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Sharing Nicely

A new company is entering the Toronto car sharing market. What is car sharing? It’s a service that allows registered members to borrow cars on an occasional basis. It’s cheaper and more convenient than car rental; generally you pay an annual membership fee, and then a smaller rate when you use a car. Cars are picked up and dropped off from lots around the city. Since you’re a member, you don’t have to go through a tedious reservation and payment process every time.

Another important bonus of joining a car share is that you are considered an insured driver during this time, so if you do decide to buy a car again at some point in the future the insurance companies won’t knock you back down to the level of a new driver.

The mainstay of Toronto auto sharing is the aptly named AutoShare, which charges a few hundred dollars to register, then $6 per hour to use a car from 60 lots sprinkled around the city. Their newest competition is now ZipCar, an American company that is just this month entering the Canadian market, beginning with Toronto. According to the press release the ZipCar sign-up fee is much lower, but they charge nearly $10 per hour.

I’m very interested to see if the competition will cause AutoShare to eliminate the one annoying catch that has thus far prevented me from signing up: you can’t borrow a car for more than 24 consecutive hours on a weekend. Since most of my car usage involves an overnight weekend trip to visit relatives, this pretty much makes the service useless for me. Which is a shame, considering that people in my neighborhood get a special deal on the sign-up fee which would make the whole experience extremely affordable.

With any luck, the growing popularity of these services will knock some sense into the incompetent and arrogant major car rental agencies I’ve dealt with in the past (don’t ask for details, relating the stories raises my blood pressure too much; suffice to say they have repeatedly shown that they do not understand the definition of the word “reservation”.)

Car sharing has the potential to drastically reduce car use, as people realize that the monstrous overhead of owning a car — lease, insurance, repairs, monthly parking — often doesn’t make sense if you don’t drive daily.

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