Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Carsharing company, ‘car2go’ launches in Portland Saturday

Posted by on March 29th, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Just six weeks after peer-to-peer carsharing start-up Getaround launched in Portland, another company with yet a different variation on the theme is set to launch this weekend.

Instead of renting a car from one of your neighbors like Getaround or reserving a Zipcar and then finding one parked nearby, car2go (a wholly owned subsidiary of Daimler North America Corporation) offers a more flexible option. The company refers to it as “A different way to carshare.” They also say it’s particularly appealing to people who bike.

Here’s how it works: Registered users locate one of the company’s specially outfitted Smart cars within the designated “Home Area” (a 34-square mile swath of the city). A simple swipe of a card gets you in the car and you can drive it for as long as you want, anywhere you want, and then park it anywhere in the Home Area (with some exceptions). No reservation is needed and you do not have to commit to a return time or a specific location. Parking, fuel, insurance, and maintenance are included with the one-time registration fee of $35.

Once registered, you then pay 35 cents a minute. One hour costs a maximum of $12.99 and you can drive up to 24 hours for $65.99 (the more you drive the cheaper it gets).

Nicholas Cole, CEO of car2go CEO Nicholas Cole (who’s in Portland for the launch) says his system is particularly friendly for people who tend to bike a lot. “car2go complements all types of mobility including biking, walking and public transportation,” he shared with me via email today, “Even people who bike a lot may occasionally need a car, and car2go gives them a flexible, convenient way to drive when they need to.”

car2go is currently in just two U.S. cities (San Diego and Austin) and has 70,000 members worldwide. The company is hosting a free public launch event at Pioneer Courthouse Square this weekend. Check out their website for more info.

For more on how carsharing fits into the low-car Portland lifestyle, check out our story from December: Sharing cars and bikes; a one-two punch for low-car Portland.

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  • Gabriel Nagmay March 29, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    We can park on Ross Island, but not Mt Tabor?

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    • twistyaction March 30, 2012 at 5:44 am

      Smart cars are not amphibious.

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  • Schrauf March 29, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    Looks great. Currently free registration (save the $35). I use Zipcar, but just signed up – sometimes it will make more sense than the constraints of Zipcar.

    Too bad the vehicle is so small I can’t even fit a bike in it. Oh well, that’s what bike locks are for.

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    • Tom M March 30, 2012 at 2:14 am

      I know for a fact a Brompton will fit perfectly with a little room to spare:)

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    • craig harlow March 30, 2012 at 1:25 pm

      Bungee πŸ™‚

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  • Andyc March 29, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    Wait, it’s appealing for people who bike and walk, but is this small? Um, when I don’t bike or walk it’s usually to haul more things than my carcass across town. Or am I missing something?

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    • MindfulCyclist March 29, 2012 at 10:47 pm

      No, I don’t think you are missing anything. I drive when I am going to haul something that I really cannot haul well on a bicycle. Granted, I have a fairly small car, but I have an entire back seat and trunk. I wouldn’t be able to haul much with this.

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    • 9watts March 30, 2012 at 7:59 am

      I have to suspect that this is more about looking cute/staying dry than it is about capacity, because a decent cargo trailer is going to haul more of the things I’m tempted to drag home than this car, but I’m also clearly not in their target demographic.

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    • Paul March 30, 2012 at 10:18 am

      If you need to go to from SE to St. John’s, Downtown to SW, NW to 82nd etc. in less than a few hours for a meeting, or it’s pouring rain and you just need to get somewhere quick and dry – something our slow transit doesn’t do well in this town. Another tool in my bag.

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      • 9watts March 30, 2012 at 10:21 am

        sometimes a taxi’s just the ticket.

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        • Greg March 31, 2012 at 6:37 pm

          sometimes staying at home’s just the ticket.

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  • jim March 29, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    what happens when you are sitting in a restaurant and somebody else comes and takes your car?

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    • craig harlow March 30, 2012 at 1:26 pm

      They can’t. It’s reserved for you until you sign out.

