Starting a Carpool

Jenny writes in:

I work at an office park about forty five minutes from where I live. I live in a highly populated suburban neighborhood.

In order to save some money on gas and wear and tear on my car, I want to start a carpool, but I don’t know anyone who lives near me who works in the office park. I don’t mind stretching my hours a bit to make this work, as I could go in with them a bit earlier and do some busywork (email and the like) to start the day or read a book at the end of the day.

The only problem is I don’t know how to get this kind of thing started and I don’t have any obvious people to ride with. Any ideas?

Carpools are a tremendous way to save money. My wife is in a (semi-functional) carpool with a coworker and often has a ride to work two days a week. We estimate that it saves us at least $100 a month in gas and maintenance costs. It would be truly great if she could get another person or two into the carpool.

How can Jenny get a carpool started in her situation? Here’s the game plan I would use.

First, I would make up a very clear flyer that stated my first name, my cell phone number, and the fact that I wanted to start a carpool from the neighborhood or city where I lived to that office park. I’d probably make some “tear-off” tabs on the right hand side of the flyer so that people could yank the number off and put it in their pocket. Put “car pool” above the number.

I would then take a copy of this flyer to each office in the office park. There may be a lot of offices there, so you may need quite a few copies. Ask for permission to hang the flyer on the office bulletin board in each of those offices. Given your situation, I would imagine most would let you do this.

Ideally, you’ll get a few calls within the next few days. You’ll need to get some key information from each person, so you may want to carry a notepad with you.

From each caller, get the following:
+ their name
+ their cell phone number
+ their address (so you can map their location)
+ their approximate work schedule (so you know when they would need to depart/arrive)
+ any “special” days they have (like my wife’s carpool, where it doesn’t happen on Fridays due to a special need of her carpool mate)
+ what types of vehicles they have and how many it can seat

Once you have this information from a few callers (give it a few days), set up a schedule. Figure out a departure time (both from your town and from the office park) that works for everyone (or at least for the largest number of participants). Also, figure out a rotating driving schedule.

Once you have this information, call each person in the pool back and let them know when the pool will begin. I highly recommend you drive the first day.

When you do the first day, pick up the other people on the route and give each person a list of addresses, phone numbers, and schedules for everyone in the pool. I recommend that you make the schedule as simple as possible, even if it inconveniences you. The best way to do this is to say that Person X drives on Mondays, Person Y drives on Tuesdays, Person Z drives on Wednesdays, and Person A drives on Thursdays, with Fridays handled on a rotating basis. If you have five people, this is really easy. If you have three people, have Thursday and Friday rotate. If you just have two people, have each person drive two days and have Friday rotate.

Yes, this is a lot of set-up work. But you’re the one who has the initiative to start the carpool and you will save a lot of money on it. It may take a bit of extra effort in setting it up and an occasional headache when someone is sick, but it will be worth it in the large savings you get, especially with a four or five person carpool.

Good luck!

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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