When was the last time you saw someone at the side of the road hitching a lift? Apart from a very occasional number-plate carrying trucker, people here at Tiger HQ have struggled to think of an instance of seeing someone thumbing a lift in the last few years.
Of course one of the key drivers (no pun intended!) behind the decline in hitch-hiking from its 1970s and 80s heyday is the dangers inherent in getting into the vehicle of a complete stranger, often in the relative wilderness of a lay-by or motorway slip road. Add to this the flip-side of being a motorist letting an equally complete stranger into their car or van and it's not hard to understand why hitching a lift seems to be a dead art.
Interestingly though, car sharing in the UK and Europe is booming. With websites like Blablacar.com, carpooling.co.uk and liftshare.com, people looking to pick up lifts can stick their thumbs into the digital highway and hitch a ride in relative safety and without having to take a chance on the generosity of passing strangers or the vagaries of the British weather.
These sites encourage drivers to offer spare places to passengers who in turn make a contribution to the cost of the journey. With fuel prices rising and transport costs high, this works well for both parties as well as reducing overall emissions and easing road congestion.
Blablacar.com, a Paris-based company operating in the UK and other European countries, estimates that it now has over 3 million members and 600,000 travellers each month (for comparison, that's about two-thirds of the number of people who use Eurostar). Britain is one of the fastest-growing countries for the company, as tougher economic conditions lead people to look for ways to offset transport costs. The site is easy to use and a quick search for lifts from Ipswich (home of Tiger.co.uk) and London yielded plenty of offers of lifts in the next few days from around £8.
Against this backdrop we thought we should take a look at the implications of car sharing from car insurance point of view. Happily we can report that as long as the vehicle used has less than eight seats and that the driver doesn't make a profit from the journey (the car sharing sites offer guidance on rate setting), then there should not be any problem with either car insurance cover
or with the taxman. As ever, if in doubt, contact your own car insurance provider to check!