It’s official: Car sharing reduces vehicle ownership

While many of you know this to be¬†anecdotally true, here’s an official study on the trend: According to the University of California Transportation Center, car sharing leads to the reduction of personal vehicles owned. In other words, when someone joins a car sharing network, they commonly get rid of their own car.

I did — about two years ago I donated my car and joined CityCarShare, and now I rely solely on a combination of car sharing, public transportation and bike. The UCTC study surveyed 6,281 households that were part of car sharing networks, and found that households owned 2,968 vehicles before car sharing, or 0.47 vehicles per household. After car sharing, the group owned 1,507 vehicles, or 0.24 vehicles per household. That’s a decent sized reduction.

You can also see that people who join car sharing networks often times don’t own cars — 60 percent of people who join car sharing networks already don’t own cars. So that reduction is beyond that smaller vehicle ownership average.

Cars in car sharing networks are also more fuel efficient than the average right now, given car sharing companies like Zipcar commonly bundle in fuel with the fees. The UCTC study found that the average car that was ditched for car sharing got 23 mpg, while cars in car sharing networks get an average 33 mpg.

Car sharing companies and analysts have long touted similar figures. Rachel Botsman of the Collaborative Consumption Lab told me last year that one car being shared in a car sharing network, can lead to approximately 7 to 8 vehicles taken off the roads.

As I wrote earlier this year, 2011 seems like the year that cars became a service. Zipcar went public, and there’s been a rise in new startups building businesses around peer-to-peer car sharing like RelayRides and Getaround. While Zipcar still has under 1 million users, it’s numbers are growing.

Using cars as a service, is the flagship eco-trend of collaborative consumption, or using the web and mobile to share goods. As Botsman explained it to me last year: the ultimate idea is to have our economy value units of usage over units sold, and then the notions of eco-efficiency and business efficiency align.