How to promote car-sharing to people who love their own cars

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Car-sharing schemes can reduce the environmental impact of driving. But how do you entice car owners that are extremely attached to their own cars? Research by Joshua Paundra of Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) and a team of researchers shows that such car lovers need more arguments to switch to sharing schemes than just the lower price per trip and sustainability of car-sharing. The study suggests that to these people, car-sharing should not be marketed as a replacement, but as a mode of transport for when their cherished vehicle is unavailable.

Over the last 10 years, people have been offered more options for getting around than just owning a car, says researcher Paundra. Particularly in cities, car-sharing schemes allow people to travel by car without the burden of car ownership. These options are more sustainable than having everybody own their own car that is typically in use only five per cent of the time.

Car-sharing offers other benefits, he continues: it is cheaper than owning and using a personal car, reduces the demand for parking spaces because shared cars have designated parking areas, and users can access the newest electric vehicles with the least emissions.

Psychological ownership

It’s simple to see how some people are extremely attached to the idea of owning a car – to the point at which car ownership becomes an extension of their identity. The researchers suspected that a high level of possessive feelings, called ‘psychological ownership’, can make people less open to the idea of using car-sharing schemes and reduce their intention to sign up for them. If so, then policy makers aiming to increase the use of car-sharing schemes may need to approach this group differently: simply pointing out the usual advantages of car-sharing schemes might not work here.


The researchers’ online experiment showed that in general, everyone is sensitive to price: when car-sharing schemes become cheaper, they become more attractive. But for people with a high level of psychological ownership this effect is reduced. They continue to use their own car, even when they know this will cost more than car-sharing.

The results also showed that when people with low levels of psychological ownership are offered a shared and relatively clean electric vehicle, they are willing to pay the relatively high price. This effect is a lot less powerful with people that are very attached to their cars. These people often will not pay extra for the opportunity to drive an electric vehicle.

Marketing car-sharing

Paundra says this study shows that everyone has a different psychological attitude towards owning a car, and this calls for a diversified approach to attract them to car-sharing schemes.

To convince people to try out car-sharing, policy makers and marketers could emphasise its potential as an alternative form of transport when their regular transport is unavailable. This could be when a partner or family member is using the car, when it is being serviced, or when a specific type of car is needed.

It’s a way to invite these people to discover car-sharing without implying they should sell their own car – which is often a turn-off. Once people become more familiar with the car-sharing scheme and its advantages, they might eventually become more willing to sell their own car and switch to a sharing scheme entirely, the researcher concludes.

Read the article here: Joshua Paundra, Laurens Rook, Jan van Dalen, Wolfgang Ketter, Preferences for car sharing services: Effects of instrumental attributes and psychological ownership, Journal of Environmental Psychology Volume 53, November 2017, Pages 121-130

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top 10 business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers. Study information and activities for future students, executives and alumni are also organised from the RSM office in Chengdu, China.

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Ramses Singeling, Media Officer for RSM, on +31 10 408 2028 or by email at

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