It seemed a few years ago that car-sharing services like Zipcar or Car2Go might catch on. But it turns out people don’t really like driving cars that strangers have used before them. Plus, it’s expensive for car-sharing companies to ensure that cars are kept clean and accessible. In cold, suburban areas especially – in other words, in much of Canada, much of the time – people also don’t like having to walk to get to or from the nearest car-sharing car.
The Winter Car is a compromise between car ownership and car-sharing, aimed at solving these challenges. It’s sort of like winter tires, except it’s not tires, it’s a car. The idea is simple: you rent a car for the entire winter. Then, in summer, the car becomes a car-sharing or car-rental car, and you instead get around by walking, biking, taking transit, or using a car-sharing or car-rental car.
The winter car benefits its customers by giving them a car to avoid winter weather. The company renting out the winter car benefits by having cars available for customers in summer, when good weather makes it easier for customers to get to and from the rental area, and when there are more tourists and visitors in town to rent the cars to. And society benefits from having fewer people driving and parking their own cars in the summer, thereby reducing traffic jams and freeing up more road space or parking lot space for other summertime activities.
As with car-sharing generally, the winter car can also benefit drivers and society by allowing people to more often drive small cars than they otherwise would. While car buyers almost always opt for a large car, so that they can drive it comfortably on the highway or fill it comfortably with family or friends or mountain bikes or whatever, car renters can sometimes pick a smaller car, if they know they are only going to be using it for city driving. In some cases, a small winter car might be especially useful, as it would be easier to fit inside home garages so that its drivers would not have to clean the snow and ice off of their cars every morning, and it would fit in small parking spots so that its drivers can park near their destinations and so avoid having to walk further outside in winter conditions.
Of course, long-term car rentals do already exist. You can rent a car for several months from a company like Enterprise, for example. But I don’t know anybody who has ever done this, and I’ve never seen a company like Enterprise market its services in this way. I wonder if, one day, renting a car for the winter in a country like Canada will become something that becomes common.