Do car-sharing programs really save you money?

There are a growing number of services cropping up in Canadian cities that give you access to a car for an hourly fee. But is it really cheaper than buying your own vehicle?



From the November 2012 issue of the magazine.


There are a growing number of services cropping up in Canadian cities that give you access to a car for an hourly fee. But is it really cheaper than buying your own vehicle? We compared the rates for two car-sharing companies, Zipcar and Car2Go, with the cost of owning a Honda Civic EX. It turns out car-sharing is only cheaper if you use the vehicle for a few short trips each week. If you need a car more than two or three times a week, it’s cheaper to get your own set of wheels.

*Assumes a three-hour 40-km trip. Car-sharing sign-up fees are factored in. zipcar cost based on extra value plan prices for a sedan in Toronto. Car ownership costs are based on data. Costs are amortized over eight years and include purchase, gas, insurance and maintenance.

13 comments on “Do car-sharing programs really save you money?

  1. "Costs are amortized over eight years and include purchase, gas, insurance and maintenance."

    What about parking?

    The monthly total that I pay for car sharing in Toronto has yet to exceed the $200 I used to pay for a parking spot alone.


  2. My car was costing me nearly $4k a year, including gas, parking, maintenance & insurance. I live in Vancouver, BC, and have a 10+ year safe driving record.

    In January 2011, using the BC Scrap-it program, I switched to a car sharing program, and took the occasional bus trip. My transportation costs for 2011 were less than $200.00. 2012 is shaping up to cost even less.

    If you're a low-use driver, car sharing is the clear winner.


  3. I used Vrtucar in Ottawa, and my annual costs end up being approximately $1500, and I use it on average 1-2 a week, and more so in the winter. Still ends up cheaper, than maintenance, gas, insurance and parking at my apartment, not to mention the cost of buying/financing the vehicle.


  4. Bit of a strange comparison. Why would you take a three-hour Car2Go trip when the whole purpose of the program is short one-way trips. Three hours would take you a pretty long distance in most cities.


  5. They don't seem to include the cost of buying the car… the whole point of car sharing.


  6. The assumptions used here are absurd; and greatly inflate the cost of carshare.

    The whole assumption in carsharing is that you do NOT use the car to commute.

    So if you arrive home by walk/cycle or transit; and go out to get groceries or such, one evening a week; maybe a date night; and shopping trip on the weekend….what are the odds of 40km trips??? There may be the odd one; but that's a terrible way to get an accurate cost.

    The working assumption would be most trips are no greater than 10km total; 20km at a stretch.

    At the same time, you do have to have to consider both the cost of transit and parking in the balance for most users.

    That provides a much more accurate costing.


  7. like others have said. 2 things are missing. the depreciating cost of the car from it's original purchase price, and the cost of owning a parking spot in downtown Toronto (including property tax on the spot and possible maintenance fees if you live in a condo). For some if not many, the cost of the parking space would be added onto the mortgage, so then you have to account for the interest accrued on the spot as well.


  8. Yes, i think it probably save your money. The most important thing is you can have the service in which you can feel the service very well. You can drive the car after having the car sharing service. You will get the whole over car till your service lasts. So it is really a nice and money saving service to have.


  9. This is really a good post. Yes actually I am completely agree with this post. If we want a vehicle for small purpose or small number of times in a week then there is no need to buy a vehicle we can go to a car sharing service office and can get a car with low cost but if we are going to buy a car for these small reasons that is not bad but, from money point of view we can go for that. .


  10. While purchasing a car the car provider providing us insurance this helps the person who faced accident to get some money for treatment and to repair the car also. Car are luxurious in look and also the color and parts of a car are very expensive .To protect a car from the sun ray and the chemical dust we should cover our car. Covering a car totally means to protect the vehicle from many dust, from scratches also. So better cover our vehicle.


  11. There are a few really great factors about car sharing that are left out of this particular perspective:
    1. I almost NEVER have to put gas in a car anymore. The cars always have plenty of gas and I never get it low enough to have to bother.
    2. I certainly never have to take the car in for maintenance anymore. That is a headache I definitinely do NOT miss.
    3. I have absolute certainty about my car costs (I am thinking of the suprises I have faced over maintenance costs and those rare but unexpected occasions when it is “time to buy a new car!”)
    4. If I want to cut back on my day to day expenses, I can stop buying coffees at Starbucks and NOW I can stop driving the car all over the place… Try doing THAT with car ownership!! Once a car is bought and paid for (and insured!)… that’s money out the door and there is no amount of NOT driving that is going to get me that money back!
    5. I can drive a really nice car when I want to (for example, to a wedding) … Zipcar has Audi’s!


  12. This is a horrible comparison.

    In downtown Toronto, Parking is at least $150 per month on average (if you’re lucky).

    On = USED 2010 Honda Civic = $12,000 with 65,000 km on it.
    So let’s say I decide to pay that off over 5 year or 60 months, that would be $200 per month.

    Need to factor maintenance on a 5 year old Civic = at least $300 per year (not including if there are seasonal tire changes) – if the car is in the BEST possible shape.