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  • Marty March 29, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    You can take the key with you into restaurant but are still getting the fee charges. I signed up just to have another option besides my bike, car, or public trans.

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  • Marty March 29, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    Oh yeah there are a bunch of them right now down on swan island being stored at Daimler Truck North America. It’s kind of a need scene of a parking lot full of them.

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  • Randall S. March 29, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    Oh hey, I just saw one of these a few hours ago and was wondering what it was. I’m not entirely clear on how this is superior to Zipcar (other than not needing a reservation), but it still seems cool.

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    • SV March 29, 2012 at 10:32 pm

      I see the greatest advantage being the one-way deal. Not having to return the car to a specific place will make those emergency trips I use zipcar for that much easier. Of course this assumes they saturate the city with these little cars so you’re only 10-15 minute walk/bike away from one.

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      • craig harlow March 30, 2012 at 1:33 pm

        The rep told me 200 cars will be on the street by Monday.

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  • Hart Noecker March 29, 2012 at 11:52 pm

    I wonder how many bicycles you could make out of scrapping one of these motorized automobiles. Maybe we could still put it on top of that covered bike corral as a monument to dithering.

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    • Caleb April 1, 2012 at 1:53 pm

      I wondered along similar lines when I learned that this became an artificial reef in 2009: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_General_Harry_Taylor_%28AP-145%29

      However, if people are going to drive automobiles, I prefer they do it in something such as a Smart car. I don’t know much of anything about the cars, but just imagine how many Smart cars’ metal components could have possibly been made with materials from something like that sunken ship…compared with the average vehicle on the road today. Yes, maybe the Smart only gets mileage in the thirties, but that’s better than a vast majority (my guess) which get in the low twenties or less. I imagine Smart’s emissions are lower, too. And with how many complaints I see on Bike Portland about automobiles and safety on the road, I’m somewhat surprised people aren’t welcoming things like Smart cars simply due to how much less space they take up on the road than most other vehicles.

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      • wsbob April 1, 2012 at 2:35 pm

        In motor vehicle crowded city streets and highways, the Smart’s diminutive proportions are worthy too; they take up less space on the road. Probably half the length of a full size sedan.

        By the way, apparently there are some electric Smarts available in the U.S. Also, yesterday I read an article that said car2go has some of the electric Smarts in its fleet.

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        • Craig Harlow April 1, 2012 at 2:46 pm

          And–I would expect–lower vehicle weight means shorter stopping distance and less lethal in crashes.

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          • Caleb April 2, 2012 at 2:59 pm

            I forgot to mention yesterday that lower vehicle weight would mean less wear on roads, but hadn’t even thought of stopping distance. I’m glad you mentioned that.

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  • John Russell (jr98664) March 30, 2012 at 12:22 am

    Too bad they’re no farther north than Killingsworth. Almost all of N Portland is missing out.

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    • Schrauf March 31, 2012 at 10:03 am

      Hopefully they are starting with a core area, and then will expand that area as demand demonstrates a need. It would make sense at the very least to cover the area north up to Lombard, between, say MLK and Portsmouth. That is a large area that is still “close-in”. This would also include UP, which although a small school would still create some demand.

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    • Nathan Gibson April 1, 2012 at 10:29 pm

      Olive in NOPO and I’ve seen them everywhere!

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  • Tourbiker March 30, 2012 at 2:52 am

    What does the Oregonian say about it..Cause…we all think they know what’s best…right?

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  • dwainedibbly March 30, 2012 at 5:15 am

    If there are no reservations, how do you know where one is? And even if it’s there now, how do you know it’ll be there when you go to get it?

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  • fiets503 March 30, 2012 at 8:56 am

    there ARE reservations. …and… I’m sure there’s an App for that…

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  • RH March 30, 2012 at 11:41 am

    This is a great transit option to have to help live a less car dependant lifestyle. I’ve heard there will be 200 or so all around PDX. I picture them like little bee’s buzzing around the city. I saw some when I was visiting San Diego and they were being used all the time. It’s a great option to have in your back pocket.

