Safely Finding a Carpool Buddy for Road Trips

Finding a carpool buddy for an 8 to 12 hour drive to my hometown, sunny San Diego, was a challenge when I first moved to Chico a few years ago. I was still so new to the town and a majority of my classmates and friends were either originally from Northern California or the Bay Area. Luckily enough, my research on safe rideshare products quickly led me to the solution to all my worries — Zimride.

Zimride is a fantastic rideshare service that uses social networks, like Facebook, to enable real connections between drivers and passengers. Within seconds, I had my Zimride profile connected to my Facebook and a ride posted from Chico to San Diego for a trip home for a warm winter break. Potential passengers were alerted via email about my post and contacted me within hours. It only took a few hours before I found two friendly students who kept me company and paid me $100 a seat for rides to Southern California and back.

Katrina’s car has driven up and down the state of California at least 10 times since she moved to Chico from San Diego. Photo credit: Katrina Cameron

Here are my tips for using rideshare products:

1. Make sure to check the driver’s or passenger’s social media
Getting in a car with a stranger is probably against everything your parents ever told you. Make sure you feel totally comfortable riding with this person by scoping out their social media profiles on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter. One of the reasons why I felt so at ease using Zimride is because it requires that users sign up with Facebook because it adds credibility to a profile.

2. Exchange phone numbers and chat before making a decision
You might be too busy packing for the trip to meet in person, but a phone call also helps verify that the driver or passenger is credible. A casual conversation about where to meet up, what kind of music each other enjoys and where to grab a snack while on the road is usually enough to help me decide how I feel about a passenger.

3. Set a reasonable price
We’re all trying to save money here, so keep the prices reasonable. I typically ask for $50-$75 for a ride to San Diego from Chico, but it varies on the cost of gas and how many passengers I have. Zimride usually has a pretty accurate suggested price that most drivers and passengers use.

4. Pay or get paid safely
Ride payouts via PayPal are super simple and safe. Zimride requires that passengers pay drivers through PayPal, which protects them from flaky drivers. The passenger’s credit card is charged as soon as the driver accepts the request and can be refunded if the driver doesn’t show up. Drivers get paid via PayPal one day after the ride is complete.

5. Don’t be afraid to stay in touch
A car ride with a total stranger can sometimes lead to great friendships. Don’t be afraid to stay in touch with your new carpool buddy if they made the ride enjoyable. That driver or passenger will likely be heading to that same destination again, so let them know you’d like to save a seat for the next trip.

Don’t forget to leave friendly feedback! Seeing a thumbs up and recommendation after such a long drive or ride is very satisfying.