Alva and Bobbie just started college. They could each use a car for occasional errands, visiting friends and family, and, of course, road trips. But neither can afford a decent car, even a used model of less than recent vintage.
After reading a newspaper article about vehicle sharing, Alva realizes this could be the answer to their car-related dreams. Alva and Bobbie have this conversation about it:
Alva: "Hey Bobbie, I heard about this cool idea called "carsharing!" Do you want to share a car with me?"
Bobbie: "Sure! Great idea!"
Alva: "Wonderful, we can go buy a used car tomorrow! You can use the car on odd days of the month and I'll take the car on the even days."
Whoa! Wait a minute! Alva and Bobbie just sped into a sharing agreement full throttle. Before they get too far down the road, they may want to slow down and consider some basic questions like these:
- Who will own the car and whose name(s) will be on the title? Will one own a larger share than the other?
- How long will they be sharing this car? Who gets the car if someone moves away or decides to stop sharing?
- How do they share expenses for the car? What if one of them uses the car a lot more than the other?
- Whose name is on the insurance? Are both liable for damages if one person gets in a wreck?
- Will other people get to use the car or share it with them? How many? How will they decide who can join the group?
- Who will take the car in for tune-ups and repairs?
- What happens if the car needs major repairs that one of them can't afford?
- What if Alva really needs to use the car on an odd-numbered day? Will they stick to the schedule no matter what or try to be more flexible?
- Are there any rules about the use of the car? Can they eat in the car? Are dogs allowed to ride in the car? Who gets to program the radio station buttons?
As you can see, even relatively straightforward sharing arrangements may involve more than meets the eye. Questions about ownership, responsibilities, privileges, and rules are bound to come up as you put your sharing plan into practice. Groups that can anticipate these issues and agree on how to handle them have the best chance of success—and will spend the least amount of time later dealing with disagreements and misunderstandings.
Chapters 1 and 2 covered what you might want to share and who you might want to share with. This chapter will help your group decide how it wants to share. Here we provide 20 basic questions you may want to consider and discuss when forming a sharing arrangement. You can use these questions to help guide your planning conversations and make sure everyone in your group agrees about how your sharing arrangement will work.
At the end of this chapter, you'll find a worksheet listing each of these questions and providing space for you to jot down your thoughts. You can do this individually or as a group. It may not be quite as amusing as a good old fashioned game of "20 Questions," but it can be interesting and revealing. Without realizing it, sharers sometimes have different expectations about what they'll be sharing, how often, for what reasons, or with whom. By working through these issues early on, you'll build the foundation for a smooth sharing operation. (Chapter 4 offers communication tips for sharers, including ways to raise and discuss tough issues.)
Don't be daunted by the number of issues to consider: If you're setting up a relatively simple sharing arrangement (for example, sharing a yard with your neighbor), you may be able to skip some questions and answer others in only a minute or two. If you're setting up a more complicated arrangement (for example, sharing childcare with several other families), you'll need to consider each question more thoroughly—and it will be time well spent.
In Part II, we provide more detail, tips, and considerations specific to different types of sharing arrangements. These should also be part of your discussion.
When you're done, you can use this chapter's worksheet and the other sample agreements in this book as a template for your written sharing agreement, if you decide to make one. For the reasons discussed in Chapter 1, we think you should.