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How much does car-sharing in Vancouver cost?

We’ve been a member of the Vancouver car co-op, now named ‘Modo’, for about a year. Aside from the new prominence of their branding on cars (I signed up to use their cars, not advertise the service), I’ve been a happy car co-op member.

The other day, though, I was talking to somebody considering their car-sharing options. Now that a third option, car2go, has come to town, they were complaining about the complexity of the car share pricing models.

There are sign-up fees, and then costs based on time, day of the week, distance traveled or a combination of all these. I thought it’d be a good idea to look at how we’ve used our co-op car, and compare the price paid with the other services.

To start, let’s examine how we currently use our Modo membership. I looked at three recent typical months–we used cars for a few hours, usually to drive to some Vancouver suburb. All amounts are before HST:

 
Trips
Distance
Time
Cost
Cost/km Cost/hour
January
2
35 km
8 hours
$38.04
$1.09
$4.75
February
2
29 km
8 hours
$43.13
$1.48
$5.39
April
3
39 km
12.5 hours
$52.83
$1.35
$4.22

Each month’s cost includes a $6.00 administration fee and something called ‘Fuel Fluctuation Adjustment’, which seems to be a few cents per kilometre, based on the changing price of gas.

Average trip = 22 minutes

Now that we’ve got those numbers, let’s compare them with Modo’s competitors, Zipcar and car2go.

To further confuse matters, car2go works slightly differently than the other two car shares. Car2go works much more like a bike sharing program. You don’t have to drop off the car where you pick it up. So, it will be somewhat tricky to make exact comparisons.

I happened to run into a car2go field marketer yesterday, and she told me that the average trip on their service is 22 minutes. That sounds about right for us–some are ten minutes, while others are forty. Based on the data above, our average one-way trip is 7.3 km, which one could easily do in 22 minutes in the city.

I’ll spare you all the math (if you’re feeling masochistic, here are the pricing breakdowns for Modo, Zipcar and car2go). Here are the results when I apply the aforementioned three month’s worth of driving to the other car shares’ pricing models:

  Modo Zipcar car2go
January $38.04 $62.00 $30.80
February $43.13 $62.00 $30.80
April $52.83 $117.87 $46.20

Other cost considerations:

  • Modo is a co-operative, so you need to pay a refundable $500 as a ‘shares purchase’ when you join. Other family members can be added to your account for $250. There’s also a $20 registration fee.
  • Zipcar charges an annual fee of $65 and an application fee of $25.
  • Car2go charges a $35 application fee.

I should emphasize that this is strictly a price comparison. Each service has its own particular benefits, drawbacks, fleet size, geographic distribution and so forth. Please shop around.

Conclusions?

Despite car2go being seemingly cheaper, I don’t think we’d consider switching. We’ve been happy enough with Modo, and they’ve got a dozen vehicles within a block of our home. Even on this sunny Saturday morning, we were able to book a car just two hours before we needed it. I also like the variety of cars that Modo offers–sometimes we need a Nissan Cube and other times we want to drive a Mini Cooper. I also appreciate one under-promoted Modo perk: you can park their cars in any permit-only street parking in the city. This has been handy when driving to the Vancouver East Cultural Centre or Empire Field, where public parking is expensive or hard to find.

On the other hand, I did have to remove a banana peel from the backseat of the car we booked today.

But it wasn’t my intent to boost Modo with this analysis. I was really just interested in decoding the baroque pricing as the Vancouver car share market grows up.

To me, all the services are being overly transparent with their pricing. They should make all these details available, but then they should just offer some abstracted, straightforward pricing. Why doesn’t somebody offer a $29/month, a $49/month and a $99/month plan? The car shares all seem to be making it the consumer’s problem, which strikes me as the wrong approach.

Are you a car-share customer? Have you ever considered becoming one?

UPDATE: I snapped this photo of the parking lot where we usually pick up our cars. It’s interesting that the other two car shares appear to be annexing sections of it. The cars on the left are from Modo. You can spot the Zipcar spots by the metal signposts at the end of the row on the right. And I suspect that those newly-painted spots where the cones are now belong to car2go. Click to enlarge:

16 Responses to “How much does car-sharing in Vancouver cost?”

  1. wyn

    That’s an interesting analysis, with the “money” information in the price comparison between Modo and Zipcar. I’ll look into car2go now you mention it but am not likely to change from Modo. I live in the same area as you do and enjoy the great number and selection of cars at City Hall and City Square.
    The uncertainty of the ultimate price of Modo “rental” drives me nuts but now I expect that my usual trips seem to cost $20–a couple hours to get somewhere I don’t want to appear by public transit. Zipcar does not have cars close enough to my place although their late night rates make them a better option at that hour.

  2. Melanie Watts

    Thanks for the info. When I live a different life, living in a condo in the West End, years from now when I’m old. I definitely want to belong to one of these car sharing co-ops.

  3. Bernice

    Hi Darren,
    Interesting comparison. Question: with Car2Go’s advertised rates of $12.99/hour, how did you get a total of $30.80 for 8 hours of driving? Is there a different pricing option used for the calculation?

