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Rental cars are often a necessary travel expense, but they aren’t always as easy to maximize as flights and hotels. Below, TPG Senior Points & Miles Editor examines one of the newer companies, Car2G0, to help you make the most of your rentals.
Update: Car2G0 no longer offers free minutes for refueling its cars. We’ve updated the text below to reflect this change.
When you think of car rental companies, the big names with airport locations probably come to mind, not the quirky, car-sharing option of Car2Go. Although Car2Go is designed more for urbanites who don’t have a car (or couples who use it instead of a second car), it can be quite useful for travelers as well, and it even made my list of 5 Cool Car Rentals.
In today’s post, I’ll continue my series of Points, Miles, & Loyalty Guides to rental car companies by showing you how to maximize Car2Go for your travel needs.
Car2Go is a shared-car service that began in Germany in 2008 and is owned by the German car manufacturer Daimler, which also owns the Smart car brand as well as Mercedes-Benz. It currently operates fleets of two-seat Smart cars in 29 European and North American cities. Members of Car2Go in North America receive access to thousands of cars distributed around 13 metropolitan areas in the United States and Canada. Car2Go’s service areas currently include:
- Washington, D.C./Arlington, VA
- Austin, TX
- New York City (the coverage area includes Brooklyn and Queens)
- Calgary, Canada
- Columbus, OH
- Denver, CO
- Minneapolis-St.Paul, MN
- Montreal, Canada
- Portland, OR
- San Diego, CA
- Seattle, WA
- Toronto, Canada
- Vancouver, Canada
How It Works
In each metro area where it operates, Car2Go pre-positions cars, which customers can locate using the map in their mobile app. Typically, customers can expect to find an available car within a few blocks of any location within a designated service area. Its mobile app also allows customers to reserve vehicles and to unlock them once they arrive.
In most cases, customers use these cars for short urban trips, avoiding the hourly and daily fees. In fact, you can think of using Car2Go kind of like using Uber or Lyft but without the surge pricing, and without having to pay the cost of a driver and a car large enough to accommodate more than two people.
To rent from Car2Go, you must become a member by paying a one-time $35 sign-up fee. As part of your application, you’ll agree to have your driving records searched and to use a major credit card as a deposit. After that, you can reserve a car in any city for $0.41 per minute, $14.99 per hour or $84.99 per day.
In addition, customers pay an additional “Driver Protection Fee” of $1 per trip in order to cover their insurance with its $250 deductible. However, those who make 91 or more trips in a calendar year have a $0 deductible, and the $1 fee per trip is also waived.
Finally, Car2Go’s prices include gas and parking charges. This is because the company has agreements in place with municipalities that allow you to park in many metered spots and other parking locations within Car2Go’s designated service area, although the rules vary by city.
Earning and Redeeming
Charges from Car2Go aren’t labeled as rental car spending, so you won’t earn bonuses from credit cards that offer 2x points for rental car purchases. Charges from Car2Go are classified as “Other Travel/Transportation Service,” so you should earn the 2x Ultimate Rewards points offered for travel purchases when using your Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. Car2Go charges should also be eligible to earn 3x ThankYou points for travel with the Citi ThankYou Premier Card.
If you want to use your travel rewards to rent Car2Go, you can redeem miles from your Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard or Discover it Miles card, since Car2Go’s charges are classified under travel.
Maximizing Car2Go Rentals
1. Look for promotional minutes — Car2Go frequently offers promotional minutes when you refer a friend and in other special circumstances. For example, Car2Go recently offered members 60 promotional minutes for digging out its cars in Washington, D.C., after the January 2016 snowstorm, and it once offered free minutes in partnership with Airbnb. To find out about the latest opportunities to earn promotional minutes, sign up for the company’s emails and enable notifications from the mobile app.
2. Rent to and from the airport — Car2Go currently has cars at the airport in a handful of its service areas, including the recent addition of Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport (MSP). There is an additional airport fee between $6.50 and $12.50 when picking up from an airport, but the prices will typically work out to be less than Uber or Lyft and far less than a taxi.
3. Reserve your car in advance — If you’re planning a trip around rush hour or when a concert or sporting event ends, try reserving your car in advance. You can place a reservation for a specific car 30 minutes ahead of time so that no one else can rent it. However, you can’t renew that reservation if you don’t get there in time, as Car2Go only allows you to reserve the same car once in a two-hour period if you don’t actually drive it.
4. Utilize Car2Go for special events — Car2Go has partnerships with venues outside of its normal “home areas.” For example, Car2Go members can drive their cars to Denver’s famous Red Rocks concert amphitheater, which is about 20 miles west of downtown, well outside the service area. There, you’ll receive free parking that’s far more convenient than most concertgoers get, and the charges end when you park the car. Other venues and events with this service include the Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium in Austin, the University of Texas campus, the Austin City Limits Music Festival and Comic-Con at the San Diego Convention Center.
5. Use Radar — One of the cool features of the Car2Go app is its Radar feature, which shows you where to find nearby available cars. When there are no nearby cars, you can set up a search with a start time and a desired radius, and it will alert you when a car is available within one hour of the start time.
6. Check parking rules online — Each city where Car2Go service is available has its own parking rules and regulations that you must follow. For example, in Austin and Denver you can park for free at most meters, but in Brooklyn and Vancouver you have to pay for any meter that you park at. In areas without free meters for Car2Go drivers, you can find designated Car2Go spots through the app.
7. Know the insider tricks — The company’s Smart cars look small, but they will actually fit two checked bags in the trunk, so they’re decent for traveling and shopping. You can even lower the tailgate to load it up, just like an SUV or a pickup truck. And in Portland, half the fleet has bike racks, just in case you get caught out in the rain and decide to grab a ride. Smart cars are also compatible with infant and child car seats, as the passenger airbag will be deactivated when a child seat is detected. Finally, Car2Go cars remember the last radio station you listened to, and the next car that you rent will automatically be tuned to that station.
8. Contact members services if you have a problem — Support is available by phone and email 24/7, and refunds are frequently offered if there are issues.
What are your favorite tips for using Car2Go?
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