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  • BikeR March 30, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    If I use the car from A to B, park at B, go shopping say, can someone take the car parked at B, leaving me stranded or can you continue to pay the 35/min cost while shopping and know the car will be there when you return from shopping?

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    • RH March 30, 2012 at 1:22 pm

      You can continue to pay the .35/min while shopping if you choose

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  • Todd Boulanger March 30, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    car2go – welcome to the West Coast! This is a big improvement on the car sharing service model – introducing the one-way rental option to Portland (aka “Vancouver Metro” area).

    The one-way rental has been one of the big opportunities of bike sharing services that the traditional 2nd generation car sharing industry has struggled to commercially roll out in the US so far – it makes so much sense for many trips. We have been talking about it for 10+ years now since Call-a-Bike, etc. rolled it out. I have often wished for this try of service when I used Portland Carshare/ Flexcar/ Zipcar.

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  • Todd Boulanger March 30, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    And as for use by bicyclists…I could see this service being basically a “flat tire” repair option for those dark winter days or late nights when you cannot fix a flat or have to get to your destination promptly.

    The key would be to either have a parallel network of bike lockers or a small single folding bike rack with each car (ex. Allen Sports rack, etc.) or select cars.



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  • kittens March 30, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    well their website certainly leaves something to be desired. obviously optimized for mobile at the expense of other users. I still don’t understand this “simple” concept apparently.

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  • craig harlow March 30, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    To me, the primary benefit of CAR2GO is competition, pressure for ZipCar to get more FLEXible πŸ™‚ more affordable and more friendly.

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  • kenny March 30, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    I agree these could use one of many bicycle rack options. A permanent Yakima on top would be handy. I have a feeling Yakima would cut them a sweet deal for the promotion.

    Also, it seems it would make far more sense to use vehicles like a Suzuki wagon (more room in the back for large cargo, but still quite easy to park). But… they are less “cute” I suppose. Most folks know that Smarts do not get amazing fuel economy, there only trading point is size/parking.

    So far keeping my A2 VW GTI in storage with insurance, calling only when I intend to use it about 1-2 times a month for 1-3 days is about the best value in very occasional car use.
    I cannot remember the last time I paid more than $35 ev 6 months for auto insurance. Repairs, insurance, and maintenance have not exceeded $1500 in 6 years.

    Give me a connected street car network that interconnects every major business district in Portland from downtown to at least 82nd. As frequent as every 6 minutes. Busses filling in the gaps with 10 minute maximum waits. Everything feels piece milled in even the best transit systems in our country.

    We need to meet the level of transit one would experience in places Portland drools over (Amsterdam?).

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    • 9watts March 30, 2012 at 2:24 pm

      “Most folks know that Smarts do NOT get amazing fuel economy”
      Easy to misread that so wanted to highlight it.

      34mpg in the city (where presumably most of the driving is going to occur) The 1.3 ton (payload) truck from the late sixties I used to drive got that kind of mileage, and could have hauled several Smart cars to boot.

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    • Bjorn March 30, 2012 at 4:42 pm

      I think that since they had to make a deal with the city to allow them to be parked in metered spaces small is likely an advantage. Besides they are owned by Mercedes and the service is clearly designed to help increase the volumes of smart cars sold into the US channel to lower costs.

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    • wsbob March 31, 2012 at 10:35 am

      Two of the Smart cars could possibly fit and park in a standard sized curb parking space.

      For the short distance use these cars are intended for, in terms of expense, super low gas mileage wouldn’t likely be a big issue for the people using the cars.

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      • wsbob March 31, 2012 at 10:45 am

        Meant to say:

        For the short distance use these cars are intended for, in terms of expense, high miles per gallon wouldn’t likely be a big issue for the people using the cars.

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  • grrlpup March 30, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    A Facebook account is required to sign up. No, thank you.

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    • Steve B March 30, 2012 at 5:34 pm

      I don’t recall needing to use a Facebook account to sign up for car2go. You might be thinking of getaround the peer-to-peer car sharing service? I haven’t signed up for getaround yet either because of this requirement.

