Why I use a car share

I was having a conversation with Freedom 35 Blog a few weeks ago around my car sharing activities. While I’ve written about my choice not to own a car before, it was almost two years ago and I’ve since expanded my car sharing memberships so it’s a good time to revisit the subject.

Modo Car Coop

Photo Credit: Stephen Rees via Flickr

I don’t own a car

After I graduated from University and got my first real job, I bought a car. I didn’t take out a car loan and bought a 7 year old car. I still paid $4000 and spent over $400 per month in insurance, gas and maintenance. (Although, affordable car parts could be found here.) While it was great that I paid cash and fit all of the expenses into my budget, it was still a large portion of my budget. Just because I felt that I could afford a car, doesn’t mean that I needed one. Evaluating my basic needs, I determined that the only activities in which a car would be useful were grocery shopping (twice a month), sporadic trips ‘off the grid’ of transit and the occasional ferrying of items acquired on craigslist.

I looked at the local transit options (very good in Vancouver), checked out a few of the car sharing options and decided that by trading in my car for a bus pass and a car co-op membership, I would be able to cut my monthly transportation costs down to under $250.


How car sharing works

Car sharing works by having a large group of people pool their resources to share the cost of car ownership. By owning a number of cars and only paying for access when you need it, the cost of using a car is greatly reduced. Car sharing works best in an urban setting, so if you live in a rural area, you likely won’t have much success finding a local co-op or car sharing company.

Not all car shares are created equal

Vancouver is rife with car sharing options – most of which can be found in other cities worldwide, most notably Car2Go (originally German) and Zipcar (gaining popularity across North America). In Vancouver, I belong to the Modo Car Co-op and Car2Go.

Each of the different organizations have different membership structures, usage rates and fees. Researching the differences and comparing the features between companies is helpful in determining the best use for each car share. In the table below, I’ve lined up the membership rates, booking fees and included features of the three major Vancouver car shares.


Application Fee/Annual Rate Cost per hour/per Km Included Features Other notes
Modo Car Co-op  $500 membership share (refundable), $25 application fee, $1 annual fee $3/hr ($36 max daily) no hourly charge between 11pm and 7am.

  • 40¢ per kilometre for the first 35km
  • 25¢ per kilometre for each additional kilometre up to 150km
  • 15¢ per kilometre after that
  • Gas
  • Insurance
Rent and return to same location
Car2Go  $35 Registration Fee, $2 annual fee (donated to charity)
  • $0.38/minute
  • $13.99/hr max
  • $72.99/day max
  • Gas
  • Insurance
  • Mileage
 Rent and return anywhere within the ‘Home Area’ (large, defined area within Vancouver)
 Zipcar  $25 application fee, $65 annual fee
  •  $8/hr (Mon-Thur), $8.75 (Fri-Sun)
  • $72/$78 daily rate
  • Gas
  • Insurance
  • 200 kilometers
Rent and return to same location

Based on how each company is set up, one of the  biggest differences is the fact that Modo and Zipcar require you to book and return the car to the same location, whereas Car2Go lets you make one way trips. Comparing between Modo and Zipcar, it’s easy to see that for an average trip, Modo is going to be quite a bit cheaper. As you drive Modo further, the costs increase, so it’s worth figuring out how far you’ll be driving on average. I don’t consider the $500 membership share to be a factor as you get it back if you leave the co-op.

Use car sharing in combination

As I mentioned, I don’t have a car. I therefore rely on a combination of public transit, car sharing, biking and walking to get around the city. Because Modo and Car2Go have different requirements for renting and returning, I have a membership with both. I use Modo 80% of the time for standard errands including groceries, transporting furniture and other large items and use Car2Go when we are heading home late at night and buses don’t run frequently. By using both in combination, I take advantages of the benefits of both.

Car sharing is an important part of my alternative transportation plan. Not only does it save money over the cost of owning a car, but it decreases my impact on the environment. In a city with good transportation infrastructure and a focus on sustainable living, I don’t see myself buying a car anytime soon.

What about you? Have you tried car sharing? Do you have any questions about the options available in Vancouver?

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  1. Pauline says:

    I guess competition drove the prices down. In Paris there is only one company and a non refundable $200 per year fee. I wanted to use it but for three or four times a year I am best with a normal renta. What I like with that system is you can drop the car at any other station and just use it one way.

    • Brian says:

      Yeah, that’s a bit pricey. But, I’ve lived in Paris and I know how crazy those roads are, so not surprising it’s a bit more expensive. I use Car2Go when I don’t want to return the car to the same location, which is why I have two memberships (Modo and Car2Go).

