Study: Replacing private cars with car clubs in five UK regions

May 24, 2022

UK study replacing private cars

A recent breakthrough study into car ownership was conducted by Steer, a transport consultancy group, on behalf of Bolt. The study reviewed 15 different cities across the UK and examined household travel habits, specifically on cars. 

The study found a startling number of underused cars in UK regions outside of London and a transformational possibility for switching car ownership to something more flexible like a car club scheme. 

This is something Bolt has successfully started doing in select parts of Europe (more on that later). 

The cities identified as benefiting the most from additional car club capacity were:

  • Cardiff
  • Edinburgh 
  • Bristol
  • Greater Manchester 
  • Glasgow 

The Steer study identified households with 1–2 cars and where annual mileage was less than 5,000. This demographic of car-owning families were deemed by Steer as being a realistic contender for switching to a car club over private car ownership. These families are considered ‘switchable households’. 

The research identified over 108,000 ‘switchable households’ in the UK, with the highest number residing in Greater Manchester and the highest proportion compared to total households living in Cardiff. 

Here were the most significant findings when examining these two cities;

Greater Manchester:

  • the highest number of households with very car low mileage (less than 5,000 annually);
  • 12,200 private cars could be taken off Greater Manchester’s roads with significant reductions in road miles driven and carbon emissions;
  • 1,350 car club vehicles are needed to cover the switch, but the metro area has just 150.


  • the highest proportion of households with very low car mileage (less than 5,000 annually);
  • could remove 2,400 private vehicles with better car club options, resulting in 2.6m fewer road miles driven and 800 tonnes of carbon emissions saved;
  • 240 additional car club vehicles are needed, but the city has less than 50.

Similar patterns were noticed in Bristol, Glasgow, and Edinburgh at the conclusion of the study.   

An assumption applied to the study was that there would be serious consideration for switching from private ownership to car clubs in 20% of households with less than 3,000 miles and 5% of households with less than 5,000 miles. 

With this assumption, 48,000 private vehicles could be replaced by 5,100 car club vehicles. 

Car club members drive significantly less on average than car owners, based on CoMoUK survey data, so it’s calculated that removing these cars would lead to 80m fewer miles being driven across the UK.

To deliver this change at scale, the study concluded that regional transport bodies need to consider flexible car club permits of the kind that are commonplace in Europe. 

UK car clubs are currently operated on a round trip model, where the car starts and ends in the same spot. But enabling more flexible provision — where cars can park in any on-street marked bay across a region — would significantly boost usage and remove barriers to implementation.

How can cities benefit from car club schemes?

Car club schemes have the potential to offer all of the benefits of owning a car without the drawbacks. 

Private car ownership costs on average £5,500 to 3,500 per year. It adds up quickly when you factor in petrol, insurance, maintenance, and parking. This is in comparison to car clubs, where you only pay for what you’ve used (time and mileage applied during your trip). 

In contrast to traditional car ownership, car clubs are far more efficient from a cost perspective. As petrol costs continue to rise, it’s more necessary than ever to reconsider if it’s essential to sink so much money into a private car each year. 

The positive effect that car clubs can have on communities is also impressive. Car club users drive 793 miles less on average. In Greater Manchester’s case, 12,400 private cars could theoretically be replaced by 1,350 cars. 

The result? Less traffic, fewer required parking spaces, and a reduced need for infrastructure that relies on cars. Carbon emissions are further reduced if those car club vehicles are fully electric.

The Bolt case study abroad

Although a Bolt car club scheme doesn’t exist in the UK (yet), it’s not a foreign concept. Last year we launched Bolt Drive in Tallinn, Estonia. 

Bolt Drive combines our ride-hailing and micromobility services (where available), ensuring our customers have access to an appropriate vehicle whatever the occasion. 

Similar to our ride-hailing services, in just a couple of taps, you can reserve a car and be well on your way — the only difference is that you’re the driver!

It’s another way we make urban travel more sustainable, affordable, and responsible. Although car clubs can’t solve all city transport issues, they’re a step in the right direction — especially from a mindset perspective.

If we can change the way we think about owning a car, perhaps we can drastically change the industry for the better.


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