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I joined a car sharing app and all I got was this lousy sense of satisfaction knowing I was helping to subvert consumerism

Photography By Steady Hand Co
Published 21.06.21

The first time I handed Cindy over to a strange man, I felt uneasy. What if he hurt her? Went too fast? Didn’t treat her with the respect she deserves?

Before I go any further, I should clarify that Cindy is my car. My prized BMW convertible, that I’ve recently started renting out on a car share platform. So get your mind out of the gutter, please, and let’s continue.

I worried that this guy, a goateed 30-something named Kit who’d recently moved to Byron Bay from Melbourne and who told me he loved raving, would crunch the gears and scratch the wheels and fill Cindy with sand. But then I took a deep breath, remembered that it’s never too late to learn to share your toys, and handed over the keys.

Just to be clear, I didn’t have a car for the first 35 years of my life. So when I did finally buy one, I chose something I’d dreamt about for years. I became very protective of Cindy, a name I called her because of her Barbie-esque convertible soft top. I made her a fun playlist called ‘Pop That Top’ featuring Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson and Robert Palmer. And I forced anyone who drove in her with me to choose a headscarf from the glovebox and suck on one of the lollipops I kept in the cup holder. My girlfriends and I have had some outrageous fun with her.

Given the state our planet is in, though, I’d been thinking about selling Cindy. Two cars for two people just seems excessive now, especially since my husband and I don’t have kids and both work from home. Plus I was inspired by my husband trading his cool but gas-guzzling army-issue Land Rover for a practical Prius earlier in the year. But then a friend suggested I rent Cindy out on Car Next Door, an online platform that lets car owners make money by renting out their cars, citing the statistic that most cars aren’t used 95 per cent of the time.

There was some resistance at first. But since I’m constantly going on about how we cannot afford to keep over-consuming and not making better use of the underutilised status symbols we already own, I decided to try getting Cindy to earn her keep.

Turns out, Kit was a good guy, who treated Cindy well. All seven people I’ve rented her to so far have been great, actually. There have been unexpected emotional benefits of sharing on the platform, too. The guy who’s renting Cindy this week is working her into his plan to propose to his girlfriend, sending a ripple of pleasure through my week. And it has made me consider what else I could share – unworn clothes, skills, excess food, spare space, assets like bikes and musical instruments and camera gear.

From the borrower’s standpoint, the benefits are clear, especially for those living in cities with great public transport. It can be much cheaper than owning if you only need a car occasionally. And you don’t have to pay for long-term parking or maintenance.

Hopefully, the rise of the sharing economy means we’re becoming more resourceful, and experiences and rental are taking precedence over consumerism and ownership. This is the future I envisage and want to foster. A cooperative and interdependent world is the one I want to live in, I tell myself each time I watch Cindy’s tail lights fade into the distance.

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