I own my own car, and am one of those drivers who likes the familiar. I know how my vehicle handles and feel the most safe behind its wheel. So up to now, I have never thought to sign up for and to use a car share program. However, when this opportunity to try “Car2go” presented itself, I thought why not try something new? And all of a sudden I found myself now with many reasons as to why a driver with their own car would subscribe to such a service and find it useful.
First, as in my case, our two vehicle household was down to one car inexplicably. So during those travel necessities, when transit just won’t do, you can borrow one of their cars. Taking a loaner without any dealership fees or even the commitment to have to keep it for the entire day. With Car2go you pay for your distance and can make your drive as short or as long as you like.
The next two reasons to use a Car2go are ones I will definitely be taking advantage of in the near future. I will be using their car share program when I want to avoid having to find parking or having to pay an arm and a leg for it. There are designated places where you can drop off your Car2go in high trafficked areas, and I have seen many signs reserving spots for their cars on popular side streets. Downtown Vancouver is the best example. You need to run some errands downtown? Grab a car, park it, forget about it. And then later grab another one by where you end up, and take it back home, parking it right outside your door even.
Another reason for me to pick up a Car2go is when I plan on a enjoy a night of drinking out. I am not recommending that you drink and drive. But instead of taking a taxi to and fro to your event, simply take a Car2go there, and save some money and time, depending where you pick it up and need to go with it.
And the best part? Here I was thinking I would be saddled with one of those mini smart cars, which isn’t the sexiest ride. But you actually get a choice of four different vehicles to fit your mood and needs. This includes an SUV and a luxury sedan. As I mentioned I enjoy driving so the drive is just as important to me as the destination. So naturally the ability to loan a Mercedes’s meets those requirements.
The only real down side, specifically for me, is that they are only operating in Vancouver now. So as a resident of Burnaby. I found myself having to take a skytrain to the nearest Car2go, which isn’t the most convenient.
To begin, the sign up process is fairly easy. You download their free app and register your information with them. This includes the standard name and address, with a credit card number for payment. You also have to take a photo of your driver’s license from the back and the front, and a selfie for verification. Then once you get your confirmation email you are ready for your first Car2go.
The rest of this post chronicles my first time. Once again I was without a car, and on this night, I had an event at Playland. Not wanting to take a series of buses, or to endure the trouble of having to search for a spot in the busy area, on an event night, I found Car2go the perfect solution.
And seeing as this night was my first drive, I wanted it special. So I used the easy to navigate app to find where the nearest Mercedes Benz loaner was and hoofed it to it. Once again, it was only extra challenging for me because of my home being in Burnaby.
You can use the filter function to select your preferred Car2go vehicle from their four options. A Smart Car for two, a newer Smart Car, the Mercedes CLA (mid size SUV) and the Mercedes GLA (four door sedan). The app even shows you what colour you could get in the latter two. But as far as I can tell it is just between white, black, and grey. The Smart Cars are branded in their trade mark white and blue piping with prominent logo. Whereas the Mercedes are marked more discretely with a smaller, thinner logo, with all their available cities listed on the driver’s side door.
In the app, you select the loaner you want by clicking on its bubble marker and then hitting the “reserve” button. You then have 30 minutes to get to it before your time expires. During this point you can change your mind and cancel your loan with a push of another button. When you are close enough to your chosen loaner you click the “rent” button. You can confirm that you are indeed by the right car by comparing the live licence plate with the one listed on your app. The ride is 45cents per minute for the Mercedes with its premium gasoline at a higher octane. Whereas you are charged 32cents per minute for your use of the Smart Cars. These are the only fees you are charged. You only pay for how long you are actually using the car. So no need to worry about monthly fees, for parking, fuel, or maintenance, like other car sharing companies have you do. So I assume they have a team checking on their fleet regularly to ensure minimal to no issue.
If you scratch or damage the car you report it to their customer service hotline. And when you begin your new rental you can see the list of previous damages, to ensure everything is accounted for, and none of it is on you. Although it is a shame that the driver’s before you don’t keep the interior in as good of a shape and there is no way to report this. My Mercedes had debris everywhere from crumbs in the cupholders to crushed leaves on the floor mats. I found this another sad point to the car sharing concept. No one owns it, so no one takes proper care of it, such a shame considering the prestige of the make of car.
But atlas, back to your Car2go loan. You have to confirm the account that your ride will be billed to, typing in your chosen PIN. And then typing in the three digit passcode, projected on the electronic screen, located on the car’s windshield. Then like magic, your car unlocks and you climb in.
The app directs you on where to find ignition key. Here, it was located in the glove compartment; in others, a special spot on the dash. You remove the key with its specialty chain and now have everything you need to begin your ride. But if you are like me, and this is your first drive, please give yourself the extra time needed to learn the layout of the car. In the Mercedes I had trouble adjusting the seat. But quickly enough, I found the toggles, and then off I went, following the car’s GPS to my intended destination.
I then dropped off the car in a residential area, for any driver to take after me. Here, you also have the option to leave the car idling, if you plan to come back shortly after for it.
After my event I opened my app and went searching for the closest Car2go, for my ride home. However my second experience late at night would be with a Smart Car, and would be less smooth. I didn’t mean for it to happen, but now I was able to test their customer service responsiveness on this first round trip.
I messed up my pin, typing the new number I had made up incorrectly, too many times, locking myself out of my account and therefore the car. I was just so sure it was what I thought it was in my mind. So to retrieve it, I typed in my password and a random number texted my chosen PIN back to me (to the number I listed in my profile). However I was now locked out and couldn’t use the car I had reserve , until I called the customer service number listed in the text. This was a call at 1am that had me on hold for 17 minutes. It was late at night, I wondered if they were even open at this time and if I was left holding for no one. All the while, standing in the cold by the car. Luckily it was in a nice enough residential area by a lamp post. However it was cold and the warmth of my enclosed car was so close, yet so far. I spent the time writing this post with the hold music on speaker phone, thinking at what point do I give up and call a cab instead?
But then a woman answered. She was sweet and enduring, and immediately apologized for my chilly wait, explaining that she was stuck on the other line with a more intricate issue, and there was just the two of them working on what should have been a slow night. Therefore, I have full confidence that if this was to happen again to me, using a Car2go during more regular hours, I would be well taken care of, and definitely in a speedier fashion.
Eventually, I got in and was able to navigate the Smart Car I had selected just fine. It has a simple park, reverse, neutral and drive shifter. And like how how I picked it up, I had to return it to anywhere within Vancouver. Seeing as I live in Burnaby, this meant dropping it off on Boundary, the cusp between the two cities, and taking the skytrain the rest of the way. Making this service the most ideal in the city.
I will definitely be using their services again, and recommending its ease to anyone who doesn’t own their own car, or needs a good option for another.