Car2Go – A Review (updated)

I am a skeptic of carsharing. I have used Zipcar in the past, but stopped due its inconvenience and cost.

The Car2Go vehicle used for this review
The Car2Go vehicle used for this review

Minneapolis has a new system that has gotten good reviews, so upon the urging of some fellow transportationists, I used Car2Go today to go to a meeting at MetroTransit (hoping to maximize irony).

I reserved a car 2 blocks away from my house using the website (I could have used the app). I got to the car in my appointed window, it was where it was supposed to be. I tapped in (this took a few seconds to find the place to tap in, which is on the front window … this was not immediately obvious due to frost and it being the first time). The car unlocked for me after a few seconds. I got in the car. I could not see out of the car due to frost. Fortunately there was an ice scraper in the back. So I paid $0.38 for a minute of ice scraping. The car was so small the scraping was fast though. Put the key in the ignition and started it.

Update: There is a short grace period before billing begins, so I might not actually have been charged for the privilege of ice scraping.

Some things you notice.

This is a small car, it has a tight turning radius. I could turn the car around on the street so it would point in the right direction without having to do any reverse maneuvers or touching the curb.

This is a new car, so the brake pedal is stiff. So I still need to calibrate force on the brake pedal (and the gas) to get a non-jerky amount of deceleration or acceleration.

The previous driver was short.

The GPS in the car tells me where I am, though I did not test directions.

The user interface is straight-forward, however checking out is  not as simple as it seems.

The car gives you the feel of the road. (When I told Honda Dealer once that a test ride was bumpy , they said Honda designs their cars that way because of Honda’s “racing heritage”, so I will chalk it up to Smart’s racing heritage.) On Franklin Avenue SE, this is not a good thing.

Update: Car2Go says there is a “manual” mode for the transmission which would produce a less jerky ride, so that it is an automatic manual mode. I will have to try this to see how it works. I was not aware of it the first time.

At the end of the trip, I found an on-street parking location, turned off the ignition, checked out, followed the procedure I thought, and left the car there.

Two hours after I thought my trip ended, I got a text message. (They did send it shortly after my trip, but I am not a text message person, and it didn’t vibrate my phone.)

“Your trip could not be ended. Please return to the vehicle and swipe your card against the card reader to complete the trip.”

Sadly I did not get this until I am very far from the car. I hope they figure it out, clearly they did know that I was not in the car and had ended my trip, otherwise they would not have sent the message, so it seems redundant to tell me that my trip could not be ended if they know it ended. If they bill me for this, it is going to be a very bad review. Their tagline “Simply park and we will take care of the rest” is a bit misleading.

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So once I got the message, I called their number from the website, and they shut it down remotely. The text message did not give me this number, and they have not replied to my text reply. Via the phone representative, they shut down the rental (2.5 hours after the trip ended), and wound the clock back 20 minutes, which is the maximum they can do, so they say, with a request to the local office to credit more time. They are supposed to follow-up with me. As of two hours later, this has not happened.

The bill from today's 20 minute trip
The bill from today’s 20 minute trip

The bill, as it stands, is somewhat higher than a comparable transit trip.

Note to Car2Go. I will amend this if it is deducted from bill at some later time.

Update:
After tweeting to @car2goMPLS, they called me and fixed the bill and were quite helpful. Unfortunately the message did not get passed down from HQ to the local office as had been suggested. So all is well that ends well, but if were not a Twitterer, I probably would be less happy right now.

7 thoughts on “Car2Go – A Review (updated)”

  1. I’ve been pretty paranoid about making sure I was checked out when I left the car, apparently for good reason.

    You didn’t miss anything with the app, it’s basically just the website in app form. It’s fairly crude, but hopefully will improve. There seemed to be enough activity that it’s fairly easy to lose your car if you just walk to it without reserving it (happened to me twice, and I only have used it three times!) – and there’s nothing to distinguish a reserved car from an available car on the map.

    The GPS works fine, though I can’t shake the feeling that I am paying for data entry. Just like I feel inclined to drive quickly because I’m paying to wait at stoplights or for pedestrians.

    If you are interested there’s a promo: https://www.facebook.com/ianbicking/posts/10152039898418200 – free to sign up plus 30 minutes of drive time. If you use it you should like my status and then I will lay claim to 10 minutes of free driving time I get for trying to sign anyone up. I feel like a shill, but I don’t want to just throw free minutes away… and really, it’s a nice service for when you are running too late for the bus, or need to go somewhere in the city that transit serves poorly.

  2. Theory is nice, in theory. Sounds like there are still a few bugs in the system, but overall the idea of car-sharing has some potential in dense metro areas. Out here in the sticks, it’s known as “Hey, Bubba, can I borry yer truck?”

  3. Doesn’t the real value of this come when you take the car to a place that public transit does not go? Or at least is far enough from the nearest stop to make it practical (either from a time savings perspective which does equate to a monetary value or a physical effort perspective for the lazy ones among us?)

    1. Yes, though currently Car2go is limited to Minneapolis. I can’t leave it on the streets of St. Paul without paying for the waiting time. I imagine that constraint goes away soon, once they expand.

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