A guide to Toronto’s increasingly large selection of ride-sharing and car-sharing services
With all Toronto’s construction, accidents, parades and gridlock, it’s probably never going to be easy to get around in the city. But it’s nice to have options. The range of ride-sharing and car-sharing services available locally has been growing of late, with the recent arrivals of Maven and Lyft. Here’s a guide to the choices.
What it is: Maven, an offshoot of General Motors, lets users reserve and unlock rental vehicles using a smartphone app. Available models include GM cars like the Yukon SUV and the more sensible hybrid Volt. Drivers find a car at a designated parking spot, then return the car to the same spot when they’re finished. Maven vehicles include fancy features like Apple CarPlay and WiFi. (Eyes on the road, please.)
What it costs: The company says members only pay for time spent in vehicles, which means “no sign-up or membership fees,” according to a spokesperson. (At least for now. The Maven website advertises free membership “for a limited time.”) Rates in Toronto are as low as $9 an hour. Gas and insurance are included, and members can drive up to 288 kilometres per day without incurring extra fees.
Other stuff you should know: Maven launched in Toronto last month, and its footprint is still relatively small. A company spokesperson said there are currently 40 Maven vehicles in the city. This cautious entry into the Toronto market might hint at GM’s real goal: learning people’s habits, while the automaker tries to reposition itself ahead of an era of declining car ownership.
What it is: Toronto users select one of three types of vehicle—a tiny Smart car, a sedan, or a hatchback—then retrieve their ride from within the company’s “home area.” Users can find cars at designated parking spaces and parking lots, then drop them off at any legal parking space within the home area’s boundaries—which are, roughly, Eglinton in the north, Lake Ontario in the south, Jane Street in the west and Victoria Park in the east. It’s also possible to drop cars at the airport, which is outside the home area.
What it costs: Rates are as low as $15 per hour (plus additional fees) for the diminutive Smart ForTwo. A Mercedes hatchback or sedan will set you back $19 per hour. Other fees include a one-time $5 registration charge. Car2Go’s rates include parking, insurance, and gas. Members can drive up to 200 kilometres per day without incurring extra fees.
Other stuff you should know: Car2Go’s approach to parking has been testing the city’s patience for years. The company encourages its customers to drop the cars in normal street parking spaces, but doesn’t give them a way of paying for parking permits. As a result, Car2Go racked up over $1 million in parking tickets last year. City council recently voted for “further consideration” of a proposed pilot project that would have expanded where car-share vehicles can park. Car2Go wasn’t pleased with the decision, though, and threatened to leave the Toronto market rather than continue dealing with the city’s government.
What it is: Zipcar brands itself as “the world’s largest car-sharing network”—and, in Toronto at least, that’s true: its footprint extends throughout the city and far, far beyond. Users can book a vehicle through an app, then use a special card to unlock the vehicle at a designated parking spot. The car returns to the same parking spot at the end of the ride.
What it costs: Hourly rates in Toronto start at $9.25, or $79 per day, plus a $30 application fee and $70 annual fee. Rentals include gas, insurance, and up to 200 kilometres of driving per day before additional fees kick in.
Other stuff you should know: A company spokesperson says that Zipcar’s Toronto fleet consists of more than 700 vehicles. And membership is universal, meaning customers can access vehicles here and abroad.
What it is: There are dozens of Enterprise CarShare pick-up locations throughout the city, and you’re probably within walking distance of one right now. Users can reserve vehicles using the company’s app. Vehicles range from hybrid sedans to cargo vans.
What it costs: The company lists three separate plans, starting with a basic package that costs $45 annually, with hourly rates from $9.25. There’s also a $29 application fee. Rates include gas, insurance and “24/7 member services and roadside assistance.” A more expensive plan for habitual drivers includes reduced hourly and daily rates and waives the membership fee. A spokesperson said that Enterprise also sometimes has weekday specials from $6 per hour. As with other car-share services, there’s a 200-kilometre daily limit, with extra fees for drivers who exceed it.
Other stuff you should know: As with Zipcar and Maven, Enterprise users have to return their vehicles to the spaces where they retrieved them—so it’s a little more restrictive than Car2Go.
What it is: A few taps on your phone, and you can summon all types of vehicles to your front door: “high end” SUVs, accessible taxis, lower-cost rides from Uber’s famous phalanx of amateur cabbies. There’s also UberPool, which, as the joke goes, is Silicon Valley’s version of something that used to be called “the bus.”
What it costs: Uber is known for its “surge” pricing during times of increased demand (like on New Year’s Eve, or in a sudden downpour). The base fare is $2.50, and the normal rate per kilometre is $0.81. The app used to discourage tipping, but now there’s an option to add a gratuity. An Uber spokesperson says drivers keep 100 per cent of their tips.
Other stuff you should know: Uber’s cutthroat business practices have made it the bane of Silicon Valley, despite a new CEO’s efforts to rehabilitate the company’s image. UberX may be cheap, but it’s taxing on your conscience.
What it is: Uber, basically, but pink. You use your smartphone to book your ride, and options range from the standard Lyft sedans all the way up to a “Lux SUV” that fits six passengers.
What it costs: The barebones sedan option starts at $0.81 per kilometre, plus a $2.50 base fare; the higher-end SUVs cost $2.80 per kilometre, with a $15 base fare. Expect to pay more during “Prime Time,” the company’s version of Uber’s surge pricing. The app allows customers to tip drivers, and drivers keep all of their tip money, according to a spokesperson.
Other stuff you should know: Lyft hasn’t made the same high-profile mistakes as Uber, but the two companies are similar. Drivers are glorified freelancers without the protections and structures of more regular work.