    Thanks,
    Bernice

    Darren Reply:

    I took their estimation of an average trip being 22 minutes, which seemed about right given that our average one-way trip is 7.3 km. When we use a Modo car, it’s mostly sitting idle, waiting for us to return it.

    That said, car2go isn’t a viable option for us because when we use a co-op car, it’s often to go to some business park in Richmond or over to the North Shore, where there probably won’t be a drop-off point nearby. As I see it, car2go is strictly a Vancouver (by which I mean, the city limits) runabout.

  4. Donna

    One clarification on Modo — they have a deposit free version as well. I pay a flat $7/h, mileage included.

    I’m intrigued by Car2go, but as I live on the boundary of their service area (on the wrong side of Nanaimo) I can’t see it being terribly useful. Also, like you, I mostly use Modo to get out to the suburbs, usually with the dogs. Not really something I’d use Car2Go for.

  5. Malloreigh

    We’re Zipcar members. I looked at Car2go when it was offering the free application deal and I’ve looked at now-Modo too, but we’ve stuck with Zip despite the price difference. My partner is American and both of us spend at least a few weeks a year in cities below the border. With Zip, we only need one membership and we can drive cars in just about any North american city – but am I paying just for convenience?

    Darren Reply:

    That’s a good reason to use Zipcar, I expect. I know you can get a discount on car rentals with your Modo membership. We’ve done that in the past, so it might be interesting to compare your Zipcar-in-US-cities cost to a rental-car-with-Modo-discount cost. Mind you, the Zipcar option is going to be more convenient.

    . Reply:

    Or why not just belong to both? Use your Zip membership when in the States, and use modo when at home.

  6. Alice

    Thanks for doing the math!

    We’ve been using the car coop for almost 2 years now and are pretty happy with it. But I also just signed up for car2go because it’s another option. I live in Kerrisdale where until recently we only had one coop car (a 2nd car was just added a couple weeks ago).

    But I’m curious to see how often I’ll actually end up using car2go. The feature that attracted me the most was that you don’t have to return the car to where you got it from and that you don’t have to return it by a set time. I think I would use it as an alternative to getting a taxi cab. Another plus is I don’t have to fill out a log book, it’s all done through a touch screen.

  7. Rachel

    This is great! Thanks for doing the analysis. I tried to do something similar last fall when we sold our car but the numbers for Modo were quite different. When I looked at the pricing chart on their site they appeared to be quite a bit higher than ZipCar.
    We became ZipCar members mostly due to a) they had a deal on Groupon and b) lots of cars available around our downtown condo.

  8. Andrea

    I don’t belong to a car share, but I share a car. I know several people who share cars with other people and it seems to work fairly well. In my case, I end up paying about $150 a month to gas up, maintain and insure my car. It’s an old Japanese car, but it works really well. I find that car sharing programs tend not to work so well when you have kids, because you need to have car seats and it’s a pain to install them. I know a few families who’ve tried car sharing programs and it doesn’t work very well. However, if I was looking to use a car on my own on the days when I don’t have my car, a car sharing program would probably work great. But I’m finding that transit and my feet work well enough for those days – and I may expand to cycling soon.

  9. Tom

    I’m a member of the Victoria Car Share, which is a co-op like Modo. On the question of simplifying the pricing, don’t you think an hourly flat rate is about as simple as it gets? Pay-per-use. No money wasted on unused time. All the carshares offer this option.

    I’ll try to wrap my head around how monthly pay plans (think cell phones, web hosting) would work for a “shared resource” like a car.

    Let’s say it’s $100/mth for up to 12 hours of car use each month (you’d probably have a total km limit too). After you hit your limits, you get billed by the hour. You’d have all the other caveats of carsharing (fill up the tank if it needs it, clean up after yourself, etc).

    Is this the kind of pricing model you were thinking? What are the benefits and drawbacks?

  10. Jay B.

    Interesting comparison. I don’t belong to a car share, just like Andrea, but this always seemed to me as an good option. From the information I have, car2go looks more like service for people who use car really more rarely while ZipCar or Modo are better for those who want to use it quite regularly. Also, car2go offers only smarts and I consider this 2-seats car as the biggest problem whereas we are usually at least group of 3 or 4.

  11. Garth

    I think the services’ pricing systems are opaque because they are largely non-rivalrous. I belong to car2go and zipcar for different reasons. I would join modo because they have cheaper cars than zipcar, but they don’t have any cars close by.

  12. Nigel Fish

    Hey Darren,

    I was trying to figure out which car to sign up for, and I created a mini-app… I went a little nuts, it’s here at carsharecalc.com.

    I didn’t factor in the fuel adjustment cost since I can’t foresee that, and I actually still have to call these services to confirm some nitty gritty (like, do they charge in 30-minute chunks?)

    Shoot me an email if you see any obvious errors!

  13. Lee

    Hi there….

    Thanks for the post!! As a newbie to the car sharing concept, this article has been helpful.

    Any updates in 2012 since your analysis last year?

Comments are closed.