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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.
- Car completely dead due to lights left on.
- Car missing entirely forcing cancellation.
- Previous renters late returning car.
- Car double-parked and stuck in its spot.
- Angry parking lot attendants who won’t let you in/out.
- Car with windows smashed.
- 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.
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 Gas & Maintenance Fund||$100|
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.
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.
- evernote web clipper
Hope this wasn’t too boring, I thought I’d share what was on my mind.