In late November of last year, Drew was driving our beloved Juke Nismo (Liam Nissan was his name) when a driver who was texting (PSA: DO NOT TEXT AND DRIVE, KIDS) blitzed right through a red stoplight in his company’s construction truck and T-boned our car, totaling it. We’re really fortunate that Drew was okay minus some whiplash and bruises. The car, however, was declared a total loss.
Since we live close to work and pride ourselves on walking often, we decided to wait a few months before taking the plunge back into car ownership. We learned a few things along the way and wanted to share some numbers with you. If you’re considering going car-less in our city or wondering if it would work for you, I hope our experience can help you weigh the benefits.
The pros: Hundreds of them available throughout the city. Park them anywhere that offers two hours of public parking. Attendants service and re-fuel them. In our time as car2go-ers, we never had to visit a gas station. You can also reserve one 30 minutes prior to needing it.
The cons: You can only take two people at a time. At $0.41 per minute, car2g0 can hardly be described as an affordable option for anything less than zipping across downtown in a frenzy and parking immediately. Get stuck in traffic for 15 minutes and you’re adding insult to injury. Additionally, every trip has a $1.11 service fee.
Our experience: In such a small vehicle, I never felt safe. There’s something unsettling about your face being mere inches from the windshield. When you see folks rallying these cars across town, you know it’s because they’re trying to maximize their spend. On a day with half an inch of snow on the ground in December, we couldn’t pry a car2go from the curb to get home from the grocery store. Physical comedy ensued as Drew gunned the accelerator pedal and the car went nowhere but the wheel spun enough to drench me in snow and muddy slush as I stood behind it, pushing. The last straw for me came when a neighbor had locked her iPhone in a car2go. Because the vehicles are unlocked via an app, she was not able to get back inside the locked vehicle to retrieve it. She found me and Drew and asked for help getting back in. We opened the vehicle, she retrieved her phone, we closed the vehicle. The next day I found out that they had charged us for more than four hours of drive time even though I had never even started the engine. When I reached out by email to request a refund and explain what happened, the reply I received came in the form of a full-page email lecture by a guy mansplaining how car2go works and that they would only return my money since it was a first-time offense and they wouldn’t give me the same courtesy a second time. Their words, not mine. No good deed goes unpunished.
What we spent in six months: $380
Enterprise Car Share
The pros: Ability to reserve days in advance.
The cons: Vehicles must be returned to the same parking space where it was rented, making a one-way trip impossible and errands stressful. You’re in charge of filling the gas tank if it’s below one quarter. More on that below. They also require at least three hours of notice when canceling your reserved time. If you cancel within less than three hours, you still pay for the first three hours of your reservation, or the cost of your reservation, whichever is less. This added up quickly if our plans changed, to say the least.
Our experience: I’m really glad we had this as an option, especially since there was a designated vehicle only two blocks from our place. It wasn’t without it’s challenges though. In the glovebox was a specific debit card for gas station purposes. It never worked. It assures you that it works at every gas station but when you swipe it anywhere (and we tried multiple times), the keypad requests your membership number and then fails. Every. Time. Any time we were low on gas, we had to submit photographed gas receipts for reimbursement. Pain in the ass. Another time, we were unable to get into the car when we had a reservation. As it turned out, the driver before us had not put the key fob back correctly. They manually opened it for us remotely when we called but we lost 40 minutes. They kindly offered to credit us a complimentary hour to make up for the inconvenience, then billed us for it. Chasing down a refund for $9 and trying to explain that it was supposed to be a free credit when there were no notes in their system was nothing short of confusing. Their customer service representatives were very kind but no one could ever answer questions we had about the app itself.
What we spent in six months: $439.01
Regular ol’ Enterprise
As Enterprise members, we were able to take advantage of a special they ran: Friday night through Monday morning for $26. We made these reservations when we knew we had to run multiple errands, for a friend’s baby’s first birthday outside of town, etcetera.
The pros: Reasonably priced! Especially compared to the car shares. We also earned enough loyalty points during our car-less months to warrant leveling up in membership – we now get 10% more points per rental and one free vehicle upgrade per year.
The cons: You can only drive 100 miles per day, or 300 for the entire reservation. So it wasn’t an option for taking a car to see my parents a few hours south, for example.
What we spent in six months: $212.58
The pros: They come to you! Many drivers are incredibly warm and from all over the world. Fun to hear their stories and Drew always hits them up for restaurant recommendations. Plus, if you’re an SPG member, you can sync your Uber account to your SPG account so that you’ll earn 1 point for every $1 you spend with Uber.
The cons: Expenses add up pretty quickly. Some drivers aren’t as nice as others. One in particular complained about Uber for the 30 minutes we were in his cigarette smoke infested car and then lobbied us heavily for a cash tip at the end, which was uncomfortable. Another launched into an uninvited tirade against Hillary Clinton and called Obama a “race baiter” at 3 a.m. on the way to Denver International. Sir, we have not even had our coffee yet.
What we spent in six months: $567.39 – a combination of trips around town, work travel for Drew in San Francisco and Las Vegas, and airport trips during our vacation in South Carolina.
Total Damage: $1,598.98, or $228.43 per month. For us, this was the equivalent of a monthly car payment for a new vehicle or the total cost of a reasonably financed vehicle + insurance + gas.
The Verdict: We wouldn’t do it again. It’s not lost on us that this solution would never work for people that don’t live close to town and/or have children. One late night when Boris was sick and needed urgent care, our good friend Kristin generously lent us her car at midnight. And so on. Now that we’re car owners again, I find myself more grateful than ever to have wheels. Last month, we bought a slightly used VW from our friend Travis and made a few repairs to it. The logistics of going somewhere melt away when the vehicle you own is parked nearby. It’s something we won’t be taking for granted any time soon.