After procrastinating about it for far too long, last year I finally passed my driving test, got a licence, and bought a car (a VW Tiguan). Having access to a car over the last year has made massive improvements to the many downsides of living in Fife.
But most of those are the obvious benefits that you get from having a car: mobility, freedom from constrainsts of public transport schedules, etc, etc. These are the things that I was expecting to gain from my investment in learning to drive and buying a couple of tons of metal and plastic and writing about them is boring.
But there have been benefits that I didn't immediately expect, and I'm going to write about those.
I have atrocious sleep habits and until recently I spent most of the day over-tired and distracted. When you don't get enough sleep at night, the ability to take naps during the day is essential. When I work from home, this obviously isn't a problem, but what about in the office?
Google has Magic Sleep Pods, but for the rest of us nipping off to the car for a quick 30 minute snooze during lunch is a more viable option. The driver's side on my car doesn't have a 'nap lever' (rather, it uses a knob to adjust the seat recline), but the passenger side does, so I just hop in there, whack the lever, pull my standard-issue-tech-hoodie over my eyes, and nap away.
It help that the co-working space I work out of has a basement/underground car park, so the car's in a lovely quiet, mostly dark place with no disturbances.
While I'd been aware of people using cars for napping before, it wasn't until having one available to me that I realised how useful it is on days when you've just not had enough sleep. I don't actually car nap regularly any more as I'm taking medication for my sleep issues, but it's nice to know that it's available to me.
I'm the kind of geek that carries a bunch of technology with me pretty much everywhere, and that technology requires support technology to make it work - cables, chargers, external battery packs. Extras and add-ons that prove invaluable when you have them and don't take up much space or add much weight when they're not necessary. To this end, I have an excellent bag from Cravar's first Kickstarter and I tend to wear cargo trousers so I can carry more in my pockets, which are many and large.
My car is aimed at the 'family' market, so it has loads of cubby holes and storage spaces. It's great for people like me: I can stash extra copies of the smaller things (extra painkillers, hair ties) and carry around larger or less frequently used items. I have backup deoordorant, an emergency Mars Bar, a pair of walkie-talkies, hand-warmers, and a box of tissues - amongst many other things - tucked away in the various compatments in the car.
I also keep a multipack of bottles of water loose in the boot. It's convenient to be able to grab a drink when required, and the walk from my office desk to the basement car park is good exercise (even if I do take the lift - after all, it's ten floors!) and the water is kept cooler in the car in the basement than it would be next to my desk.
Having the car means I have a huge amount of potential storage space, not just 'carrying space', and the nature of the model I picked means that I can carry loads of stuff without it appearing to clutter up the boot and other areas of the car. This opens up more options for doing stuff, and increases flexibility.
Finally, the car has no less than four 12 volt power outlets, any and all of which can be adapted easily to power all the electronic junk I carry with me. While I do use portable battery packs for charging USB devices, if I forget them (or I've already run them dry), my car can step in as the world's least efficient iPhone charger. Given that I rely on my iPhone for both in-car music and navigation, this is actually pretty useful.
All of these benefits really come down to the car as a little bit of your own personal space that you can take with you when you leave the house, and are unique to car ownership, rather than just simply driving. Car sharing schemes wouldn't allow me to really do any of these things, even if they would make the superficial use of the car (for journeys and transportation) cheaper or more efficient.