Car sharing start-up Hiyacar is betting on a future where we no longer own cars

There are around 32 million cars in the UK, with three million in London, but demand is falling for newer vehicles unless it is an electric or hybrid model. 

With the prospect of driverless cars on the horizon, our relationship with car ownership is changing so much that a future where no one owns a car is is starting to gain traction. 

This is the future Hiyacar is betting on. A peer-to-peer (P2P) car sharing start-up, Hiyacar launched in 2016 by two friends, Graeme Risby and Rob Larmour. 

The start-up has over 50,000 members across the UK who are lending their vehicles out to their neighbours, or hiring themselves and helping to put idle cars to good use. 

“Hiyacar is about taking an under-utilised asset and sharing it, so someone get true use out of it,” the start-up’s CMO Sarah Kilmartin, tells the Standard. “We have some members earning £1,000+ a month by renting out their car.”

When Risby and Larmour planned their early vision for Hiyacar, they wanted it to be the Airbnb for cars. Instead of leaving a car parked on the side of the road, why not lend it out to your friend or neighbour and make some money out of it.

It’s very simple to use. As a driver, you sign up to the Hiyacar platform via the app with a photo, your license information and go through a DVLA check code to confirm your UK license. Then find a car to hire, put in a request and boom, you’re ready to drive. 

Hiyacar’s app is simple and easy to use (Hiyacar)

A few things had to happen for Hiyacar to take off in this way. 

For one, there are the logistical problems with using someone else’s vehicle. The start-up created its own QuickStart technology, which uses secure virtual keys in its app to unlock cars via a box under the dash. 

This involves Hiyacar picking up the spare key for an owner’s vehicle and separating the transponder part of the key (which communicates with the car) from the physical key. The shell of the key is kept in the car, whilst the transponder is linked up to the app so someone hiring the vehicle through Hiyacar can use the app to unlock the vehicle. 

“It’s convenient for both parties; you don’t have to wait around for someone to hire the car, as someone can book it through the app and hire it,” says Kilmartin.

The technology in the QuickStart box means that from a safety perspective, Hiyacar knows where the car is, where it’s been and even things such as how fast the car has been driven.

Secondly, Hiyacar needed to create an insurance policy that covers drivers. This is all done through Axa, so an owner’s car is insured through Hiyacar when it’s in the company of a driver hired through our platform. Drivers simply pay from £9 a day for insurance. 

“If you were going to hire your neighbour’s car, the insurance would cost at least £30 a day,” she explains. Hiycar’s blanket insurance policy makes this process a lot cheaper.

Some of Hiyacar’s members are making around £1,000 a month through the platform (Hiyacar)

And thanks to the success of other sharing economy companies like Airbnb, Hiyacar has benefited from a cultural change that sees less of an emphasis on owning things and a bigger focus on renting. 

“People are less materialistic nowadays,” says Kilmartin. “It’s not about having the fancy car, the fancy camera and the status symbols. People don’t mind sharing because they’re not as bothered by material possessions quite like they were.” 

Hiyacar is part of a new wave of car hire companies focused on sharing, such as Drivy and the Easy Car Club. Even BMW has its own version, named DriveNow, a car sharing venture which offers a fleet of BMW or Mini cars to hire. Kilmartin, who used to work for Mini, says that for propositions such as Hiyacar’s to succeed, working with the major car companies is necessary. 

“Bigger brands like Peugeot and BMW are expanding their services into these kinds of spaces because they know they can’t survive purely as a car manufacturer that sells cars. Each party recognises that we have to collaborative on the future of mobility, whether that’s autonomous, shared or electric,” she says.

“The theory is that by 2030, cars will be autonomous and have no steering wheel. Some of those will be privately owned, some people will be sharing them, and some will be fleet owned.”

Rohit Gupta, VP and head of marketing in logistics, energy and utilities at Cognizant, believes that Hiyacar has benefited from government policies like penalties to reduce pollution, as well as increasing car ownership costs, that earlier P2P ventures like WhipCar didn’t. 

“There are still a few challenges that need to be overcome. Increased awareness and confidence in the model is an obvious one. Perhaps most importantly, the cultural concept of moving from personal ownership to shared ownership must be accepted,” he tells the Standard.

Kilmartin is confident this cultural change will come. The company recently launched an ad campaign with Transport for London with the Hiyacar manifesto to live smart and share cars. 

And, whilst you don’t need to own a car to use Hiyacar, many of the start-up’s members actually own part of the company. After launching a crowdfunding campaign earlier this year, Hiyacar smashed through its target on CrowdCube to raise £1.23 million. 

“When I first met the founders, they said the vision was to have a Hiyacar on every street in the UK, where all the neighbours who don’t need to own a car can use it,” says CMO Kilmartin. “And I thought that was amazing.” 


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