(Originally published on notable.ca)
Growing up in the suburbs of Toronto, we have/had things a lot easier. Our parents’ house with an always full fridge, a car with an always full tank, and for some of us a credit card that seemingly paid itself; life was good.
But, as with many of us, something changed: we grew up. The ever-daunting task of moving out starts to loom over your shoulder like your grade 11 science teacher did during exams. Of all the hard, thought-provoking decisions that need to be made, there is one that stands out above the rest and, for me at least, still proves to be the hardest: to keep or not keep your beloved car.
I chose the latter.
My decision, though very hard, was made a lot easier by a new start-up service called car2go. I recently tried it out for a week and realized that not owning my own car would not be the end of the world after all.
car2go is a subsidiary of DaimlerAG (think Mercedes-Benz, Smart, and Maybach brands) that operates using Smart Fortwos for the purpose of car sharing, currently catering to cities in Europe and North America. Having recently launched in Toronto, I knew I had to try it out.
One feature (of the many) of the service that really caught my eye was the ability to pick up the car from one location (Green P municipal parking) and drop it off at another – unlike other car sharing companies, which insist their users pick up and drop off cars at the same location.
Talk numbers to me.
At .35/minute (with gas, parking, and maintenance included) billed by the minute, the service is a no-brainer for young professionals like myself. Both ways I broke it down, the service could be seen as cheaper than using the TTC or, for the purpose of this article, owning a car. Let’s look at the TTC.
A one-time use TTC token can be bought for $3. You must stay on their schedule, get on a cramped street car/train, and rely on no delays to get to your required destination on time. Whereas, with Car2Go, a five-minute drive at .35/minute is $1.75 with parking included, and of course, A/C. Let’s even stretch that to include a stopover; you can get another 5-minutes of driving time in and you’ve then covered a bit more than the single cost of the token.
Now let’s look at this from the owning a car perspective.
Without factoring the cost of gas, maintenance, and insurance, let’s just talk numbers. At .35/minute, it costs $21/hour to drive car2go. Even if you ONLY use it once a week for three hours to visit the parents up north, that’s $252/month; which, in reality, would generally only cover your insurance payments. Pricey? Maybe. But when you factor in the convenience of not having to take public transit (or abide by its schedule), and carry some groceries with you, it works out.
Food for thought: the average car2go rental is 30 minutes, which at 35 cents a minute adds up to just over $10 per trip.
How it works:
Once signed up, you receive a credit card-style membership card. Similar to Paypass payments at gas stations, you simply touch the card to the box sitting on the dashboard of the car, and await the system to unlock and let you in.
Because the system is connected to your car via cellular network, you will – based on weather conditions – have the odd “connection failure,” but those are few and far between. Think of it as a dropped call. To remedy this, give it a few minutes and swipe your pass again; 9.5-10 times out of 10, it will work like a charm.
Once in the car, the on-screen system asks a series of questions to ensure quality and cleanliness. With a few touches to the screen, the key becomes accessible from the center of the dashboard and you’re on your way.
Boundaries and Limitations:
car2go is offered in the vicinity of the downtown Toronto core, as well as in Calgary and Vancouver. You will find the cars in Green P lots south of Eglinton, West of Victoria Park, and East of Jane St. (Toronto), and customers are able to rent any one of its 250 cars parked at 200 city-owned lots.
Being eco-friendly and a very customer-oriented/focused experience, I finished my trial week with a smile and more money in my pocket. I am now offiically car-less and blame (in the best way possible) car2go for it. I urge city-dwellers to give them a try; as a young professional, you’ll appreciate it.