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Car share companies are permanently shutting down in Toronto or scaling back

As the warm weather continues and lockdown restrictions ease, the chance to get out of the city is tempting but those looking for car share services have met with disappointment recently.

Car sharing companies in the city have either reduced car fleets, shut down temporarily or announced closures.

Maven, a U.S. based car share company announced they would be closing up shop in Canada.

“Maven is winding down in Canada,” the company announced on their website. “We are not accepting new members. For current members in a reservation, you will receive email instructions on when and how to return.”

Car share companies Zipcar and Enterprise CarShare reduced their service in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown and customers are finding full service has yet to return.

Zipcar said the company saw a sharp decline in demand for service at the start of the pandemic lockdown in mid-March but is now seeing a huge increase in requests.

“In Toronto, demand from existing Zipcar members is up nearly 80% since the beginning of April 2020,” Zipcar told blogTO in an email response.

Zipcar member Rob, who didn’t want his last name used for this story, said he has been a member for more than 10 years. He suspended his membership in March when the lockdown started but restarted it in July.

Before the lockdown, there were as many as 15 cars available from five or six locations near Rob in downtown Toronto but recently he struggled to find a car. A map of previous locations showed at least three locations had closed, he said.

“…because of the lack of cars I was forced to get a more expensive vehicle (price is determined by the size and model of car) as all the cheaper cars were booked,” Rob said. “There used to be a bunch of cars in the $11 - $15 range and now I could only find one car for $11.50 and it always seemed to be booked.”

He ended up paying $17 an hour and walking several blocks to pick up the car.

“I might as well walk another five minutes to an old school car rental place and get one for a full day,” he added.

Zipcar apologised to members for inconveniences they may have experienced such as lost reservations and double bookings.

“Over the past few weeks, we have seen a drastic increase in the number of reservations across North American cities, both from current and new members,” Zipcar told blogTO.

“The spike in bookings increased at a rate that was faster than we could respond to. We acknowledge that in the midst of operating during these difficult circumstances, we have let certain members down, and we apologize for that.”

As the demand for cars increases, Zipcar is trying to keep up.

“In the greater Toronto area, we have added over 130 cars back into our fleet since June,” the company said.

Another car sharing company — Communautoincreased its fleet recently but customers still can’t find cars at times.

Meanwhile, Enterprise CarShare, told blogTO it had temporarily suspended operations in March but began offering “sanitized, contact-free rentals in Toronto and Mississauga in late June.”

Rob said he didn’t use Zipcar during the height of the COVID lockdown but he wasn’t worried about safety.

“I did not use them through the bad COVID months and with Zipcar you do not interact with any people it all online so it is a COVID friendly service so it is a very safe service. When I book a car I take wipes to clean the interior surfaces,” he said.

Like most businesses, the car sharing industry is taking precautions during COVID.

Enterprise lists precautions such as enhanced cleaning, and asking customers to self-certify that they are not under quarantine for COVID-19.

Zipcar suggests contact-free access to cars and high cleaning standards make them a good choice during COVID-19. They will “immediately remove a car from service” if they learn it’s been exposed to the virus.

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