpooling. In some cases, depending on the length of your commute and the number of days you don’t drive, the savings can be significant. You’ll also enjoy less wear and tear on your vehicle because you’ll be driving it less. You’ll endure less stress on your commute. Finally, by driving less you’ll be helping to keep the air clean.
You really won’t know if it’s a good long-term solution for you until you try it. But, going in, you should be willing to do two things. First, you should be willing to work out a schedule that is convenient for you and the others in the carpool. Second, you should be willing to compromise a bit on conditions in the carpool, if necessary. For example, if everyone likes to listen to a different radio station, the car radio may not be tuned to your favorite station every day.
You can find carpoolers in a number of ways. You can create an account using our free RideShare Connection online matching service and search for other people in your area who are interested in carpooling. You can put the word out at work that you’d like to carpool, either by sending out an e-mail or posting a notice in the lunchroom (download our "carpooler wanted" and "ride wanted" fliers and fill in your contact information). You can also advertise through your neighborhood association, your local supermarket, coffee shop or your place of worship.
Carpool members can include work or school associates you already know, or people who live near you and work at a nearby employer. Occasionally the RideShare program ends up helping commuters meet their neighbors by matching people who work at the same company, live near each other but have never met.
You can send an instant e-mail to any of your matches through RideShare Connection, and you don’t even have to write the message; just send the pre-written one if you prefer.
Once you’ve made the initial contact and the match has responded, we suggest you set up a time and place to meet in person to talk about possible carpool arrangements. Some good topics to address at this first meeting include:
- How often you would like to carpool, at least initially
- Who wants to drive, and how often
- Meetup/pickup time and place for both ends of the commute
If it looks like everyone wants to try out carpooling, you should:
- Choose a date to start
- Exchange cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses
- Make sure drivers have valid licenses and auto insurance
Although there are no crime statistics kept specifically for carpooling, at least one nationwide study concludes that carpooling is very safe. When the RideShare program learns of problems within carpools, it is generally due to schedules not being observed or personality conflicts.
However, you must keep your personal safety in mind. If you are considering carpooling with people you do not know, you should meet with them in person beforehand. This meeting will serve two purposes. First, you’ll have a chance to discuss your ideas on setting up a carpool without obligating yourself to do it. Second, you’ll be able to assess your comfort level with the people. Ask questions and trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable about someone, don’t carpool with that person. You can simply say that you’ve decided carpooling won’t work for you.
They can, but it’s not a requirement. In fact, a carpool may include people who will not drive at all. In these cases the “riders” should plan to pay the driver an agreed-upon amount to help out with driving costs. (See below for tips on determining a fair cost for non-drivers.)
If a carpool does switch drivers, this can be done on a daily basis, a weekly basis or longer, depending on the carpoolers’ preferences. This may change over time as new people join the carpool.
Not unless you want to. Carpooling is flexible enough so you can choose the number of days you’d like to share the ride. If you have occasional before- or after-work commitments, just let your carpoolers know that you won’t be available those days.
There are a number of different ways to organize the logistics. If carpool members live close to each other, then the driver can simply come by each person’s house to pick them up. If that’s not feasible, then carpoolers can meet at one of the members’ houses or a centrally located public place. Keep in mind that there are also park-and-ride lots throughout the region that can serve as a meetup point.
On the other end of the commute, carpoolers can plan to meet at a centrally located spot for the driver to pick them up if they don’t work at the same company.
Insurance policies vary, and it is a good idea to check your policy — primarily the Exceptions/Exclusions portions. General liability insurance covers passengers, and most policies would not exclude carpool members, but it is worth checking. Another good reason to put in a call to your agent is to see if you qualify for a carpooling discount.
It will vary depending on the carpool. However, some guidelines to consider include how much the driver spends on gas and wear and tear. Below is a table provided by AAA to show average operating costs per mile in 2010.
Cost per Mile
(Fuel costs based on the late 2010 average price of $2.880 per gallon.)
Keep in mind that this table does not include parking fees or tolls. Depending on your carpool, it may be appropriate for a rider to help pay for some of those expenses, too. Learn more about AAA’s Cost of Driving calculations.
If you prefer to calculate the cost for your specific vehicle, use this AAA driving cost worksheet.
If you have an appointment or errands before or after work and need your car, don’t plan to carpool that day. If your appointment is during work, then plan to drive the carpool that day so you’ll have your car.
If you currently are in the habit of using your car to do errands, go to lunch or go to appointments during the work day, it’s a good idea to ease yourself into carpooling by doing it just once a week initially. Then, find ways to reduce your dependence on driving so you can carpool more often: bring your lunch to work, bundle your errands or take care of them online if possible.
Of course! Every carpool is unique, but good etiquette is essential to keep it running smoothly. Good etiquette takes into account communication, courtesy and the safety of everyone in the carpool. See this list of do’s and don’ts for carpoolers.