Buying into the GoCar rental alternative

Getting going: sign up online, pin number, an electronic card and you’re good to go

Thu, Aug 22, 2013, 13:25

It’s rare that any discussion about housing and indeed house prices in this country doesn’t swiftly turn to a comparison between us and our European neighbours. Whether it be in print or on the airwaves, someone will, during the course of the debate, ask why we can’t be more like our German brethren and just rent our houses and apartments.

But what about turning that debate around? Given that we Irish do have an obsession with owning the land we stand on (preferably with a bit of road frontage and back access) perhaps then we should keep buying our houses but rent our cars instead.

It’s not as ridiculous as it sounds. Increasingly, in line with the rest of the global population, we are living in urban areas. That being so, fewer and fewer of us are further than a few minute’s walk from local amenities and shops, so there is at least the potential for many of us to ditch car ownership altogether and just rent what we need when we need it.

Hence the arrival of This vehicular micro-renting service has been operating in Cork for a while now, but just this month received permission from Dublin City Council to park its vehicles on the street for free. That’s a move which now allows GoCar to deposit cars at strategic locations around the city, and which means that theoretically you should never be further than a short stroll from a convenient vehicle.

So, you just sign up online, get a pin number and an electronic card and you’re good to go.

As with any rental service, you search online for the nearest vehicle to you, book it and head over to it. When you get there, you scan your card against a reader mounted on the windscreen which pops the locks open. In the glove box is an electronic keypad into which you input your pin and that releases the keys. Then off you go.

Slight scarcity
We couldn’t resist trying this out, so after a quick bit of online form filling and a 48hr wait for the electronic card to arrive in the post, we were good to start GoCar-ing. And then we came upon the first issue. There’s still a slight scarcity of GoCars on the ground. In fairness, the system is in its start-up phase, but if you’re expecting a handy car on every street corner, well, we’re not quite there yet.

Still, once we arrived on site, there was the car, waiting for us just as advertised. We had booked a GoTripper class car (the second level up) which are usually either a Ford Focus or Hyundai i30. We got a metallic Focus, with some bright green GoCar stickers on it (pictured above right). It was a 1.6 TDCI diesel model, so it was familiar ground, but it’s been long enough since we drove a standard-spec Focus so it was a pleasant reminder as to just what an excellent car it still is. It was in good condition too.

With a conventional rental car, the vehicle you collect has at least been through a cleaner and an inspection before you get it. With a GoCar, you’re kind of relying on the previous user having been clean and neat, although GoCar periodically inspects the cars during the day. Thankfully, whoever had been in the Focus before us had been a neat freak, and the cabin was spotless.

Penalty of €25
There was a full tank of diesel and, even though the 1.6 engine wasn’t going to use much in the hour we had booked it for, GoCar only stipulates that you must leave at least a ¼ of a tank of fuel in the car when you’re finished, and only charges a €25 penalty if you don’t do so.

Other charges above and beyond the normal rental fee include a €50 cleaning charge if you leave the car in a state, €50 unnoted damage charge, €50 wrong location drop-off charge and some reminder charges too.

A little bit of planning and forethought should see you dodging any of those. There is a €1,000 excess payable in the event of an accident, but that can be waived by paying an annual charge of €100. Oh, and there’s a €50 joining fee.

Leaving that aside, our hour-long rental, including a 20km round trip, cost us just €13 – significantly cheaper and more flexible than a taxi would have been, and much more convenient and weather-proof than waiting for a bus. However, on top of the €5.99 per hour rental cost (a full 24 hours can be booked for €50, while a smaller GoCity car is €4,99 per hour) there is a 45c per kilometre charge. It doesn’t sound excessive but if, say, we had done a roughly 100km round trip to, say, Kildare Village Outlet and back (a 130km round trip), we would have paid about €104.

Comparable rental
That’s a figure which compares poorly with a renting a comparable car from Enterprise Rent-A-Car, from 9am to 5pm on the same day. That would have cost us just €48 plus about €10 for fuel, and Enterprise will collect you from your home and bring you to the car. (Interestingly, Enterprise already owns a US-based car-sharing brand, I-Go and could potentially become more of a direct competitor to GoCar.)

So, while GoCar’s set up is useful, it’s still a touch specialist and too expensive if you’re racking up more than short, around-town hops. It’s also too focused, as yet, on city centre locations and one suspects that staging cars at rail and bus hubs would make it more appealing. If you live in a city centre apartment, don’t own a car and use the train for long journeys, a GoCar membership could be just the thing for you. For the rest of us, owning a car is still probably the most sensible solution.

GoCar prices
GoCity Range (Hyundai i10 or Ford Fiesta): €4.99 per hour + 45c/km. (€2.49 per hour between 8pm and 8am.)
Go Tripper Range (Ford Focus or Hyundai i30): €5.99 per hour + 45c/km. (€2.99 per hour between 8pm and 8am.)
GoCar Van Range (Ford Connect): €5.99 per hour +45c/km. (€299 between 8pm and 8am.)
Cancellation: Up to 24hours in advance is free. Within 24hours: 50 per cent of agreed rental fee.
Joining fee: €50
Additional charges:
l Returns not adhering to the refuelling policy, €25 ;
l If car requires specialised cleaning, €50;
l Vehicle returned with unnoted damage, €50;
l Return to wrong location, €50;
l Trip without noting prior damage, you are liable for your excess amount. From €100;
l Unauthorised drivers allowed to operate a GoCar, €500;
l Returned direct debit, €25;
l Reminder fees, €25 .