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Mid-day Update

Mid-day Extra: A car rental alternative in the U.K.

Kate McGough Dec 14, 2011

Jeremy Hobson: So you know how some people rent out a spare room of their house when the economy is hurting? Well, a major car-sharing plan has been announced this week in London to produce similar results. It will match people who want to rent out their own cars — when they’d otherwise be parked in their driveway — with people who want to “borrow” them. The program could be a cheap alternative to more traditional car rental options.

The BBC’s Kate McGough reports from London in today’s Mid-day Extra.

Kate McGough: The scheme is called “The Car Club” and will be hitting the roads thanks to one of the UK’s biggest car rental firms, Easycar. Here’s how it works: A customer will use a smartphone app to search for a local car, book an available time slot and then drive away in a neighbor’s car. You don’t even have to be at home to hand over the keys — your car would be fitted with an automated car entry and a tracking system.

The program founders were inspired by similar programs in the U.S. Co-founder Brent Hoberman says those car-sharing schemes can make an extra five to ten thousand dollars every year for car owners. But if you’re worried about someone just driving off in your car, there will be safeguards.

Brent Hoberman: We’re obviously very concerned about the brand image and consumers not getting their possessions ripped off. We’ll be vetting that all the people who rent out are decent people as well.

No word on whether that means criminal background checks. But you must have a Facebook profile, to prove that you’re a real person.

In London, I’m the BBC’s Kate McGough for Marketplace.

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