Ever since moved to Colorado we’ve been a one-car household. Overall this hasn’t been a problem seeing as I’ve also worked at home since we moved too. Because Benjamin was in school I was able to schedule my use of the car when he was in class — I’d drop him off, run my errands, and pick him back up after his last class.
Now that he’s at his internship I have to schedule any errands during the weekend, and sometimes that just isn’t possible. Luckily, eGo CarShare placed a car within walking distance of our house. The idea is that you’re able to rent the car in 15 minute increments. You pay by the quarter-hour and the miles driven — the insurance and gas is included.
I had hoped to report to you how wonderful this experience was. So far it’s been a mixed bag. I’ve only used the car twice. The first time was a decent experience after learning how to use a Prius (oddly, starting the car isn’t intuitive). The second time was a disaster and proves to be getting worse by the day.
The second time I rented the car was April 8. I had a meeting from 1:00 to 3:00 just 2 miles away from my house. I wasn’t comfortable biking there due to the overall inaccessibility of the location by bike due to I-70. Instead I walked down to the Town Center, had lunch, and at 1:00 walked over to pick up the car. I fob’ed in, and noticed that there was about 1/4 of a tank of gas left. I say “about” because it’s a Prius. The gas gauge is a digital read-out and it isn’t entirely clear if there were 12 total bars of which only 3 were lit up (thus 1/4 full), or if there were 10 total bars and three of them were lit up (thus 1/3 full). Sadly this is an item of concern. If, during your use of the car, the unit has 1/4 tank of gas or less, you are suppose to go to a Conoco and use the CarShare fleet Conoco card to fill up with gas. If you fail to do so you pay a $25 fee. As I was unable to ascertain what the level was, I decided to err on the side of caution and plan to fill up with gas before returning it.
At 2:55 I left my meeting and drove to the nearest Conoco — which is 1 mile on the opposite side of where I would have returned the car (ie: I added 2 miles to my overall trip due to needing to fill it up with gas). The pump would not give me a receipt so I had to go inside and get one from the cashier. I ended up returning the car 4 minutes late, which will cost me a fee of $27.50 because I didn’t notify them first. CarShare will credit you $2 for the hassle of filling up the car. However, it apparently takes at least 15 minutes ($1.625) and 2 miles ($0.60) to accomplish that task — or $2.23. Worse, because I didn’t initial my receipt (because I wasn’t aware I was suppose to) I’m not even getting the $2 credit!
And it gets worse. I got an email today saying that the car was “filthy” when the next occupant got in it. Well, it was filthy when I got in it too — but apparently I’m suppose to call and report that immediately and if I don’t I’m assumed to be responsible for it. Tack on an additional $25 plus the cost to clean it.
So we’re looking at a minimum of $52.50 ($27.50 late fee + $25 Improper Return of Vehicle fee) plus whatever they charge me to clean the car in addition to the $18.22 it cost me to rent it in the first place.
I freely admit that many of the issues I brought on myself due to lack of knowledge: I should have called and let them know that the car was dirty, I should have called and gotten confirmation about how the gas level reads in the Prius, I should have extended my reservation by 15 minutes in order to fill it up thus costing me only $1.63 extra instead of $27.50 — all newbie mistakes. Although now that I know, given my last experience I’m not very motivated to continue using this resource.
Update: After communicating via email with Amanda, the CarShare fleet manager, it appears that customer service is alive and well within the organization. After explaining the situation Amanda took my word that the car was filthy when I got to it and is following up with the previous user. Moreover she is forwarding my email to the billing manager and she expects them to waive the late fee due to the gas issue. Even if they opt not to waive the late fee, the customer service level alone is enough for me to give them one more shot. As I told Amanda, I really want to like this service to supplement our 1-car household. I just need to stop making newbie mistakes and keep the Member Support phone number on speed-dial.