If you're buying into a car sharing network, it's probably because you want to save money. Not having a car sitting around for your personal use also helps the environment, too -- if you can share with someone else, all that expensive manufacturing and plastic processing isn't going to waste. This is the idea behind GreenShareCar.
I trialed the GreenShareCar service by invitation of the company. As well as waiving the application fee, my first ride -- a 2-hour trip in a Prius in Melbourne -- was comped by GreenShareCar. The subsequent trip, an hour-long rental of a Yaris, came out of my own pocket.
GreenShareCar is a 24/7 short-term car sharing service in the same vein as Hertz 24/7. There are a variety of plans that you can sign up to as an individual, ranging from the $0-per-month casual plan to a $200-per-month prepaid plan that gets you 25 per cent off your hourly booking fee. On all plans, there's a $39 application fee.
Using the casual, $0-minimum-monthly plan as a starting point, you'll pay a base rate of $15.99 an hour to hire a fuel-efficient, eco-friendly four-door Toyota Yaris hatchback. Some cars -- larger vehicles like the Hyundai i30 Trophy, and hybrids like the Toyota Prius C (in Melbourne only) attract a $1 premium over that base rate. Getting a full-size Prius or HiAce van is $2 extra.
So, as a basic starting point, you'll be paying $16 or $17 or $18 an hour for each hire. If you commit to a monthly minimum payment -- $50, $100 or $200 -- your rates fall by 13, 19 or 25 per cent respectively (that's $13.91, $12.95 or $11.99 per hour for an economy car).
You can also hire a car for an entire day at $99.99, $89.99, $84.99, or $79.99. Between the hours of midnight and 6AM, hourly rates fall to $8.99/$7.99/$6.99/$6.99. So, using the discounted rates and ignoring any special events or promotional pricing -- attractive daily offers sometimes pop up -- you'll get a full 2 days of prepaid use on the most expensive ($200) prepaid plan per month with some change left over, or 16hr 40min of hourly driving.
Every GreenShareCar includes fuel and insurance, with 100km of included travel covered per trip per day. If you want to travel further than that allotted limit, you'll be up for an additional $0.39 for every kilometre you drive. There's no difference between the included travel, insurance or fuel coverage with any of the different plans, which makes the $0 casual plane easily the most attractive for infrequent drivers, and makes stepping up to a higher-value tier a simple choice if you have a particular minimum commitment per month.
GreenShareCar is upfront and open about the fact that if you're driving and you have a 'bad luck' accident like being hit-and-run in a carpark or having a rock crack your hired car's windscreen, you're responsible. Excess for the cars starts at $1500, but you can reduce it by 80 per cent if you pay $1.99 per hour (capped at $16.50 per day).
Once you sign up for GreenShareCar, you're sent an introduction packet and a RFID-chip smartcard -- this is your point of access into any GreenShareCar vehicle that you might book. The smartcard is the same size as any PayWave or PayPass-enabled credit card, too -- it's slightly more wallet- and keychain-friendly than the HID key you're sent with Hertz.
Booking a GreenShareCar vehicle is a pretty simple process. Everything is controlled through GreenShareCar's Reservation Manager website, accessible with your GSC membership number and the password you submit during your application process. There's no Android or iPhone app, but the GreenShareCar has a mobile version that works well on a large-screen phone like the Samsung Galaxy S5 or HTC One M8.
To make a booking, you sign into the GreenShareCar site, upon which you're presented with a list of cars around your location -- by default, this is your home address, but you can set custom locations and assign them unique names. Around the Sydney CBD, there aren't a huge number of cars; at the moment, GreenShareCar is slightly biased towards Melbourne users. The closest car to the Gizmodo office in Circular Quay (a Yaris) is a 15 minute walk away; when I test-drove a Prius C in the Melbourne CBD, it was only a 5 minute journey.
After you've made the booking on your website and received the confirmation email, you're good to go. This means that while you can't book a GreenShareCar vehicle by swiping your card and entering straight away, you can stand next to the car and make a booking on the fly. It's one minor step away from being the most convenient car sharing service possible, and it's on par with competitors like GoGet and Hertz 24/7.
The 15000km-old Prius C that I hired for a couple of hours -- for a trip from Melbourne CBD down to St Kilda, Brighton and back via Albert Park, a total of 34km -- was pretty clean inside and outside; I gave it a 4 out of 5 when I completed the post-reservation survey emailed to me automatically by GreenShareCar. It started out with just under half a tank of fuel -- individual drivers are responsible for refueling cars when they run low on petrol (a fuel card is stored in every vehicle), but this car didn't need a top up.
The Yaris that I took from Sydney CBD to St Leonards and back had a similar amount of fuel, and had an equally clean interior and exterior -- it had under 5000km on the clock. It's telling that neither car I test-drove had any kind of interior damage or outside scuffs and scrapes; the existing GreenShareCar clientele clearly takes care of the cars. The vehicles themselves are also regularly washed and vacuumed -- it's one of the selling points of the service. One niggle: neither car had any water left in the wiper reservoir.
Everything in the car to do with the booking is controlled through a windscreen-mounted interface that communicates over the air with GreenShareCar's reservation manager. When you're in the car and driving, you can extend your reservation, or cancel it early -- although you're charged by the hour, so there's no point dropping out 15 minutes early. The small, white control unit lights up with an orange glow when you use it; for the most part you'll only have to use the leftmost two buttons to alter your overall booking.
Using GreenShareCar is easy enough, the rates are reasonable -- especially with no annual fee -- and the cars are both easy to understand and easy to drive. The fees are largely competitive with Hertz 24/7, although you pay a slight hourly premium and get less included kilometres. If you sign up, and if there's a car near you, you won't be disappointed. I can't give enough credit to the simple pricing structure and no-nonsense approach that GreenShareCar has.
We'll have a full head-to-head comparison between Hertz 24/7, GoGet and GreenShareCar in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.