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car sharing industry analysis of relocation

Car Sharing Industry Analysis: The Problem of Fleet Relocation

Jan 11, 2018

We’ve been working on a car sharing industry analysis together with fleet management experts, Ecoservice, to produce a whitepaper entitled: Four Concepts to Help Solve the Relocation Problem. We interviewed industry experts as well surveyed users in two North American markets to find out what works and what doesn’t. This post will provide an overview of what you will learn in the full whitepaper, which you can request here.

Car Sharing industry analysis whitepaper

the problem of fleet relocation

While free-floating carshare operators provide immense value to their members and a completely different way to implement carsharing into their lives, allowing for pick-up and drop-off to occur anywhere within their home areas, the single biggest problem remains a challenge: the relocation of vehicles. The simple issue of supply and demand works like any other. The better the vehicles are balanced, the more they will be utilized, the happier the members will be, and the more revenue will be earned for the operators. However, this problem is more than just a balancing act.

How do operators create an optimum balance between supply and demand throughout their service area? It’s not easy to achieve because the efficient coordination of cars is as difficult as herding cats.

Daily Fleet Management

Carsharing fleets are usually managed by two teams of fleet managers, including an internal team who focuses on the overseeing of the fleet and ensures they maintain their availability for members to rent. There generally is also an external vendor who takes the insights of the internal team, and who is responsible for the refuelling, maintaining, and relocating of cars.

The Role of Software in Relocation

Relocation software is critical for success, but it is largely dependent on the insights that are provided by the software. When using the correct software, it can help tremendously to identify the demand of vehicles based on historical data. It can also offer insights on general trends in the way a particular operating territory works, but one of the major limitations usually still remains: predicting real-time demands and using smart algorithms to entice members with your relocation efforts.

The Cost of Relocation

The cost of relocation is one of the largest expenses of doing business as a free-floating carshare operator. If operators don’t do everything they can to reduce this expense and make the fleet relocation process as efficient as possible, it can mean their demise. As the industry matures, operators will inevitably get more efficient at managing both the cost and the process of relocation, and they will likely be in the form of incentivizing members to handle as many of the relocations as possible.
the four relocation concepts

Dynamic drop-off pricing

In this scenario, the carshare operator offers a discounted rate if the member drops off their vehicle at a specific location. In the mind of the consumer, it might be worth the savings to walk an additional few blocks to their desired location or hop on a secondary form of transportation to reach where they are going.

Dynamic Pick-Up Pricing

Similarly, the carsharing operator can implement a dynamic pick-up price, charging their members less at certain time of day if they pickup their vehicle at a particular location. As in the above scenario, this may mean that the user has to walk further or maintain an initial form of transportation to reach the desired vehicle location.


What if the cost of the relocation efforts could be transfered to the member but without inconveniencing them in their journey? That’s the underlying idea of the delivery fee concept. This one yielded very polarizing results and interest seems to be based on income level of users.


The last concept we tested were shuttle groups: this concept has been tested with students by Catch-a-Car in Switzerland. Essentially you as a user decide if you would like to help with relocation and as a reward you receive either driving credits or a discount.

As a new or existing free-floating carshare operator, the real question is: can you afford to not know how to cost-effectively relocate your vehicles? As one of the major expenses in the business, we encourage you to fully understand the opportunities in this car sharing industry analysis.

You can request the full whitepaper from us here.

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