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U Haul Car-Sharing Adds Toyota Prius, Ford Escape Hybrid

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2010 Toyota Prius

2010 Toyota Prius

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U Haul has just reduced prices for its U Car Share car-sharing service, and added more fuel-efficient EPA SmartWay vehicles, the company reports. Vehicles being added to U Car Share's fleet include the Toyota Prius, Ford Focus, Toyota Yaris, MINI Cooper, and Ford Escape Hybrid.

Up until now, the Chrysler PT Cruiser has been the most common vehicle in U Car Share's fleet.

The one-time registration fee to join U Car Share has been cut in half, to $25; the service has no annual membership fee, and cars now start at $4.95 per hour plus 59 cents a mile, with a rate of $8 to $12 per hour with 180 free miles included for longer trips. The company just raised the allowance from 125 miles.

The company has also added new monthly rate plans for $50 or $125, which credit those amounts to a customer's account in advance while giving them a 10- or 15-percent discount.

As one of the goals of car-sharing is to reduce vehicle miles traveled, as well as the number of overall vehicles, “It only makes sense to give a better rate to our members who go only a few miles, while still providing the flexibility to go many miles without the worry of excess costs,” commented program manager Mike Colman in a press release.

U Car Share is currently available in just a few city and university markets, including Portland (ME and OR); Berkeley, CA; Madison, WI; and College Station, TX. Salt Lake City, Massachusetts' Regis College, and Virginia Tech will soon be added.

Car-sharing first emerged on a significant scale in Europe in the 1990s but wasn't a viable option in the U.S. until earlier this decade. U Haul's service is a relatively minor player so far; Cambridge, MA-based Zipcar is now the largest in the world and covering many markets in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K.

A 2005 UC Berkeley survey found that about 22 percent of car-sharing members (versus 16 percent for non-members) and Bay Area commuters had reduced their number of household vehicles over the past two years. Accompanying research found car-sharing membership to accompany a long-term drop in vehicle-miles traveled.

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