What a diamond field opportunity LOST by the biggies like Budget, Hertz, Avis etc. All eaten up by Zip Car, Autoshare and Car2Go. Ah well….you snooze, you lose. However, I don’t think they were entirely snoozing. I think, in large part, they did not believe in the concept of short-term rentals and felt it would cannibalize their weekend rental programs. But let’s be honest, is the weekend rental even a hot item anymore? With gas prices the way they are, the “roadtrip” feels like a past-time poster from the 50’s!
The days of “unlimited miles” died when $40 per barrel oil died.
My Car2Go Experience
I joined them a few weeks back thanks to a promotional offer which included $0 activation fee and 30 free minutes. The main difference between a ZipCar and Car2Go rental is between reservations and minutes. With ZipCar, you have to reserve a time period for the car and can extend the time IF the slot isn’t taken by another member. You can also reserve the Car2Go as well, but there’s never a risk of another member taking your car or time-slot because you keep it for as long as you need it.
The Car2Go model is based on minutes (kind of like Fido minutes) where you pay by minutes and get billed on actual time used - so no more wasted minutes booking for a full hour but returning the car within 53 minutes. Those minutes count! :-D
My first Car2Go experience was a bit bumpy. For starters, while on the move with the Car2Go iOS app, the network (Rogers!) or the GPS would simply not load up nearby car lots per my location. Talk about walking blind. :-) I did a preliminary check on my laptop beforehand and luckily, was able to remember where some of the car lots were.
That said, I also tried to call Car2Go but found the initial wait too long to bear at 8 minutes so I gave up and put on my hunter’s hat to find blue and white in Leslieville, Toronto. In comparison to ZipCar, I’ve never found wait times to be as long as 8 minutes in a call to them.
I eventually found my car lot and was ready to rent. Upon tapping the card reader, the doors opened and I saw the friendly “Welcome Alexander Bosika” appear on the navigation screen. However, the welcome screen disappeared for some reason and I really can’t explain why that happened because I was supposed to key in my private pin code to remove the car immobilizer setting. It appears I forgot the link between pin code and the immobilizer setting since I continued to struggle starting the car. (LOL!) Even worse, time was ticking since your minutes start the moment you swipe the member cards on the reader on the outside window of the car.
In a bind, I called Car2Go via their navigation panel vs. my own cell phone. When you think about that, it’s not bad for folks that don’t have unlimited cell phone plans or simply don’t have a mobile phone on their person to report an emergency, damage or simply to get help. With ZipCar, you’re in a bind without your phone to report damage via call or from the mobile app.
All this confusion was really a sequence of events starting from the proximity search, to the call wait time, to the navigation screen going dark and not giving me the option to enter the pin code. When I finally connected with Car2Go’s support centre via the navigation screen, the wait time was an additional five minutes. So minutes kept ticking away with my reader-swiped rental. Ugh. That said, when I finally connected with support, I was told to wave the card on the reader again and this time, I saw the pin code entry option to allow me to remove the immobilizer setting. To be fair, Car2Go call support credited me 20 minutes at the time of the rental and days after the rental, the company emailed me to credit me with additional minutes given my challenges. Thanks guys!
The drive itself was quite fun and well, attention-getting. With the emblazoned Car2Go logos, the small footprint and two people (me-tall, mom-short), it was a bit of a Laurel and Hardy moment of sorts. Mom loved it but she wasn’t too happy with the automatic (manual!) shift and jolts. Clearly, I wasn’t the expert I thought I was after watching the training videos! LOL!
For mom, the rumble and tumble of the ride was easily solved with some aspirin. Sorry mom! :-D
That said, for the purpose of a short trip to get some groceries and hop around the city, it’s not a bad little experience. When you stop, the navigation panel asks if you’re ending the trip, stopping for gas, or simply stopping over to do errands. For stopovers, you must take the keys with you and yes, the minutes count. If the stopover was for gas, the minutes would not count and the navigation screen would inform you to enter a specific pin code for the gas card off the navigation screen.
With Car2Go, the rental is covered for insurance, gas, and parking (Green P parking included!) which is very cool. With ZipCar, you are covered for gas but insurance waivers apply for zero liability (pay by month or annual) and there is a membership fee for annual use. I did not see any membership fee with Car2Go in any of the sign-up pages so I’m certain there isn’t one. The price for Zip Cars VARY depending on model whereas with the Smart Car2Go models, it’s the same price everywhere since it is the same car.
One feature of the Car2Go model that I do like is the ability to pick-up the car from one car lot and have it dropped off at another car lot location. With ZipCar, you must return the car to the originating point. I don’t think this is a huge selling point but it’s good to have on occasion. As well, with the Car2Go app, not only do you obtain proximity information for the car lots (if it works :-)), but also how much fuel the cars have left in them! On a few occasions, ZipCar rentals were border-line full (quarter-tank) which left me, as the member, responsible to fill it up with the gas cards they provide on my rental. Not a major hassle but it’s time you’d paid for. In the Car2Go world, car fill-up minutes are not counted as part of the rental. That said, I’ve never lost sleep over this as it hasn’t happened on my watch often with Zip Car.
On the whole, the Car2Go platform is a good niche and fits in nicely with the ZipCar and AutoShare models already on the market. I did have one other minor difficulty with Car2Go when I returned the car. I wasn’t able to shut the car down because the two cards (for gas and parking) were sitting in the “top-tray” vs. the “bottom-tray” and I wasn’t aware that you had to keep them in the bottom-tray. The video tutorials, literature, inside car manual, and navigation screen did not explicitly (well, visually, they did show the cards in the bottom tray :-)) SAY the cards had to be in the bottom-tray. For a first time rental, the visual cues (versus actual statement) are not intuitive or OBVIOUS enough for the car renter to notice the difference because they’re still too busy learning the systems and processes.
If this is any indication, several folks at my office have recently joined the Car2Go alliance to help meet short-term transportation goals. In the end, I am happy that Toronto has become a key launching pad for progressive business models which keep our city green and with flexible transportation options beyond transit and taxis.
Car2Go. Thanks for coming to Toronto!