car2go Toronto: How Car-Sharing Options Enhance eco-friendly Urban Lifestyles

As you may know, I was asked to review car2go during it’s launch in Toronto. I was given a week with one of the SmartCar ForTwo’s to test out how the new car-sharing service worked for Torontonians.

While I could have kept the one car for the whole week, I decided to sign in and out of cars as much as possible to really get the full experience using the app to locate vehicles and sign in and out of them.

Let’s talk about what I liked:

  • Free parking. Parking in Toronto is one of the main reasons I never want to own a car while living in the city. If you don’t have a spot at your apartment or home, city spots run from $20 for just a weekend to $60/month on a long-term pass and your vehicle remains exposed on the street.
    With car2go you have access to hundreds of Green P parking lots which you can find on the navigation map in the car. I was worried I would have to walk long distances between the lots and where I needed to go, but the longest walk I had was only about 2 minutes. As you drive, the map displays which parking lots are near you and if you select one it will navigate you directly there which is helpful to get around the one-way streets in the city.
  • Availability of cars. I anticipated there being huge gaps in where cars were parked using the service. I live outside of the downtown core and worried I would have to streetcar to an unused SmartCar at least once, which would kind of defeat the convenience and flexibility factor of the service. I’m happy to report that there were always cars available where I wanted them, from the financial district, to Queen West, to Bloordale, to Liberty Village. The app shows you where the available cars are closest to you. The first night I picked up my car the closest one was 434metres away – about a block. That was the furthest car all week.20120708-171348.jpg
  • ย Eco-friendly option. I’ll admit – the fact that the car is eco-friendly wasn’t the original advantage to car-sharing that appealed to me. Mostly because it’s a car and if I’m choosing to drive over biking, walking, or taking transit I automatically assume I am taking the least eco-friendly option. It was however re-assuring to know that car2go is committed to making the service as eco-friendly as possible. SmartCars are light, small, and known to have great fuel economy. There is even a built-in application on the navigation screen that scores your “eco-friendly” driving based on how you accelerate, decelerate, and cruise. I found myself driving better in order to improve my “score”. I know not everyone will necessarily drive better because of this, but it was a nice reminder of which driving habits were better on gas and which weren’t.
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  • Free membership. This was a big draw for me! Most other car-sharing services require a monthly or yearly membership fee and I was always worried if I signed up that I would feel obligated to use the car more to make payment of the membership fee worth it. There is a one-time sign-up fee of $35 that is currently being waived for new users!
  • Pay for exactly what you use. You only pay from the time you sign in and start the car until you sign out and turn it off. Only want the car for a 5 minute ride to work? It’s not a problem: you only pay 35cents per minute, up to a maximum of about $12 per hour if your trip takes longer. There is also a daily maximum if you decide to keep the car for a full 24 hours. You don’t need to book the car in advance (although you can reserve it 24 hours in advance if you prefer) and you don’t need to tell them when you’ll be back.
  • Leave it where you want. As long as you sign out of the car in any of the designated parking lots around the city you’re good to go! No need to bring it back to it’s original location.
  • New car smell. All of these cars are so new! Seriously, I think some of them only have mileage from getting from the dealership to the parking lots they are in. Most of them had only about 40kms on them when I got in.
  • Build in community! Everytime I saw another car2go (which was almost every time I was out!) the other driver and I would always honk and wave excitedly at each other. Okay, I’m a huge dork, but it was really exciting to see other people in the cars too!
  • The signing in process is quick and easy. Let me break it down:

The cars didn’t feel cramped, were a breeze to park, drive, and maneuver around city traffic in. There is lots of leg room even with really tall passengers! The trunk fit more than I thought it would for groceries and errands!

What I’ll Continue to Use car2go For:

  • Getting to work. Not every day and maybe not even very often, but it’s a nice option to have on those really hot days or days you know the streetcar or subway is going to be a mess. In fact, using the app you could even hop off the streetcar or subway if there are delays and hop in the nearest car. One day I was feeling sick and didn’t want to stand on a crowded streetcar so I signed into a car to get myself home comfortably.
    Cost: I dropped my boyfriend off at his office and drove to my work which took under 20 minutes. 20 minutes x 0.35 cents per minute = $7 – a little more than TTC would have cost both of us and less than my 30 and his 40 minute commute.
  • Getting to special events or meetings. I scheduled a last minute meeting which would only allow me to grab my Metropass and go. With car2go I could freshen up and grab my iPad and arrive slightly less frazzled and sweaty than the TTC would have left me. On Tuesday night, I zipped around the city to an appointment at 1BodyBar and then walked over to the movies. I ended up having a few drinks instead and since I had ended the rental I was able to leave the car there and pick up a new one the next morning.
    Cost: The drive to 1BodyBar was under 5 minutes, ringing in at $1.75.
    I would also use it for things like getting to a Blue Jays game or to one of Toronto’s beaches. Let’s be honest: sometimes you just want a car to get places faster!
  • Picking up dog food or groceries. This is a no-brainer. Both are expensive and annoying to carry home. Sometimes I realise too late that I’ve bought more than I can carry and end up callingย  a cab, adding another $10-20 on to my bill.
    Cost: You can get up to an hour of drive time for about $12 and I hope your grocery store isn’t an hour away!
  • Getting to the gym or yoga. I’m that girl sitting on the TTC bus after an hour of hot yoga. Sorry everyone! On Saturday morning I woke up with only enough time to throw on my lulu’s and hop on the bus. I decided to take the SmartCar and sign out of my rental in the Green P next to my studio. Since the drive was only 2-3 minutes it cost me $1.05 and gave me enough time to eat a protein bar, find my fave tank, pack my bag, feed the cat and dog, watch the news, and head out. There were 7 cars in the lot I parked it in so when I came out there was a car available to take me home too! I’m sure all my fellow TTC-ers thanked me that day.

 

What I Won’t Use it For:

  • Longer trips to the suburbs. I went to visit my cousin to do some of my Maid of Honour duties. I had the car from 5pm to midnight which would have cost me the 24 hour daily rate of about $65. That’s an expensive visit, but worth it to make my cousin happy I suppose.
  • Car-pooling. I kept wishing the SmartCar had more seats so I could share the fun with my friends! The good news is most of my friends got their own memberships so we can all get places quickly – just in separate vehicles.
  • Catching up on my fave bands new CD. Unfortunately, the ForTwo’s don’t have a CD player which was a bit of a bummer. Luckily some awesome local radio stations are pre-programmed.

 

Want to see more of what I got up to during my week with car2go?
Check out my Storify here.

Overall, I was more than impressed with the service and would (and have!) recommended it to all of my friends. I will be using it again for short trips around the city, getting to and from special events, or for those days where I need to get somewhere and can’t afford to rely on the TTC to get me there. It works great for picking up larger loads of groceries and even commuting to work if you have a Green P lot close by.

ย This week I talked to a reporter at Gleaner Community Press – a local print newspaper that covers the Annex and Liberty Village about the benefits of using services like car2go and how well they fit in within an urban lifestyle. I’ll post a link to that once it’s up!

In the meantime, if you still haven’t signed up for your car2go membership – it’s only FREE for a little while longer. No membership fees, no commitment! Just sign up to get your membership card sent to you as well as 30 minutes free driving credit to try out the service.
Promo code: TDOT

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