Peter Kay had a surprise hit with his BBC sitcom Car Share, and in the US James Corden had an even more surprising hit with the Carpool Karaoke segment of his late-night talk show.
Enthusiasts say car sharing can cut commuting costs, combat boredom and maybe even lead to cleaner air. But if you do plunge into a carpool or pick up a weary traveller, will your insurance cover strangers in the car?
What's a carpool?
Carpooling or car sharing is when a driver splits the cost of a trip with passengers. Typically the journey is a commute and the passengers are colleagues, but it doesn't have to be work-related. Sometimes it's more like hitchhiking, but instead of using your thumb you use the Internet. Sharing travel expenses is a strong incentive to carpooling.
According to the Office for National Statistics (2011 Census), 15.26 million people drive to work by car or van in England and Wales every day, but only 1.35 million commute as passengers. If even more people piled in to fewer vehicles, then exhaust emissions would fall and air quality would likely improve.
Car sharing apps such as BlaBlaCar.com and Liftshare allow drivers and potential passengers to get in touch and book lifts online. This method can allay some of the anxiety associated with travelling with a stranger.
Corporate car sharing schemes have also become more common. Encouraging employees to share their journey to and from work can reduce congestion and pollution in the local area.
Am I insured for carpooling?
Very possibly with many insurers, and very definitely with us. Our car insurance policy explicitly permits car sharing:
"provided that the total payments for the journey do not involve an element of profit and the passengers are not being carried in the course of a business of carrying passengers."
So you're fine as long as it's just a way for people to help each other and save a few pounds. Car sharing in this sense is not be confused with ride-sharing companies like Uber, which is an important distinction for insurers.
If you're involved in an incident, we'll pay up to £400 (£500 for AA Members) for the medical expenses for any injured passenger that was in the car. And if you've added Motor Legal Assistance cover, you and any passengers involved can get personal injury legal advice.
Is it better to car share?
Not necessarily. For some people, driving might be the only time they have to themselves all day. Or the music they play may be simply too awesome for strangers to appreciate. Car sharing isn't for everyone.
However, if you are thinking about carpooling and you're not sure if you're covered for it, give your insurer a call and they'll be happy to clarify that for you. If you're looking for car insurance that covers car sharing, give us a call and we'll be happy to give you a quote.