To live without your own car (The Greenwheels alternative)

Greenwheels car

Lately I faced a dilemma because my trustworthy Chrysler PT Cruiser, the car I had been driving since 2006 is starting to show its age and I was faced with rather high costs for maintenance of the car. On the other hand in my current situation I only use a car very irregularly and mostly for short distances, anyway hardly enough to justify a big investment in a new car.

So I started to look for alternatives and became interested in Greenwheels. Greenwheels is a Dutch company that already is in business since 1995. Now and then I saw these cars drive with their remarkable color settings of red and green. I always suspected it had to do something with the Dutch railways (NS) because it carried their logo on the side of the car, but this was not really the case, although Greenwheels offer services combined with NS. From their website I understand they operate in Netherlands and Germany only, a subbranch in the United Kingdom was terminated recently.

The way Greenwheels operates is not similar to a car renting company. Greenwheels does not have the same infrastructure as a car renting company, where you pick up your car from a central spot, usually near a station or industrial site (at least that is the case here in the Netherlands). Greenwheels have special marked parking places in a great number of decentralised spots all over Netherlands. In my case that means that the closest location where I can pick up a car is a 800 meter distance (ca, 15-20 minutes walk from home). They have 3 pricing models for private renters and three pricing models (monthly subscriptions) for businesses, based on a light, medium and heavy use. I choose the regular business package, with a price of € 25 euros per month. Besides the fixed monthly costs I pay in my case (costs differ with the package you choose):

  • an hourly fee (€ 3,10)
  • a fee for every kilometer you drive (€ 0,12 per km)
  • a fee for gasoline (currently € 0,0998 per km).

They offer on their website an Excel sheet through which you can calculate your monthly costs and choose the appropriate package.

Greenwheels developed a leaflet that instructs you on the most important things considering their customs when renting their cars.

Yesterday I made my first reservation and had a car (Peugeot 107) available for the afternoon. So here is my first hands on experience with this type of car renting.

To gain entrance to the car you need a card from the company or an OV chipcard, the most common card in Netherlands to use for public transport. That went well, the car opened without a hitch and the next step is to open the dashboard compartment and take out the board computer and a small book that contains notes about the damages to the car.

Before you drive off you have to inspect the car and see if there are any new damages. I did find a new small damage and had to report to Greenwheels. Because they only seemed to have one telephone number for all their services it took a long time for me to connect to someone to report the damage. So I already almost had the car rented for half an hour, when I was ready to take off, that felt like a bit disappointing, the contact person from Greenwheels was nice to offer a half hour reduction on my renting period. From the board computer you take out the keys of the car and the board computer also contains an ATM style card to tank gasoline (Greenwheels expect you to go tanking when the gasoline is around 1/4 from a full tank).

Greenwheels car
Greenwheels car

The car itself was not really super clean, a bit dusty and the windows could need a  wash. Because we had a busy schedule at the end of the renting period you feel a bit the same pressure when you are constantly watching the clock in order to catch a train or bus, in this case to return the car in time.

My costs for renting a car in the afternoon were ((€ 0,12 +€ 0,0998) * 50 km) + (€ 3,10 * 4,5 hrs) = ca. € 25, (excluded the monthly subscription fee that you should take into account and divide by the number of trips you make in a month). Not really that cheap was my first impression.

So all in all the first experience felt a bit cumbersome because there are many things to take in account when you hire the car (see the leaflet). I still feel a bit unsure about some aspects (for example what happens if you miss a damage, what happens then?). There is -in my case- still a certain distance to pick up the car (almost 40 minutes to walk to the car and to return home walking). The car itself did not feel very clean.

Maybe when you get more experience with this type of renting you become more acquainted with it, but for now I am not yet convinced this will be really something for me.