Can car-sharing spread to older Americans?

The Christian Science Monitor asks whether the phenomenon of car-sharing will spread beyond young adults:

But there are limits to the model. Car sharing caters to a fairly limited demographic – namely, educated, Web-savvy urban dwellers in their 20s and early 30s with access to decent public transportation. “It’s narrow in terms of the overall driving potential,” Mr. Belzowski says.

Car sharing works well in a compact city with decent public transit like Boston or New York, but Belzowski points out that more sprawling US metro areas present a problem. “Many cities are designed for having a vehicle, and it’s difficult to move around those cities in a timely way unless you own a vehicle.”

Another obvious drawback: Car owners share with strangers at their own risk. “I had an issue with there being a lot of dog hair in one, and I found a dog toy in the back,” Hill says.

Even in car-share hot spots, having a car at your beck and call is not guaranteed. The number of available cars is still limited to the point that getting one during peak times, like weekends, requires advance planning. That could be helped as car sharing goes more mainstream – national rental car company Avis recently agreed to buy Zipcar for $500 million, a merger that should expand the company’s vehicle fleet. Other major rental car companies, including Enterprise and Hertz, are getting into the car-sharing game as well.

I’m not sure this article gives us much insights into what might prompt older adults to adopt car-sharing. Reading between the lines, here are a few hints from the article:

1. Older adults are more likely to live in suburbs while younger adults desire to live in the city.

2. Older adults are less willing to share cars with others.

3. Older adults would rather have cars available when they want them rather then having to more meticulously plan their driving schedules.

The first hint seems relevant: this would appeal most to people living in denser cities where owning a car is much more difficult. However, these second two reasons seem more flimsy and seem based on the idea that older adults simply aren’t used to the idea of car sharing. Reasons #2 and 3 could be related to having children.

One solution to the demographics is to simply wait for these younger adults to grow up and they will be already used to car-sharing. But, I suspect Zipcar and others would like to grow this category at a faster pace.

h/t Instapundit