Kid with ski poles raised beside a Modo shared car

Car sharing 101

Consider this: a privately owned car can cost at least $10,000 a year, yet, for 95% of the time, it sits idle doing nothing, just slowly losing its value each and every day.

Car sharing means you have use of a fleet of cars, without the responsibilities that go along with owning a car – like buying or leasing a car, ongoing maintenance, gas, parking, and insurance.

Those things are rolled into a single pay-as-you-go fee structure. These communal vehicles are ideal for everything from summer trips to the beach or winter roadtrips to the mountains. And if you don’t use a shared car for a week, or a month, or a year, then there’s nothing to pay. But as soon as you need it, it’s there.

There are different models of car sharing, but for the purposes of this video car sharing is not ride hailing, taxis, car pooling, or renting (although renting has some similarities to car sharing).

And while it’s an interesting model, I’m also not talking about peer to peer car sharing where an organisation’s users rent out their own vehicles to other drivers on an online platform.

No, the kind of car sharing I’m talking about is more like a car club where once you become a member you have access to a fleet of shared vehicles, which you can book for minutes, hours, or days, using an app, web site or phone.

This kind of community-based vehicle-sharing saves households a ton of cash, and done right, in tandem with transit, cycling and walking could allow cities to free up more space that is currently absorbed by private vehicles. Car sharing has the potential to be a win-win for people and their environment.

Car sharing models

So how does car sharing work? Well, there are two predominant models: station-based and free-floating car shares.

Specifically, I’m going to talk about two car share organisations based here in Vancouver, BC that I know well and that I have been using for many years – MODO and EVO.

MODO is a station-based or roundtrip car share, meaning that each car has a permanent parking spot which you pick it up from and return it to. MODO has grown organically from small beginnings in 1997, into a large, member-owned Co-operative with around 800 cars, SUVs, trucks, and minivans across the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, and Okanagan.

With MODO you book a trip, up to a year in advance, pick up the car, drive it and then return it to the same location. Every MODO member has a fob which you use to unlock and lock the car. The typical MODO trip involves several steps: you book the car. Fob in. Drive the car and at the end of your trip return the car to where you picked it up. Fob out, and end your booking.

One of MODO’s unique selling points is that it is co-operatively owned and controlled by its members. It has a remit to cover its costs, but it’s not out to make a profit, which helps it maintain value for money.

There are two types of membership: Modo Plus members are those who buy a share in the Co-op for a redeemable $500 and the other are Monthly Members who pay $6 per month, plus a slightly higher fee structure for the use of MODO vehicles.

Members’ trip fees are based on a combination of hours used and the distance travelled, with invoices billed every month. The basic hourly rate for Daily Drive vehicles – the economy option – is $4 for Modo Plus members and $5 for Monthly members.

The kind of vehicles in this pricing tier are Toyota Prius, Honda Fit, Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Fiat 500, and zero emissions vehicles like the Hyundai Kona Electric, Kia Soul Electric, Hyundai Nexo hydrogen, and Nissan Leaf.

If you need something bigger like a minivan, SUV or pickup truck the hourly rate is an extra $2 per hour, and if you want something supersized for carrying cargo – like the Ram Promaster or Nissan NV 200 – then you are looking at paying another $5 an hour over the basic rate. I should add the asterisk that this is March 2023, and rates may change.

In addition, you pay distance fees of $0.45 per km for the first 25 kilometres and then $0.28 per kilometre thereafter.

Evo car share

EVO is a free-floating car share organisation, launched in March 2015 by the British Columbia Automobile Association. EVO is free to BCAA members and $35 to join for everyone else. Trip fees are based on the amount of time you use the car for.

EVO just upped its fees on 3rd March 2023 – you now pay 49c per minute, $17.99 for an hour and $104.99 for a day. It has a fleet of Toyota Prius hybrids that float around a geographic home zone, encompassing the municipality of Vancouver, parts of North Vancouver, Burnaby, and New Westminster, among other satellite zones.

In 2021, EVO opened in the BC capital Victoria and now has a fleet of 125 shared cars there. Using the EVO app you tap on a map to reserve an available car. Reservation completed, you have 30 minutes to start your trip. You unlock the vehicle with the EVO chip card or app, drive it to your destination and then having ended your trip, walk away. You just have to leave the car correctly parked in the EVO home zone. EVO has always pitched itself at those who like the great outdoors, which is why cars come with a roof rack that can carry two bicycles, skis or snowboards.

Which is best EVO or MODO?

Both car shares come with attractive parking privileges: these vary from municipality to municipality but typically you can park for free in resident-only parking and also it’s free to park for a couple of hours in on-street metred parking spots. This is just one of the perks of car sharing in British Columbia – so there’s no difference between the two car shares.

I’d argue that EVO and MODO are mutually compatible and many longtime car share users (‘self included) are signed up with both. Sometimes it’s easier to find an EVO car rather than a MODO, depending on where you are in the city. Sometimes you want to go one way – for example, if there’s no bus for 20 minutes – so you choose an EVO. Other times, you want to take a longer trip with a bigger vehicle and MODO fits the bill.

EVO allows for more spontaneity and freedom as you don’t have to return the vehicle to its original parking point. But MODO has gradually built in quite a bit of flexibility into its car share model, in particular in the way that trips are booked.

For many years MODO required that you set a start time AND an end time to your journey when you booked it. If you found during your trip that you needed more time – because, you know, the unexpected happens – then you could extend your booking. However, if another member had already booked your car, then you would face penalty fees for a late return. In January 2019, MODO introduced open return bookings for those times when you didn’t know how many hours you needed the vehicle for. With an OPEN return, for an extra $3 you can block off up to 24 hours for your use. When you close out the trip, you only pay for the time that you used. By comparison, with a set return you only pay for half of the remaining time when you close the booking early. And there’s no cost for either type of booking if you cancel at least 12 hours beforehand. If you are interested in more comparisons of MODO and EVO then let me know in the comments below.

So who is car sharing for? Well, as I said at the start, anyone who wants to free themself from the hassle and expense of owning a car. If you only need a car for occasional use rather than on a daily basis, if you have access to good transit and safe bicycle routes, then car sharing rather than solo ownership of a car will save you a pile of money. It takes a little getting used to, and there are definitely gotchas and caveats to carsharing that I can go into at a later point. But in my experience the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. Our household sold our car and joined our local car share in 2007. Car sharing is the one reason why we haven’t felt the need to go back to owning our own private vehicle, even after kids, even after a decade and a half living in a car centric city like Vancouver.

So there you have a basic overview of how the two main models of carsharing work. Let me know what you think of carsharing in the comments, and also if there’s anything specific you’d like me to cover, share it below. Thank you for watching. Please like the video. If you’d like to follow me on deeper trips into the world of carsharing, then tap on the Subscribe and Notification buttons below.