Carsharing — ZipCar

I have been a Zip­Car mem­ber since its ini­tial intro­duc­tion in Toronto. To sign up, I had to pay a mem­ber­ship fee, provide my driver’s license info, and wait to be mailed a card, which took a couple of weeks. Zip­Car also has a recur­ring yearly fee, and optional monthly plans which allow you to pre-pay in exchange for reduced rental rates.

To use Zip­Car, you must book a vehicle in advance. You can do this using ZipCar’s web­site, pain­fully slow iPhone app, or inter­act­ive tele­phone sys­tem. You select the date and time of your rental, and the sys­tem will tell you which cars are avail­able. Once you book a car, your credit card is author­ized for that amount, and the car is reserved. You can can­cel your reser­va­tion, but you must do it a cer­tain amount of time before your reser­va­tion begins. A longer reser­va­tion requires more notice. Once your reser­va­tion begins there are no can­cel­la­tions and no refunds for unused time.

Once it’s time to get your car, you have to find it. The app and email are help­ful, they provide detailed instruc­tions. And once you’ve found a car you like, and you’ve used it a few times, Zip­Car will move it. They are always rene­go­ti­at­ing park­ing con­tracts and mov­ing cars around. It’s frustrating!

The cars are late-model eco­nomy cars leased by Zip­Car. They’re usu­ally in good shape and are kept mostly clean and tidy. You may get the occa­sional sur­prise, but Zip­Car does a pretty good job here. The worst offender is the per­son before you smoking.

If you find prob­lems with the car it is your respons­ib­il­ity to call it in imme­di­ately. If you do not, you can be blamed for any­thing you don’t report. Since the app doesn’t show you what has already been repor­ted, it is rare that I can use a car without a call to Zip­Car to report some sort of problem.

It is also your respons­ib­il­ity to return the car with at least 1/4 tank of gas — you can be fined oth­er­wise. If the per­son before you hasn’t left you that much, you have to call and report it. Plan an extra 15 or 20 minutes on your Zip­Car reser­va­tion in case you lose the gas lot­tery. Fuel is paid for by a credit card stored in the car.

Driv­ing the car is no prob­lem, they’re nice cars, they work well. You use your RFID card or the app to lock and unlock the car dur­ing your trip, and the key always stays inside. A lot of mem­bers don’t under­stand this and you fre­quently find cars where the key has been removed from ZipCar’s cre­at­ive key reten­tion device and tossed in the cupholder. Not sure why people do this — it would seem to add liab­il­ity if you don’t lock up the car in the cor­rect way.

When you end the reser­va­tion, you return the car to where you got it and log out with your card. Easy enough, but I have had times when the ZipCar’s spot was stolen by someone else. Again you call in, wait on hold, and they will instruct you on how to deal with the problem.

Since you have to return on time or suf­fer a fine, I usu­ally end up return­ing the car at least an hour early and wast­ing $10-$20. I don’t like to rush or panic. There is no refund for return­ing early — even sev­eral hours early. The app lets you can­cel the reser­va­tion and return the car to the pool, but since Zip­Car won’t give you a refund even if someone else rents it, why would you?

Here are some other prob­lems I’ve had with Zip­Car. They’re not really com­plaints, and there aren’t always easy solu­tions, but it’s some­thing you have to expect when you use car­share. It’s not as easy as they say.

  1. Car com­pletely dead due to lights left on.
  2. Car miss­ing entirely for­cing cancellation.
  3. Pre­vi­ous renters late return­ing car.
  4. Car double-parked and stuck in its spot.
  5. Angry park­ing lot attend­ants who won’t let you in/out.
  6. Car with win­dows smashed.
  7. Car with flat tires.

Zip­Car is still easier than deal­ing with tra­di­tional rental car, the grumpy attend­ant, 5 sig­na­tures, 20 minutes of insur­ance upsell, decid­ing what you should do about gas, and watch­ing the dot-matrix printer spit out your con­tract. I use it for half-day to 1 day rent­als where I have to go some­where, or just want a nicer car. For everything else, I use car2go, which has its own prob­lems and is the sub­ject of the next post.

Toronto Car Sharing — Car2Go and Zipcar

I’m an avid user of car shar­ing in Toronto. I live down­town in a tiny cliff home, I don’t have access to free park­ing, and I don’t have a car of my own. I’ve done the math a mil­lion times, and as much as I’d love to own my own car, it really is too expens­ive. It breaks down a bit like this:

Monthly Car Payment $200 (for a Honda Fit or similar)
Monthly Park­ing $200
Monthly Insur­ance $150
Monthly Gas & Main­ten­ance Fund $100
Monthly Total $650

As you can see, even with cost-cutting and get­ting a great deal on a car and insur­ance, it’s still expens­ive to own a car down­town. Here are some of the things I like to use a car for:

  • Vis­it­ing the RC Heli Field
  • Shop­ping for Groceries
  • Shop­ping for Home Main­ten­ance Supplies
  • Cruis­ing around, look­ing at the sights
  • Going to nice events without using gross cabs or TTC

Toronto has some altern­at­ives to cars. There is accept­able pub­lic transit and you can usu­ally get a taxi by wav­ing. For many tasks and leis­ure activ­it­ies, though, both of those options are awk­ward. It’s annoy­ing for both you and the other pas­sen­gers to carry any amount of cargo on the TTC, and Toronto taxis can be a har­row­ing exper­i­ence. You can get a crazy, sleep-deprived driver, a dis­gust­ing or broken vehicle, and an expect­a­tion of a sig­ni­fic­ant tip on top of an already expens­ive ride. That’s not to say I don’t reg­u­larly use taxis or the TTC, just that there is a need for a more eleg­ant trans­port­a­tion solution.

Toronto has three major car shar­ing ser­vices. They are Auto­Share, Zip­Car, and Car2Go. Each one has its own advant­ages and dis­ad­vant­ages, and I will try to sum­mar­ize my feel­ings about them in this art­icle. Since I have only per­son­ally used Car2Go and Zip­Car, I will ignore Auto­Share in this art­icle. If you’re an Auto­Share user and would like to weigh in, there is a com­ment but­ton below!

I’ll cover each of Zip­Car and Car2Go each in their own entry and link them here.

Car­hsar­ing — ZipCar

Ad Blockers

I’ve been repla­cing Eyeo’s AdB­lock Plus with Ghostery in all my browsers. Eyeo is a strange and secret­ive com­pany who makes money on allow­ing ads through their blocker — not my cup of tea. Sure, they recently opened up the decisions of what to allow through to an “inde­pend­ent” board, but the bot­tom line is that they make money off show­ing you ads & dis­respect­ing your pri­vacy. Nah.

I replaced with Ghostery. It’s not quite as good as a pure ad blocker but it seems to have a good heart. It can option­ally send them data but it asks you first (I said no) and it seems to be well-respected in the com­munity. And they don’t let com­pan­ies pay to bypass.

You have to be VERY care­ful with browser exten­sions these days. They can com­prom­ise your pri­vacy and your secur­ity in ser­i­ous ways… make sure the ones you install are authen­tic and well-researched. And turn off and delete any ones you don’t need. It’s good to do an audit once in a while.

My list:

  • ever­note web clipper
  • 1password
  • ghostery

That’s it.

Hope this wasn’t too bor­ing, I thought I’d share what was on my mind.