Car share programs cost-effective and environmentally friendly option to car ownership

If you live in the city of Vancouver, I truly believe that you do not need a car to get around. For the most part, Translink does a pretty good job getting people from Point A to Point B.

However, there are certain situations – like having a lot of groceries or needing to pick someone up in an emergency situation – where Translink doesn’t cut it and a car becomes necessary. But do you want to spend over $15,000 for a car when you only need one occasionally?

I didn’t think so. This is where car share programs enter the picture.

The Car Share Trio

Car share programs aren’t anything new. They started popping up in Europe during the 1990s and eventually made their way to North America in the 2000s. The idea behind car sharing is to get fewer cars out on the road, which means only good things for the environment and your pocketbook. There are several programs in Vancouver, the most popular being Zipcar, Modo and Car2Go. Let’s look a bit into each one:

Zipcar started in 2000 and was the brain-child of Antje Danielson and Robin Chase who wanted to bring European car-sharing to Cambridge, Massachusetts.I was a Zipcar member for a couple of years until I realized I wasn’t driving enough to justify the annual membership fee.

Modo started out as the Co-Operative Auto Network and members can own shares of the company. It was founded by Vancouverites for Metro Vancouverites over 14 years ago, and according to its website was the first car share co-op in North America. Today, Modo has over 7,700 members sharing over 240 vehicles in Metro Vancouver.

The newest kid on the car share block in Vancouver is Car2Go, which originated in 2008 in Ulm, Germany and launched in Vancouver in late April of this year.

The Comparison

How Car2Go differs from other car share programs is it charges by the minute. Sometimes people just need a car to run a quick errand that requires maybe 15 minutes. With other car share programs, those 15 minutes would cost you the hour rate. However, you can also book Car2Go by the hour or even for the day.

Another intriguing thing about Car2Go is the fact that you can do on-the-fly rentals as long as the vehicle is available. So if it happens to be pouring rain and you don’t want to wait 20 minutes for your bus to come; if you see a Car2Go car that is available, whether on the streets or in one of its designated parking spaces, all you have to do it just swipe your membership card and you are on your way home faster and much drier. But you can also reserve 24 hours in advance.

Using Zipcars you can reserve minutes before you need it but I don’t recall having the ability to do on-the-fly rentals if you happen to walk by a designated Zipcar lot. They recommend that you book in advance, as much as possible.

In terms of cost, Car2Go Vancouver has a $35 one-time only sign-up fee. Although there is also a $2 annual charge, that goes to charity. When you drive, it is $0.35 a minute (plus HST), $12.99 per hour and $65.99 per day.

Zipcar’s pricing structure varies. There is an occasional driving plan – which was what I had – and it is $65 a year and a $25 application fee. If you reserve a car Monday to Thursday, the hourly rate starts at $7.75 and daily rates start at $71 (it goes higher depending on the car you reserve). On the weekends, the hourly rate starts at $11.25 and the daily rate is from $87.

Modo has two types of membership: Co-op and Casual. For co-op, the cost to start is a one-time $500 refundable shares purchase and $20 registration fee. Cost per hour is 3 per hour for a maximum of $36 daily. There is no hourly charge between 11 pm and 7 am. Casual members have to pay a $50 annual fee and then a $20 registration fee. Hourly rates are 7.50 per hour, 24 hours a day (to a maximum of $60 per 24-hour period). If you want to know how much a trip costs, Modo provides a nifty online trip calculator that the other two car share programs don’t have.

Overall, the most attractive thing I found about Car2Go was that I can make a one-way trip and don’t have to return the car where I got it from – something that you have to do with the other two programs.

I also love the fact that all Car2Go vehicles are Smart cars. Zipcars, however, have a variety models available from Mini Coopers, sedans, hybrids, SUVs and trucks. When I was with Zipcar, it found it pretty cool to be able to choose which model car you want to drive. This is obviously something you can’t do if you own a car.

Aside from doing my part for the environment, I find that car share programs helps nervous drivers like me get more comfortable driving. It has been two years since I last drove a car but once I got behind the wheel of a Car2Go Smart car, it took about 30 seconds to feel comfortable again and it was as if I never stopped driving.

Differences aside, all the car-share programs are worth looking into and assessing according to your needs. Aside from keeping my driving skills sharp, they give me the flexibility of having a car when I need one without the cost or headaches of car ownership….and that’s a good thing at many levels.




  1. Worth noting too is that Car2GO recently extended its coverage to Kwanten University campuses as part of their program to expand the UPass system to be more convenient to their students, especially those who need to move between composes. This means that existing Car2GO members will also be able to use cars in Richmond and Surrey – they do not have to be students!

  2. we have a fairly successful version of this here in the states (which you mentioned, zipcar). i especially love the services that allow for not returning the car.  we’ll give car2go a shot, next time we venture up north. 



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