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      • grrlpup March 31, 2012 at 8:21 am

        Oops, you are right– I was looking at Getaround! Sorry and thanks for catching that.

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  • kenny March 30, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    The Smart gets 10 mpg LESS MPGs than the 87 Chevrolet Sprint Turbo w/ 198k I sold in October. It had the same 1.0 liter displacement and was also a LOT quicker. I just do not “get” these cars. A Hyundai Accent with a real back seat can out-run one, achieve higher fuel standards, and hold real people inside… 4 of them. Smarts and kind of Dumb. They are also low rated in terms of reliability.

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    • John Lascurettes March 31, 2012 at 12:37 pm

      My understanding is that Smart cars are a lot “smarter” outside of North America. There were a lot of NHTSA required modifications that affected the power:weight ratio of the Smart car in the states. This is only what I recollect, but couldn’t find any articles that corroborated this. So, I could be 100% wrong and they just suck at efficiency everywhere. I do know that outside of the U.S. there have been electric models of these.

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    • Greg March 31, 2012 at 6:45 pm

      I used to own a 90’s Geo Metro that got much better mileage too. That car had no real safety features and zero sound insulation. Modern cars have significantly more safety regulations and, more importantly, car companies have realized there is little money to be made in spartan vehicles, so they don’t make them.

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      • wsbob April 3, 2012 at 10:35 am

        “…more importantly, car companies have realized there is little money to be made in spartan vehicles, so they don’t make them.” Greg

        People have to buy the cars if car companies are to make any money. Is the American car buying public crying out for stripped down bare bones cars? Apparently not.

        They may have got good gas mileage, but the Geo Metro, Chevrolet Sprint and Suburu Justy were boring little cars, especially the Justy. Apparently not enough people wanted them to keep the cars in production.

        If they were still in production, how might car2go do if its fleet consisted of the Geo Metro or the Suburu Justy? I think probably not well, because those cars lack style, which despite being a funny looking car, is something the Smart does have. The Smart has eye appeal, and for a 6′ medium build person like myself, it’s comfortable to sit in. For the short hops car2go’s business model seems to be focused on, the Smart appears to be a good choice, for now.

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    • spare_wheel April 3, 2012 at 9:07 am

      the 1992 honda civic vx has a 49 mpg highway rating. the fuel economy of modern small cars, such as, the smart, the mini, and the fiat 500 is a joke.

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      • 9watts April 3, 2012 at 9:17 am

        Not only that, but in real life you can/I did get MUCH better mileage. From the Bay Area to Portland I averaged 63mpg in a Civic VX. Best real world fuel economy I’ve ever experienced.
        Oh well. Even at these rates we’ll slurp up the remaining cheap gasoline soon enough.

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  • Stripes March 31, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    Very excited to see both this, and Getaround, launched recently. Zipcar is in need of some stiff competition.

    I am a member of Zipcar, but will be cancelling my membership with them this summer when my account is up for renewal.

    Reason? Zipcar only lets you have 180 miles per day. After that, they charge you 45 cents a mile. I’m sorry, but if I’ve just shelled out 80 bucks for one of their cars, I should be able to drive as many frickin’ miles as I want per day. There have been many occasions when my partner and I have wanted to rent a Zipcar to get out to Astoria, or the Dalles, or Seattle. It’s impossible.

    It’s almost like Zipcar draws a big 180 mile concentric circle around Portland, ensuring all the cool, awesome stuff that is actually worth renting a car to go see is just OUTSIDE of this circle. Then they charge you 45 cents a mile to get to any of it. I don’t think they get it, that the reason people rent Zipcars, is to get out of town and escape.

    The only reason I would use Zipcar anymore, is if I was moving apartments. And that happens about every three years. So…

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    • Schrauf March 31, 2012 at 7:12 pm

      Although 45 cents per mile might be too much, they have to charge something, or else someone could pay $80 for a Zipcar for a day, and easily put 1000 miles on it if they tried hard. That would be $100 – $300 worth of gas for an $80 rental.

