Car2Go: great idea, but some major problems to work out

As I’ve written here before, I am a member of Zipcar, AutoShare, and Car2Go. Lately, I’ve found myself using Car2Go the most because of the nature of my travels. I work from home two or three days a week, but the rest of the time head downtown to the office. I’ve found that taking a Car2Go to work after rush hour, then taking it back home, has been a great way to commute now that the weather is getting colder (I usually bike in the spring, summer and early fall). It works out to less than half the price of taking a cab.

Now, the beauty of Car2Go is the one way nature of the trips — I pick up a car at one lot and can drop it off at another. It makes the drives short (average trip is 15 minutes) and I don’t have to pay for parking when I’m downtown. But there are some major problems with the service:

1) Parking isn’t always guaranteed. A number of lots downtown are often full, meaning you can’t drop off the car at your desired location. Car2Go users are supposed to keep driving around looking for a lot that isn’t full, but that’s not practical and doing so comes at a cost, as you’re charged for every minute you drive. Many people, including myself, resort to double parking — because the Smart Cars are so short, you can usually park one behind the other and it doesn’t affect the flow of the lot. Unfortunately, city officials don’t like this and will ticket the car. Car2Go passes that $30 ticket on to you, and adds a $25 processing fee on top. Not nice.

2) The wireless entry system for the cars is unreliable. Three times now I have had a car unable to connect with the main system. The first time I couldn’t properly return a car because it wouldn’t connect to tell the system that my ride was over. I had to call customer service and spent 20 minutes trying to figure it out. In the end, I had to leave the car unlocked in the lot and just walk away hoping someone didn’t steal it. Other times, I have walked to lots and tried to sign out a car, only to find out it won’t connect. Just today, this happened to me. I walked 20 minutes to the nearest available car, swiped my card, only to find out there was “No Connection.” I called customer service and they couldn’t figure it out. I was told, “Yeah, this sometimes happens.” Great. I ended up having to spend $30 to take a cab (a premium compared to the $9 the Car2Go would have cost me) and was 15 minutes late for an important meeting. Did I mention it was friggin’ cold outside? I was told I might get a credit for the inconvenience — the request would be made. Might?

3) Another issue has to do with picking up a car in a large, multi-level Green P city parking lot. Based on the iPhone app, you know there’s a car there somewhere, but you don’t know exactly where it is. You end up having to walk through each level looking for this little car. One lot on the Esplanade in Toronto has five or six levels. Took me 15 minutes of walking around to figure out where it was. In these situations, the company should really look to have dedicated spots, like Zipcar or AutoShare have.

4) This isn’t the biggest issue, but it’s still a problem. The iPhone apps that help you find available cars don’t do a good enough job of telling you where some lots are. Zipcar and AutoShare, by comparison, go into a great amount of detail to tell you exactly how to get to the car.

So there you go. I love the concept of Car2Go, but so far I’m getting really frustrated by the experience. The company better sort them out, otherwise I’m going to ditch this service and go for something more reliable.

6 thoughts on “Car2Go: great idea, but some major problems to work out”

  1. Tyler, nice overview of your usage. I’m curious, how would you breakdown your car2go usage, in terms of trip replacement? (ie you seem to replace a lot of taxis. What % might have been AutoShare/Zipcar, transit etc Obviously I’m curious about enviro impact of the service).

  2. On my very first trip in Car2Go the system crashed and took about 10 minutes to fully reboot, all while I was driving. On my second trip it took about five minutes to get into the car for some reason.

    In a location where the parking is never full it’s really quite good for those short trips, especially quick pick-up an item type trips. Much better than Autoshare because there’s no worries about getting the car back by the half-hour. I still use taxis more than car2go.

    I’d use car2go even more if the cars had a back seat for a child seat 🙂

  3. Hi Tyler, you might be right on your comments, but please lets not forget that the car2go concept is still very young (2 years) compared to for example zipcar (15 years). I think/hope that they will solve these “bugs” soon.

  4. A patchy wireless connection is not a “bug”. That said, I will cut them some slack for now. But not if I find myself in the situation I was in today in the dead of winter and freezing my butt off.

  5. There has been some displacement of AutoShare/Zipcar, but for the most part it replaces taxis and/or public transit (especially during the major overhaul of the Queen St. streetcar line in the east end that really messed up routes). But there are occasions when I use Car2Go instead of Autoshare/Zipcar. It’s all a calculation, really, and comes down to money. If I am working from home in the Beaches and have a meeting downtown, I will reserve AutoShare if it’s a fairly short meeting — like a lunch — and my total trip time is only two hours. Beyond two hours, it becomes more economical to take Car2Go, especially if there are lots near where my meeting is taking place. Of course, I always run the risk there won’t be a car available, but downtown that’s usually not a problem. There’s also the bonus of not having to pay for parking.

    But there’s no question it is replacing taxis more than anything. In the summer, I turn to my bicycle unless I have something I need to carry and can’t take by bike. Hope that helps.

  6. Glad to know I’m not the only one that has experienced serious issues. Between the parking issue and the “unable to connect” issue, I’ve been charged a whole lot of money in overage charges the last three times I used Car2Go, and have subsequently stopped using the service entirely. (Customer service reps are no help, either. In fact, they’ve been fairly bad at understanding the “no connection” issue and don’t seem to provide any help with fixing it.)

    I love the concept, but the execution has been miserable. I really hope they iron it all out (and once they do, I’m happy to return to using the service) or someone else comes into the space that makes it work better.

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