30 Days With Car2Go

  • October 2nd 2012

by Mark Wellborn

30 Days With Car2Go: Figure 1

I have never owned a car, something that is likely seen as a triumph by certain people and an embarrassment by others. And, I have never been interested in any car-sharing service. That is, until I signed up for car2go in August.

Chances are you have seen the little guys of DC’s car2go fleet tooling around the city. The blue and white, two-seater smart cars are usually squeezed in a small space on a downtown block between two normal-sized cars or looking diminutive next to a pick-up truck at a stoplight. There are 300 “cars 2 go” roaming the DC streets, but given that more than 8,000 people in DC have signed up for the service, that is bound to increase in the coming months. This article will look at my first month using the service, from usage to cost to the pros/cons that were revealed.

In short, here is how car2go works. Users pay a one-time $35 fee and then are sent a card in the mail that allows them to unlock cars around the city via an electronic panel on the windshield. A mobile app on smartphones allows users to locate cars within their vicinity. The cost for using the cars is 37 cents a minute plus tax, and car2go covers gas and insurance.

In the first month, I used the service 19 times for trips ranging in distance from 0.6 miles to 4.1 miles. My shortest trip lasted six minutes and my longest was 34. I used the car to run errands, visit friends, for business purposes, to go to the doctor and regularly for nights out on the town. During that time, I realized that there are two stand-out features that will result in car2go being in every major U.S. city within the next 2-3 years.

30 Days With Car2Go: Figure 2

The first is the parking arrangement. You can park these little guys almost anywhere. Thanks to the company paying the DC government a hefty $793,000, users can park at meters (and not have to pay) and in any zoned parking area in DC. In a city where parking is increasingly difficult to find, the cars open up a world of options for drivers. In addition to being immune from the aforementioned restrictions, the size of the cars means that spaces that you would regularly pass up in a normal-sized car become prime spots. In my first 30 days, I never had to drive around the block looking for a spot. I regularly squeeze in spots that areq about half the size of a regular car; one night, I snuck into a five-foot space right in front of the bar I was going to on 14th Street.

The second reason that car2go will soon be everywhere is that the cars don’t have a round-trip requirement. If you like, you can pick up a car, drive it for three minutes, and then park it and be done with your trip. (Warning: All your friends will admonish you for being extremely lazy if you do this.) In all seriousness, trips with car2go are virtually all one-way, which means that you can drive it to a Friday evening destination, enjoy yourself and then catch a cab home later on. You can also use it to commute to work, without having to pay for parking or deal with it if you end up having plans later on.

Now, the service does have its downsides. For one, the car size means that trips are limited to two people. Also, the reliability of finding a car2go nearby is very hit or miss. Sometimes, there are three options within 200 meters of your address; other times there isn’t a car within half a mile. And, the farther you get from downtown DC, the less prevalent the cars.

Lastly, this service is very easy to abuse. I sometimes found myself hopping in for an 8-minute trip that I easily could’ve done on foot. While part of this has to do with the novelty of the service, which is wearing off, it is very easy to rack up miles in the blue and white cars, which consequently means racking up credit card charges. The 19 trips in August cost me $115.

Still, at an average of $6 a trip, the service is cheaper than taking a taxi or Uber. This, along with the ease of parking and use, will mean that you will soon be seeing cars2go all over the place.

See other articles related to: car sharing, car2go

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/30_days_with_car2go/6095.

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