Is car sharing the vehicle ownership model of the future?

Published: August 18, 2015

Updated: July 24, 2018

Author: Luke Jones

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Is driving a car in Canada becoming a cost too high to manage? Owning and using an automobile is certainly an expensive proposition and some organizations are outwardly advocating using car sharing pools.

This growing way to cover the cost of ownership has been adopted in many countries and is starting to find interest in Canadian provinces. Sharing a car with others helps to spread the cost of owning a vehicle and is being touted as a way to reduce emissions and stop drivers from acquiring debt.

The cost of vehicle ownership in Canada is soaring, with even a mini car like a Fiat 500 costing $8365 to run over one year in Alberta, according to Canadian Automobile Association's (CAA) driving cost calculator. This calculator takes into account insurance, fuel, license, registration, and depreciation and maintenance on average of 20,000kms over one year. In the province of Ontario, an executive car like an Audi A6 would total $18,896 in annual cost.

With operating even the most modest of cars now costing thousands of dollars over a calendar year, more and more are turning to car sharing.

Not a new concept per say, car sharing has been in Canada since the mid-1990s, and has been available in the crowded narrow streets in Europe for even longer. However, the model is perhaps more necessary now than it has ever been in Canada, with a growing number of companies offering car sharing services.

There are two traditional tiers of car sharing.

The tried and tested two-way model allows customers to pay an annual fee to be part of the sharing scheme. It is then possible to collect a car from a designated parking space and use it on an hourly or daily basis, paying accordingly per hour/day, before returning the car to the same space.

A newer one-way model has become popular in recent years where a registered driver can locate a shared car via a smartphone and then pay for its use by the minute. Once finished, the occupant can leave the car anywhere within a set territory without having to place the vehicle back in the exact space.

Car sharing seems like it is here to stay in Canada, but more than that it looks like the model will grow and may even thrive. It gives user’s easy access to cars and eliminates many of the costs associated with day to day ownership, while there is an argument that suggests it reduces environmental impact too.

Car sharing has been growing globally, and in 2012 The Transportation Sustainability Research Centre (TSRC) in Berkeley, CA revealed that car sharing is currently available in 27 countries on five continents, with 1,788,000 drivers participating and using some 43,550 vehicles.

Canada has not been sheltered from this growth, as of the turn of 2014 there were 19 car sharing companies in the country, with a sizeable 224,523 drivers sharing 4,174 vehicles.

With growth expected to continue, governmental agencies and traffic organizations are taking the model seriously and even making Canadian cities more accommodating to car sharing. In Edmonton, Downtown parking boss Brian Murphy says there is an initiative to introduce specific car sharing parking spaces, with one car sharing free space per block within the city.

“We’re very excited because it’s falling in line with our Transportation Master Plan,” Murphy said.

“We’ve done a horrendous amount of work in doing the bicycle lanes, the river valley, the walkways throughout the city,” Murphy said. “Part of our plan is to decrease the emissions and traffic congestion by offering alternative modes.”

Murphy says more spaces will be added if required.