Buying into the GoCar rental alternative
Getting going: sign up online, pin number, an electronic card and you’re good to go
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 GoCar.ie. 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.
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.