Car Wars – sharing the green way…

Both The Car Co-op and Zipcar have distinct advantages. So how do you choose which company to go with? Belinda Bruce does your legwork. An article from Frugalbits!

The Car Co-op Mini Cooper - C. Phaisalakani


SAVE ALL AROUND | You love having your own car but you hate the expense and annoyance: gas, insurance, repairs, car payments. For people who only need a car on an occasional basis, joining a car sharing program is much more cost-effective than owning, renting or leasing a private vehicle. The company usually pays for assigned parking, maintenance, insurance and even gas.

Vancouver has two excellent car-sharing options: Cooperative Auto Network and Zipcar. Both companies offer self-service, on-demand cars booked by the hour or the day on a first-come first-serve basis. Cars are located all over the city, including at universities. In just minutes or up to a year in advance, members can reserve cars online or by phone, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Members access cars using a key lock box or card to simply unlock the door and drive away. Low rates make day trips a breeze. And you get extra green points. According to Zipcar, Zipcar members tend to drive less than before they joined, and each Zipcar takes 15-20 personally owned vehicles off the road.

Car Sharing: Here’s What’s In It For You

The Car Co-op is a local not-for-profit organization started in 1997, providing cars across the Lower Mainland and in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. The Car Co-op is a true cooperative; when you join as a member, you pay a one-time refundable $500 share purchase, get the company’s lowest rates and have a vote at the company’s annual general meeting. Current rates are $3/hour or $36/24-hour period plus a small admin fee (maximum of $6/month) and anywhere from 15- to 35- per kilometre, depending on your usage (the more kilometres you travel, the better the rates).

A Car Co-op Membership has other perks including:

• discounts on Translink Fare Passes, car rentals, YMCA/YWCA memberships and City of Vancouver Recreation Flexi-Passes
• extended health and dental benefits through Pacific Blue Cross
• parking in any Permit Only and Residents Only Zone within the City of Vancouver (excluding UBC)

If the deposit is a strain on your wallet, the company also offers a DepositFree option: you don’t have to fork over the $500 deposit and you still have access to all of Car Co-op’s vehicles at a low rate.

Big Bonus: Some Vancouver residents have car sharing options built right into their buildings—residents of the Woodward’s development, Adera’s Green and UBC’s Wesbrook Place, to name a few. Plus City of Vancouver employees and B.C. provincial government employees can use The Company Car—a Car Co-op initiative.

Zipcar is the world’s largest car sharing and car club service with offices in major cities around the world including New York, London and Vancouver. Zipcar offers two membership options. The Occasional Driving Plan has an annual fee of $55 plus a $25 application fee. Rates are as low as $7/hour and $69/day with 200 free kilometres. The Extra Value Plan for frequent drivers charges no annual fee but a minimum $50 monthly fee (up to $125), a $25 application fee and rates starting at $6.30/hour and $62.10/day with 200 free kilometers per day.

A Zipcar Membership has other perks including:

Members can choose from more than 25 different makes and models, including gas/electric hybrids, SUVs, pickup trucks, sedans and high-end vehicles including the Mini Cooper and BMW. Zipcar also guarantees its members they will get the car they reserve, unlike rental car companies.

More fringe benefits: Zipcar offers member discounts at partner companies including Blenz Coffee, Cadillac Fairview, Gap Adventures, Lindt Chocolate, Wee Travel and Spud organic produce delivery.

So Which Is It,  Zipcar Or The Car Co-op?

Both The Car Co-op and Zipcar have distinct advantages. So how do you choose which company to go with?

Car proximity is a key factor for most people. Shelley Mantei, owner of Mediatonic PR, has a Zipcar within half a block and a bunch more within four blocks of her office. Mantei, who once owned a Porsche, uses Zipcars for business and personal trips: a trip to North Vancouver for a client meeting, a trek to Steveston to pick up her dog. “Zipcar allows you to take animals in a carrier. It’s much cheaper than taking a cab or a rental car,” says Mantei.

A big appeal of Zipcar for Mantei is the international benefits. Members don’t pay extra to book cars in 28 North American states and provinces, plus London, England.  “And I like Zipcar’s higher-end selection of cars, like an Audi, a hybrid or a Mini Austin Cooper.”

Vancouver musician Mark Haney uses Car Co-op vehicles 10 to 20 times a month, mostly to transport his double bass to gigs and rehearsals. While his monthly costs may be comparable to owning a car—$160 to $170 per month—he loves the maintenance-free convenience of Co-op cars. “I could only ever afford beaters, which meant a lot of hassles and repairs.” A member for over two years, Haney based his initial decision not only on the proximity of cars but the type of organization. “At the end of the day, they come out pretty even,” he says. “I prefer the Co-op because it’s a locally owned non-profit.”

Convenient. Cost-effective. Cool cars. What more could you ask for? And if you’re one of those people who like to give their car a name, well, car sharing is like dating a different person every week.—Belinda Bruce

To find out more about these car sharing programs, visit or

Photo: The Car Co-op mini on Pacific Avenue – C. Phaisalakani

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