      Oh, and car2go does the same thing, except the 45 cents per mile starts after 150 miles per rental.

      Car use is expensive, and it well should be.

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    • jim April 1, 2012 at 12:49 pm

      If you want to go to Astoria, Seattle,… you would probably just want to go ahead and rent a car for a few days. Many of them have some very good deals with unlimited mileage. The purpose of the goto car is not so you can go for a vacation, it is to get around Portland. I would be very happy if I came out from my thing downtown and wanted to get somewhere, and could just drive across the river or into a residential area and just leave the car where ever. Much better than zipcar.
      As far as these only getting 35 mpg, thats ok, you aren’t racking up a lot of miles on these so it doesn’t really matter much at all.
      The size is really nice for parking. I think tourists will like having these in Portland.
      I hope that the city is getting a fair price for parking these in metered spots all day. Fair is fair. Goto should get a break but not too big of one.

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      • craig harlow April 4, 2012 at 10:56 am

        Maybe, but on several occasions when I was going out of town for a few days, I modeled the pricing comparison between using Zipcar and the cheapest rental from Enterprise, and Zipcar has come out at least 20% cheaper each time.

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        • wsbob April 4, 2012 at 11:11 am

          craig…reading Stripes’ comment above just a bit, I wondered about how longer term rental car rates compared to the rates of the short term car use rates. Looked a bit at Budget’s rates, but not long enough to figure out much.

          Interesting that you found Enterprise to be more expensive than Zipcar, though with the entry into the marketplace of more competitors, such as car2go and Zipcar, perhaps this may bring pressure to bear on the longer term rental car operations to adjust some of there rates downward to be more competitive.

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      • 9watts April 4, 2012 at 10:57 am

        “I would be very happy if I came out from my thing downtown and wanted to get somewhere, and could just drive across the river or into a residential area and just leave the car where ever. Much better than zipcar.”
        kind of like how many of us use a bicycle already, eh?

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  • Craig Harlow April 1, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    Saw one of these parked on Alberta yesterday, hainling from Vancouver… http://www.modo.coop/ Jonathan, perhaps another story is merited?

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    • Craig Harlow April 1, 2012 at 12:02 pm

      Uh, I guess that’s the other Vancouver πŸ™‚

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  • Craig Harlow April 1, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    And there are these guys too (like Getaround)…


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  • kenny April 2, 2012 at 8:27 am

    Without an electric model of these cars or diesel, they are pointless. I recall seeing electric and diesel models all over W. Europe when my wife and I were on out honeymoon. Glad to hear there will be electric ones in the fleet. About time they were available in the USA. I wish there was more stripped cars that are worth while here. One used to be able to get sporty versions of small cars without power “everything”. Honda Accord with manual windows, steel wheels, manual mirrors and locks. Acura Integras, Honda Civic Si’s, VW GTI, Golf, etc. Now we are stuck with paying more, even if we do not wish to have all that stuff that ends up failing over time and needing repairs. Why can’t the new Fiats be available in a more spartan, fun, simple model? Silly to have so much “stuff” in little cars.

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    • 9watts April 2, 2012 at 8:29 am

      bikes are now the simple model…

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  • Daniel R. Miller April 3, 2012 at 1:22 am

    I have to agree that “Smart Cars” are kind of a joke in terms of fuel efficiency. I have a ’93 Subaru Justy that gets better mileage. The Smart *looks* like it should get 80 miles per gallon, or be pedal powered. Seriously, if you want something small but “powered”, you’d be a lot better off with an electric-assist recumbent bike or trike with a fairing on the front, and you could haul more in a cargo trailer than you could fit in the back of a Smart Car.

