Car sharing

Car sharing is a car rental service that allows people to use vehicles for short periods of time, often by the hour. It can be an economical and eco-friendly option for those who only need occasional access to a vehicle.

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How car sharing works

Although policies vary by car sharing organization, they generally require drivers to be at least 21 years of age and hold an unrestricted driver's license, as well as a clean driving record.

You can subscribe to car sharing services by opening an account online or by phone. Once you've created an account, you can make reservations and gain access to a vehicle when needed (often by being given codes or keys). Some businesses have parked vehicles in numerous locations that allow for self-serve access after reservations are made, while others have pick-up and delivery options.

Vehicles of varying sizes and models may be available. The cost will depend on the company, length of the rental, distance travelled, insurance costs and usage fees.

Some organizations require drivers to become members and pay monthly or annual fees, in addition to fuel and other rental costs.

Types of car sharing

Three types of car sharing services are available to Canadian consumers:

  1. Co-op car sharing businesses allow you to buy shares in their organization. In return, you can provide input at general meetings and elect representatives to the co-op's board of directors.

    Please note that co-ops often include upfront costs. However, these costs can vary greatly, depending on the organization and membership plan.

  2. Private car sharing companies offer car rental services, but do not provide the option to purchase membership shares or participate in the governance of the company.

  3. Peer-to-peer car sharing allows existing car owners to make their vehicles available for others to rent for short periods of time.

    Peer-to-peer sharing models have businesses act as middlemen, bringing two parties together, the car owner and the person looking to borrow a car, screening applicants' insurance, managing payments and bookings. With this option, the car owner manages the insurance and typically needs special coverage.

Benefits of car sharing

Car sharing services can be beneficial to you and the environment. For example, car sharing:

  • Frees you of car maintenance, ongoing insurance costs, and everyday fuel and parking concerns.
  • Gives you 24-hour access, to different types of vehicles, by the hour or day.
  • Cuts back on daily traffic congestion.
  • Helps reduce pollution caused by daily vehicle usage. Some studies estimate that every shared car could replace 15 individually owned vehicles.

Things to consider when car sharing

  • Car sharing services are primarily offered in urban areas.
  • The service is suitable for those who do not need a car every day and have access to other methods of transportation.
  • Each organization operates differently and charges may be calculated in various ways, including kilometres travelled, length of time used, fuel consumed or some other combination of charges.
  • Consider non-owner insurance for comprehensive and collision protection which may not be provided by car sharing company.

Renting a car vs. car sharing

When weighing your options between renting a car and using a car sharing service, think about how often you need the car and the distance you plan to travel.

If the car is only required once in a while, it may be better to rent a car, rather than pay monthly membership fees for a car sharing service.

For short trips in the city, a car sharing service may be your best bet. However, if you are leaving your city, or going on a trip where the car is required for more than 24 hours, a car rental is often a better option.

The table below can help you decide which option is best for you:

Car sharing

  • No paperwork—reservation and account are usually managed online
  • Hourly rental designed for local use and short-term convenience
  • Cost of gas typically included in fees
  • Typically, there are separate fees charged for hourly usage and kilometres travelled
  • Usually available 24/7 in public parking lots
  • Monthly plans or memberships available to accommodate occasional, frequent or high usage

Car rental

  • Longer rental process—customers have to visit a rental office and do some paperwork
  • Daily rental–designed for longer distances or multi-day trips
  • Customer is responsible for the cost of gas
  • Usually pay flat rate for a 24-hour rental plus minimum number of included kilometres but some companies offer unlimited kilometres for daily or longer rentals
  • Car can only be picked up during office hours
  • Personal and corporate memberships available for rewards, upgrades, or other benefits

Insurance for car sharing services

Insurance for car sharing services differs from company to company. For example, some organizations require pre-existing insurance coverage while others include insurance as part of the package fee. In some cases, drivers who have no previous insurance record can build one by using the service.

There may also be an annual fee or a deduction if the driver is involved in an at-fault collision.

It's important that you seek information regarding the insurance costs and policies before participating in a car sharing service.

Other resources

You can find further information on car sharing services on the Carsharing Association website.

Trusted consumer information

Published by the Consumer Measures Committee, a working group of federal, provincial and territorial governments, that helps educate and inform Canadian consumers.