Carsharing, carpooling, ridesharing… what’s the difference?

There’s so many buzzwords floating around about shared and sustainable transport options at the moment that it can be difficult to understand exactly what people are talking about. So, we’re going to try and explain each. Here’s our shared transport glossary to try and help:


def. the practice of sharing a car for regular travelling, especially for commuting.

Carsharing is sharing spare seats in vehicles with those who are going the same way, either on a one-off or regular basis – and can be to and from anywhere. This may be through a matching service like Liftshare, or an informal arrangement between friends. There may be money exchanged, alternating driving arrangements made, or it can be completed as a favour. Interestingly, this is what ‘carpooling’ means in the rest of the world outside of the UK!


def. a group of people who travel together, especially to work or school, usually in a different member’s car each day.

This is essentially the same as above, but where those on the trips take it in turns to drive each other rather than exchange money, so the driving is shared.


def. a group of cars, owned by a company or other organisation, that can be used by any of its employees or members.

This is essentially whereby companies look to reduce the number of vehicles used on company business, and so own their own fleet to lend out to employees or members. It would normally refer to a private arrangement, so not open to the public.


def. of or relating to a car service with which a person uses a smartphone app to arrange a ride in a usually privately owned vehicle.

Essentially, UBER. Ridesharing can mean the use of services like Liftshare through their iOS or Android apps, but is normally used when referring to an on-demand service – making it a taxi.


def. sharing a lift with someone who needs one when you’re going that way anyway; using or a Liftshare scheme.

Probably the easiest definition of all, given the name, liftsharing refers to using Liftshare to share a ride, either as a driver or a passenger.

Car Club

def. an organisation that owns cars which members can rent for a fee.

Normally a location-based organisation, the company owns a number of cars and vehicles, and you can rent them out when you need them; as more of an on-demand service than a traditional hire car vendor. The cars will be parked around the locale, and you can access them when you need them. Normally they can be hired at an hourly rate, and sometimes with a membership fee.


def.  a group of automobile owners or fanatics that come together to represent their automotive accomplishments.

Unrelated to sharing, this is a group of enthusiasts of a certain car manufacturer or type.


def. the French word for carpooling.

In France, and indeed almost anywhere outside of the UK, this means our equivalent of carsharing (see above). This is often used alongside English, as carsharing is very popular in France, and so the word has entered popular usage.


def. to wait for or obtain a ride to work by standing at a roadside hoping to be picked up by a driver who needs another passenger to use the HOV lanes of a highway.

An informal carsharing arrangement used primarily in the US, but also in other areas with HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes. These lanes are less congested and so normally faster to travel along, making it in people’s interest to share. It’s these roads that James Corden takes advantage of by filming carpool karaoke!


def. to travel by standing on the side of the road and soliciting rides from passing vehicles.

Hitch-hiking is lesser used nowadays, but is an informal, free method of travelling by relying on the kindness of others to give you a free lift for either part of, or the whole of, your journey. Hitch-hiking can have safety issues though, and so we’d advise using a full liftsharing service and making prior arrangements with drivers you trust if possible.

For more trust and safety advice on shared transport, you can visit the Liftshare Trust and Safety guide, and read an interview with a personal safety charity.

Odd-even system

def. a travel demand management strategy aimed to reduce the negative affects generated by urban air pollution or peak urban travel demand, through artificially restricting demand (vehicle travel) by rationing the road capacity dependent on vehicle license plate numbers or codes. 

A tricky one – but not something we have in the UK. Used in Delhi, and some other municipalities globally, road users are only allowed to travel on certain days, dependent on their numberplate or code. For example, on Mondays, only those with a numberplate ending in an even number can use their vehicles, and on Tuesdays, only odd.

Therefore, if you’re a car user, you’re likely to want to find someone to give you a ride on the days you can’t drive.

Do you have any suggestions for other terms you’d like to see defined? Let us know at @Liftshare!

Author Lex Barber


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