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  • kenny April 3, 2012 at 10:54 am

    There is no reason they could not produce a Smart with manual windows, locks, no AC, etc. They are so small it is just plain silly to have something like PW and locks. I am sure there is folks willing to save 3 grand on a base model. It is a niche anyway. Someone who buys a car for two people to hop around town in is not exactly BMW flag ship in thinking. The old Justys and Sprints were actually a blast to drive. Ever drive a Turbo Sprint? I just sold mine in Oct, after 20 yrs of faithful service. I have not driven a modern car nearly as fun. No one could keep up with it and it got 50 MPG. The cars now all kind of drive the same, sporty or not. They are heavy, do not fling freely, gas mileage is so so, etc. A Mini in base form (more related to the orig car in simplicity/fun factor) would likely find buyers. Same with Fiat 500. Can you imagine how fun a lighter weight model without all the garbage inside would be to drive? The only thing turning me off the latest Fiat is price point and too much stuff to break/expensive to fix.
    They could have the safety features like air bags but still provide solid comfy seating and no frills. Kind of like my 92 GTI. It is nice to not want anything new I guess though. πŸ˜‰

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  • dwainedibbly April 4, 2012 at 5:06 am

    Mrs Dibbly & I had a 1986 Chevy Sprint Plus (the long wheelbase version) and got over 50mpg highway, high-30s in town. WE BOUGHT IT NEW IN 1985. The thing is, you can’t compare a car of that era with a car of today. Crash standards have added hundreds of pounds of weight to cars (the Sprint weighed less than 1900 pounds) and (I think) clean air standards are higher. EPA changed their testing method a few years ago as well. It’s apples and oranges. Just keep in mind that in exchange for an disappointing mpg rating today, you’re getting a much safer & cleaner vehicle.

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  • kenny April 4, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    If you are a savvy about negotiating the best rate, a entry level econo car like a Hyundai or Yaris is about $19 a day at Enterprize plus $6 for daily insurance. Under $30 a day, unlimited mileage. We rented a Kia in San Diego for $26 a day 2 years ago.

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    • craig harlow April 4, 2012 at 3:54 pm

      Just remember to add in the fuel cost when you rent. Zipcar: no fuel cost.

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  • roz April 4, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    Does anyone know if they have promotions right now to not pay the sign up fee of $35? Thanks

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    • Craig Harlow April 5, 2012 at 1:16 am

      Go to http://portland.car2go.com/, and click the FREE EVENT for instructions on waiving the fee AND getting your first 30 minutes of use free.

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  • DeBuG April 20, 2012 at 5:06 pm

    Don’t waste your time registering with them unless you have a stellar driving record. I was sent the following denial email:

    Unfortunately, the check of your driving record (MVR) returned results that make you ineligible for a membership with car2go and We are unable to activate your membership at this time. There are a number of things that can cause the check to be unsuccessful. They include:

    1. A driver’s license is currently suspended, revoked, expired or suspended.
    2. Convictions for reckless driving within the past 36 months.
    3. Convictions for driving under the influence, driving while intoxicated or driving while impaired within the past 60 months.
    4. Three or more moving violations within the past 24 months.
    5. Failure to report an accident or leaving the scene of an accident within the past 36 months.
    6. Conviction for possession of a stolen vehicle, or the unauthorized use of a vehicle, or the use of a vehicle in the commission of a crime in the past 60 months.

    If you would like us to check further into your specific situation, we will need you to provide our office with a hard copy from the DMV in order to perform a manual check of your driving record. This can be mailed, e-mailed, or faxed to our office at 512.480.0854 and we will forward it for the recheck.

    Please contact us if you have any questions.

    With kind regards,
    Your car2go Team

    …which I knew none of those reasons applied to me, so had to order a copy of my driving record, and send it in to them for review and got this “detailed” explanation:

    The following information is what was provided by our insurance company.

    2 speeding tickets within the past 3 years. One for 20 mph over the limit and one for 30 mph over.
    Those are both “2 point” violations in the scoring criteria which gives him a total of 4 points which makes him ineligible for membership.

    Yes, I’ve been caught speeding on I-5 oh my, but it would make sense if their cars could even do the speed limit on the highway, let alone go 20-30 mph over!

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    • L April 21, 2012 at 8:10 am

      You were going 30 mph over the speed limit on I-5? 95 mph? I wouldn’t rent a car to you either!

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