Here’s a way to limit the pain of auto ownership: neighbors sharing.

Cars are expensive to own, costly to operate, maintain and insure, always in need of parking space and, generally, not good for the planet. Lately they seem to attract carjackers and thieves, as well. So, what’s the solution?

Bolton Hill neighbors Jean Marie Adrian and John and Aften Beeler think they have one. They live around the corner from each other and share the Beelers’ Subaru CrossTrek. They mostly park it at Adrian’s house because he has off-street parking. They share the monthly payment costs, including insurance and upkeep, and each month they work out a calendar in which one party has primary possession but the other has access when the car is not in use.

Jean Marie: I am away from my Bolton Hill home for extended periods of time and do not have to worry about a car left unattended on my parking pad in the alley.

Aften Beeler:  We both work for the federal government full-time from home and we looked out on the street at our car, just sitting there. We don’t go into D.C. much now.

Jean Marie: I am retired, and I am flexible for my transport needs, I ride my bicycle when I go downtown to the library, or to visit friends in Harbor East. And yes, I use the bike lane on Mt Royal and Cathedral Street often. I schedule my outings to the grocery store, post office or meeting with friends around my access to the shared car.

The Beelers: We’re both from the south, Alabama and North Carolina, and we like to drive down there often. We schedule our trips when we know Jean Marie will be away.  He goes back to France regularly and visits his daughter from time to time.

It all began on BHCA’s Facebook page. Jean Marie posted: I have been a resident in BH since 2018, I am often away and have limited use for a car full time. I mainly need wheels to run errands around town a few times a week. I am looking for a Bolton Hill resident interested in exploring a car sharing arrangement with me. Sharing time use and all costs worked out in a written agreement. I will bring to the arrangement an off-street parking pad. PM me separately.

Several neighbors weighed in, endorsing the idea or suggesting ZIPCar or Turo as alternatives. One, Marci Yankelov, had an extra car, a Toyota Prius, that she already had signed up to share through Turo. One of her neighbors was an occasional user. “It was a good experience,” she said. “Like Airbnb, but for a car.”

With the Beelers and Adrian, it is a more personal relationship. “I met John and Aften shortly after moving to Linden Avenue,” Adrian said. It turned out that Adrian and Aften Beeler both had worked for Catholic Relief Services, a global charity headquartered in Baltimore, although they had not known each other there. When he retired after an extended assignment in Africa, he chose Bolton Hill for his new home. Neighborhood realtor Avendui Lacovara made the sale.

According to Aften, “Our arrangement is agreed in writing by contract. Jean Marie pays his share as the added-driver on the insurance and 50% of the monthly car loan payment plus actual fuel and maintenance costs, pro-rated to mileage travelled. A calendar for daily use is prepared collaboratively at the beginning of each month, accommodating each of our respective needs. If one party travels out of town by air or train the other party retains the exclusive use of the car during that period.” They keep a log in the car and settle up each month.

Said Jean Marie: “Even if sharing a car is not a solution for everyone, I see many of my retired neighbors and friends who still maintain two or more cars for their household after retirement. If double careers and kids might sometime justify the two-cars household, once you retire it is time to let go of car number two. It takes only minimum negotiation to coordinate and schedule trips to the gym, the grocery store or library with two retirees at home. It can work well.”

–Bill Hamilton