5 Tips to Being a Successful Carpooler

Carpooling is an arrangement between a group of car owners in which each takes turns driving the others. Whether it’s to work, school, practice, or another activity, driving to and from a place on a daily or highly-regular basis takes time as well as money. Carpooling offers some relief from the drudgery and expense of driving solo, especially in areas with heavy traffic during commute hours.

Choosing to carpool can save you money spent on gas and potentially car maintenance from high-use on congested, accident-prone routes. Some states even have exclusive High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes for those with more than one person in the car. These lanes aim to let passenger-carrying cars escape the gridlock of driver-only cars around them, ideally cutting time spent on the road.

Carpooling alleviates some of the stress of regular, repetitive driving. Seek out carpool buddies by asking around at work or connecting with people in your neighborhood who drive the same way. Once you have a carpool group, make your everyday drive more enjoyable by using these 5 tips to for successful carpooling:

1. Determine Routes, Meeting Points, and Pick-up Times

Have the route to wherever you’re going planned out in advance. Try not to deviate from the route for any food, errands, or gas stops unless it’s been agreed upon by tby all carpool members. Also establish pick-up times and meeting locations, such as homes, park-and-ride spots, and certain parking lots.

2. Schedule Driving Responsibilities

Alternate between who has to drive to ensure no one does more than any other. If it’s more direct for someone to pick you up along their route, offer to have them park at your location and drive from there. If you don’t drive or own a car, determine a way to reimburse your driver and cover driving expenses at set payment date. Sharing the driving burden equally will increase the likelihood of your carpooling agreement lasting.

3. Create a Contact Guide

All participating in the carpool needs to have the contact information of everyone else. This includes names, phone numbers, and addresses for pick-up and drop-off spots. Should someone be unavailable for a day, or running late, everyone needs to know so plans can be adjusted accordingly. Avoid any last-minute communication. Don’t keep your fellow carpoolers waiting if you won’t be able to make it or found another means of transportation for the day. Contact information can be compiled in an online sheet, group chat, or other reference sources so long as it's accessible by all carpoolers.

4. Be on Time

Tardiness can be highly disruptive to the rest of the carpool. Respect other people’s time and strive to be at pick-up spots on time and ready to go. If you’re driving, don’t slow down the route by stopping — take care of errands ahead of time so your group can get where it needs to be at the expected time. In places with heavy traffic, timeliness can make a huge difference between a quick trip and long wait.

5. Discuss Car Etiquette

Though it might feel a little weird to talk about, everyone has different preferences when it comes to their car. You will need a set of rules or standards when it comes to driving with the same people every day. Decide on whether or not eating or drinking is allowed, or who’s in charge of the radio and what everyone finds acceptable to listen to. You might also discuss phone or headphone use. It may be easier to maintain the same rules across vehicles instead of having “food cars” and “no-food cars,” for example.

This is also the time to bring up your personal habits when driving to and from a place. For example, if you prefer not to chat much in the mornings, let your carpool buddies know. You’ll get the space you need and your riding partners won’t take it personally. Additionally, it's a good tip to keep your vehicle clean to foster a better carpool experience.

4 Don’ts to Keep Your Carpool Successful

Once you’ve gone over rules, expectations, and scheduling, keep in mind the following actions to make sure you continue to have a successful carpooling experience:

  1. Don’t be habitually late. If lateness happens once in a while, that’s understandable — things come up. However, it can be very frustrating, rude, and disrespectful toward your fellow carpoolers to be late often. Remember, you’re not only affecting your own time but also their’s.

  2. Don’t ask for extra stops. This goes in hand with lateness. Additional stops along the route increase the time it takes to get to your destination — something the group as a whole might not have planned for. Unless your group planned for an errand or coffee run, stick to the schedule.

  3. Don’t bring up sticky topics. If you don’t know the group very well, it’s best to avoid discussing potentially testy topics. This includes religion, politics, and other opinionated issues. This could even include family or work-related viewpoints. Be considerate about what you discuss, as heated debating may create a tense and unpleasant riding experience.

  4. Don’t be on the phone constantly. This means talking on the phone. Other riders may find your long conversations distracting or dominating, and feel like they are not free to speak as well.

Everyone in the carpool needs to be respectful of the others in the car to enjoy the benefits of carpooling. It can even be fun! But it also needs to be safe and comfortable for everyone involved for it to last. Drive carefully and follow all laws in your state while sharing the road with your carpool buddies and other drivers.

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