  2. I have never heard of car-sharing like this before but it really is a great idea! We live in a rural area where it isn’t available but since my husband and I work together we carpool every day. I keep trying to talk him into selling our second car. We rarely drive it- maybe once a month!

  3. This sounds like such a great idea! How do you go about getting the car? Is there a central location where you pick it up/drop it off? Or does the last person bring it to you? Do you have to reserve it or is it useful in emergency situations that pop up?

    • Brian says:

      For Modo, there are approximately 230 cars spread out across Vancouver. Each car has a ‘home’ (you have to park it between x and y street, or in z parkade), so you just book a car that is close to you and off you go. You can book online, via their mobile website or by phone 24 hours a day. When you sign up, you’re assigned a FOB key which gives you access to all the cars – but you can’t get in the car unless you’ve booked it. I have had no problem booking cars on extremely short notice, so it’s worked in emergency situations for me so far. The only downside is you might not get the car exactly closest to you so you just have to walk a bit further.

  4. Jason @ WSL says:

    This really is a great idea; it’s so cool to see the things offered in larger metropolitan areas. Here in Kansas City I don’t know of anything such as this. It sounds like a good business opportunity though. 🙂

    • Brian says:

      It’s a really great alternative transporation option, although you do need a critical mass of interested parties though. The Co-op here has been going for over 15 years!

  5. My and my BF are big Car2Go fans! At least in Vancouver, you can find one on every block and it’s reasonably priced.

  6. Michelle says:

    I never have, mainly because I need to keep my car so it wouldn’t make any sense. It is a great idea though!

  7. Justin says:

    Just wanted to mention that car2go has a low $2 annual fee which is donated to charity. Cheers

    • Brian says:

      Thanks for the correction Justin, I’ve updated the table. Now that you mention it, I do recall receiving an email about that recently. I think it’s an ICBC requirement, if I’m not mistaken.

  8. Fiona says:

    Thanks for the breakdown of the costs; my boyfriend & I are still students so we commute, but we’re interested in car share memberships in the future. However, we both live in Vancouver and most of the time we’d need a car for going outside of Vancouver proper (e.g. Richmond, Burnaby); do you think car share memberships are cheap enough for this purpose? I haven’t looked too much into it yet so I’d like to hear your input.

    • Brian says:

      I often use Modo for trips to Burnaby and Richmond. The low hourly rate means your time doesn’t cost too much. Although you do end up paying a bit more in mileage, it’s still less than a car rental for the day.

  9. I’ve never heard of car sharing in me life. It almost sounds like you are renting a car by the hour or day. I hope that’s what I’m understanding. I can understand your reasoning for not wanting the vehicle and honestly it’s justified in your situation. I wish I could do the same but I am unable to living a bit outside the city. Do you see yourself using this option for the long term? Thanks for sharing, you learn something new everyday. Mr.CBB

  10. Liquid says:

    Thanks for the mention. I’ve been waiting for this post :0) Nice breakdown using the table. Someone’s got mad html skills 😀 I think if I didn’t own a car, the modo option would work best for me because I generally don’t drive a whole lot. Love the idea of sharing. It’s almost like joining a credit union where everyone shares the costs of doing business and is very community oriented. The government should have tax incentives for people to use car share, like how people receive tax credits if they buy monthly transit passes.

  11. NoCarSuzy says:

    Like you, I’m a member of both Modo and Car2Go. I’ve been with Modo for four years and I love it. Although I don’t actually live in the home area of Car2Go, it’s useful when I’m in the city and, as you say, I need to get from point A to point B without a bus. Neither organization has an annual fee (okay, Modo charges me $1), so if I don’t use them, I don’t pay for them.

    FYI, I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than $200 a month for “owning” these cars and driving them when I need to. Transit out to New Westminster and Richmond is so convenient, and I’ve learned to walk for my groceries or other local errands rather than relying on a car. Not only is it cheaper, it’s also healthier.

    I saw once that if you don’t drive your car to work at least four days a week, it’s cheaper to car share. Oh, and an extra plug for Modo: if you are a member, they offer you member discounts on various services and products. One example is they offer the corporate rate on the monthly transit pass, so although my employer doesn’t have the program, I get it through Modo.

    Thanks for this post! If you don’t mind, I’m going to share it.

    • Brian says:

      Thanks for mentioning the extra Modo benefits, I have used their rental car discount before on longer trips and purchased insurance from them when renting a car.

      I have spent more than $200 per month, but only on occasion. Usually it’s between $120 and $160 for me, mostly for short trips and errands. The fact that I don’t have to worry about maintenance and gas etc makes it so convenient. I still try to walk or take transit as much as possible. Like I say, I don’t NEED a car, but access to one is great. I’m impressed you’re part of Car2Go even though you live outside the home area. I never thought about it, but the fact they are often located around transit hubs makes it convenient to go from one to the other when traveling in from outlying regions.