    Insurance in Toronto on a 5 year old Civic would be at least $1200 per year (could be closer to $1500 per year) (Source: “SunAlliance Insurance”)

    Gas is not even added to this calculation. A 2010 Civic is rated at 29 MPG or 9.7 liters per 100 km average (source:
    So, using the example of the original poster, that you are traveling 40 km (we’ll say per week).
    That’s 3.88 Liters per week x 4 weeks = 15.52 Liters
    Today Gas price is $1.035 x 15.52 Liters = $16.06
    At 40 km per week, your Gas usage would be only about $16.06 for the month.

    So (for my own edification):
    Monthly Costs:

    Parking: $150
    Ownership: $200
    Maintenance: $25
    Insurance: $100
    Gas: $16.06
    Membership Fee: $0
    Driving Time: $0

    TOTAL: $491.06

    That’s $491.06 driving 160 km per month, living in downtown Toronto.

    Taking the rates from the website (Zip Car and AutoShare rate are slightly higher, and not by the minute):

    One-Time sign up fee is $35. Let’s say we split that over 1 year, or 52 weeks, even though if you stay a member longer, this amount will obviously get smaller as time goes on. So $2.92 per month or $0.67 per week for 1 year.

    $0.41 + tax per minute. Let’s make it an even $0.50 per minute to include the taxes and simplify the math.

    Protection Fee = $1 per rental.

    So, let’s say you’re not trying to be a speed racer, and will respect the 40 km/h speed limit on most city roads, it would take you about 60 minutes to drive 40 kms in the city of Toronto (once again, per week using the original posters criteria).

    Now… let’s not get crazy and think we’re ever going to drive 40 kms non-stop within the core. Let’s add-in Toronto traffic, pedestrians, parades, cyclists, traffic lights, kids, the circus, construction, pan-am games, all-star games, sporting events, and any other distraction designed to slow vehicles down.

    Let’s add another 60 minutes > to be EXTREMELY generous > for all the miss-hap that can happen on the road.

    So let’s call that 120 minutes of driving per week (or simply 2 hours per week).

    Let’s do the math again, but this time we’ll break it down on a weekly basis for car sharing:

    Parking: $0
    Ownership: $0
    Maintenance: $0
    Insurance: $5 (if you used the service 5 times in 1 week)
    Gas: $0
    Membership Fee: $0.67
    Driving Time: $60

    TOTAL: $65.67

    That’s $65.67 driving 40 km per WEEK, living in downtown Toronto.


    That’s $262.68 driving 160 km per MONTH, living in downtown Toronto.


    While the difference between $491.06 and $262.68 per month might not seem daunting to some living in the city of Toronto (which is a difference of $228.38), it still is a very good Saturday night out & about.

    Realizing that I feel I am being very generous with numbers on both side of the board (i.e. $300 maintenance per year on a 5 year Civic), there is still the point of OWNERSHIP to consider. Owning a car, and even making a payment towards a car payment is considered both an advantage as in owing a personal asset and / or helps your credit rating if you’re making payments on time.

    Let’s not forget that we ARE talking about a SmartCar (at least when it comes to Cars2Go), and not a Honda.

    Other obvious and huge difference is the matter of convenience. If you are lucky enough to have a parking spot close to where you live, you can simply get to your car any time you like. This is not to say that Car Sharing programs in downtown Toronto have become extremely easy to access, to the point that some of their locations are located right within the condo / apartment building parking lots themselves.

    Another point to consider, is time management, If you’re not the best at managing your time, Car Sharing may not be the best option for you, as miss-management of your time could lead to expenditures that you would not have incurred if you owned your own car with no time limit on how long you can be “out”.


    If you redo this calculation, and factor in, say, the Mini Cooper offered by AutoShare, their rate is $9.75 per hour. That would be $19.50 per week using the same criteria above (2 hours per week to do 40 kms).

    *** The MAIN DIFFERENCE between “Cars2Go” and “Zip Car / AutoShare” is that you MUST RETURN the “Zip Car / AutoShare”
    vehicle within the amount of time you have reserved it for. With “Cars2Go”, you can drop it off ANYWHERE int he city where thye have a free parking spot (they are a ton), and the clock stops as soon as you do. ***

    Their sign up fee for AutoShare is currently $29, and one of their plans has an “Annual Fee” of $45 (there are several other types of plans).

    Let me do the math again just to see what it really looks like from AutoShare :

    Parking: $0
    Ownership: $0
    Maintenance: $0
    Insurance: $0
    Gas: $0
    Membership Fee: $0.56
    Annual Fee: $0.87
    Driving Time: $19.50

    TOTAL: $20.93

    That’s $20.93 driving 40 km per WEEK, living in downtown Toronto.


    That’s $83.72 driving 160 km per MONTH, living in downtown Toronto.

    *** Keeping in mind you have to return the car to the point of origin to stop the clock.


    This post was more to help me decide what path that I am going to take, but I hope this information helps others make their own decisions…



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