      Please do share the post around wherever you would like to, I really appreciate it!

    • albinomouse says:

      I had no idea that you could get a corporate rate transit pass if you were modo member! Wish I had known that sooner.

      • Brian says:

        Neither did I, I guess I should read the fine print a bit closer. Suzy pointed out some interesting benefits I missed as well.

        However, since I walk to work, I still don’t need a transit pass!

  12. I’ve never heard of this or known anyone that has used it but I can see how it could work well if the cars are readily available. I did once know a guy that didn’t own a car. When he did long trips he just rented one and when he had groceries or errands to do he took a taxi. He figured he was still saving a lot of money.

    Who looks after the maintenance on each vehicle and who washes them?

    • Brian says:

      Maintenance is dealt with and scheduled by the co-op or company office. There are full time staff dedicated to maintaining and ensuring all the cars are in good shape. I believe that they schedule monthly or quarterly maintenance which includes washing etc. However, you can also take the car to a car wash yourself. Any car related expenses (basically anything at a gas station) can be charged to the vehicle credit card which is inside every vehicle.

      I know what you’re thinking – they leave the keys AND a credit card inside the vehicle…who are these crazy people!? It sounds wild and crazy, but it works. I haven’t heard of any fraud issues with the credit cards or stolen vehicles!

  13. The more I learn about frugal living the more I begin to wish that there was something like this offered around my area. Unfortunately, living in metro Detroit means very poor public transportation (really next to nothing) and nothing like this.
    This sounds like a great idea, and if we ever move to a different region, we’d definitely look into something like this.
    It would also work great if you have a two car household, but want to get rid of one.

    • Brian says:

      That’s too bad that ‘motor city’ isn’t more forward thinking. It can really work in any metropolis, too bad the culture is not there yet. As you say, it works for downsizing vehicles too, you don’t need to rely on it solely. How often are both cars out of the house anyways, right?

  14. I really like car2go! I just had my first ride the other night except I use it for slightly more devious reasons. I signed up for it so that I could drive downtown or to the bars and then take a cab back. This makes sure I don’t drive home if I’ve drank too much and I only have to pay taxi fare one way or just get a ride home.

    • CF says:

      Clever! Nothing wrong with doing that, I think. We often take car2go when we’re leaving an event downtown and don’t want to get caught in the transit rush, like the fireworks or outdoor movie nights.

  15. Stella says:

    We currently have two cars because our first car is a two seater and we now have a 2 year old child and so my husband went out and got another car that is more practical. I tried to convince him that we can just use a car co-op, but the whole child seat issue makes it pretty tough. Do you know if any car sharing companies who make it easier to transport kids?

    • Brian says:

      Hmm, that’s a good point. I think you would still be able to add a child seat to any co-op car, but you would have to carry the seat with you and re-install it each time which could be a hassle.

      In any case, can you downsize to one car now? If you needed a second car, you could use a co-op when you’re not taking the kid out?

  16. this is an awesome idea and i am glad it works for you.. for it to be successful, you *have* to live in an area where the public transportation system is top notch, and unfortunately- that doesn’t apply to us.. for me to get to a subway station, i have to drive 30 minutes.. considering that my work is 35 minutes away.. a car is a necessity.

    • Brian says:

      I’m not sure it depends so much on a good transportation system, you just need a critical mass of individuals interested in the program and enough cars available and spreak out enough that you don’t have to go far to access one. However, often these types of programs follow on from a good transit system, so I understand where you’re coming from.

  17. I’ve never used car sharing, although I do see the many benefits of it. I don’t believe we have one in Omaha and our public transportation is next to nothing, so it’s almost a necessity to have a car.

  18. I love the idea of a car share program and if I ever move back into a densely populated area, I’m definitely going to look into it. I was car free for four years while living in the city and a car share program opened two months before I moved!

    • Brian says:

      Maybe they need an ATV2Go program out where you live :p. Hopefully you’ll be able to live in a city with a program next time you move back to an urban center.

  19. Cat says:

    I think they are a great idea if you live in an urban centre, and rarely need a car. I use mine every day so that’s out for me, but I know my brother used them when he lived downtown and could walk to work.

    • Brian says:

      I walk to work and CF takes the bus, so it’s perfect for living local. It’s one of the big reasons we live near where we work, I really like our lifestyle and wouldn’t want to live somewhere that I relied on having a car.

  20. We live in an area that doesn’t have sharing yet. Someday I’ll have to use some kind of ride sharing (where I don’t drive) – assuming I live long enough to lose my license due to age!

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