Still actively discouraged from taking the bus, I had the opportunity to try out Gig car share recently. While the overall experience won’t surprise any Car2Go/ReachNow/ShareNow user since they ditched the smart cars, there are a few changes that might give the venture a chance where others failed.

The ride

Finding a car on the app has a similar interface to the old apps. You can reserve it up to a half hour before your trip starts. I had several cars to choose from within easy walking distance in the Volunteer Park area. It was a much less frustrating experience that my past troubles in the Columbia City Station area, but that could be a function of geography and the pandemic.

The experience is entirely keyless. Everything is done with the app, but you can ask for a keycard if you don’t have a smartphone.

All 250 cars are Toyota Prius. This is Seattle, so you’ve all ridden in a Prius before.


The base rate is $1 plus 40 cents per minute, with hourly, 8-hour, and daily caps of $15, $55, and $85 respectively. $1 plus $1 for every 2 or 3 additional minutes/miles seems to be sweet spot for all of these “sharing”[1] services (bikeshare, carshare, rideshare). You probably won’t save very much money picking any one of these over the other, so pick what suits you.

So what’s different?

The cars all have bike racks, which adds some utility if you’re taking it out for the day.

There’s a gimmick called the “golden gig” that gives you 10% off on short trips. Offering a small discount is probably way cheaper than sending someone out to reposition a car.

But the big difference is the service area. As you can see, it is fairly narrowly focused on denser areas where cars are not likely to be stranded out in the sprawl.

Gig is also not afraid to create “islands” in Ballard, Beacon Hill, and at the Seatac WallyPark (not shown) where it thinks it can keep the cars moving, partly because they all have excellent bus and train service and some density.

While we’re not privy to the balance sheets of other companies in or adjacent to this space, a reasonable theory is that the staff costs associated with repositioning annihilate both profits and the environmental benefits of these services. If Gig remains narrowly focused and resists political pressure to expand to unwalkable parts of the city, it could bea viable business.

Or perhaps convenience, venture-capital subsidized rates, and a shaky labor model will make Lyft and Uber too hard for many customers to resist.

[1] Not really sharing

15 Replies to “Test drive: GIG carshare”

  1. Good car choice for a reason Toyota should advertise more. Not only is it good on gas, but except for deliberate malcious intent, it cannot be destroyed by its own driver. Prefer my pre-2016 model for fewer vision “blind spots.” But can be worked with. What does GIG cost?

    Mark Dublin

      1. Thanks, bard. What I get for blogging-in-a-hurry. When COVIDIA gets her grubby, evil little paws off my IT/ST/Link ride to Seattle, these rates will save me enough gas and depreciation on my own Prius to be worth a GIG or two per trip.

        Sight-lines probably just a matter of learning to adjust the mirrors. And in some way, those racks on top are sort of a defiant salute from the car world to …..BIKES! Could even persuade me to either get one, or rent one soon as I get off Link.

        Mark Dublin

  2. Carshare seems safe, unless the person who had the car before you has the virus. I would air the car out, and sanitize high-touch surfaces before driving it. And definitely wear a mask inside the car.

  3. How does insurance coverage work with these carshare programs? Is it just the minimum amount of coverage required by law? Any other coverage options?

    1. Seems like you get basic liability insurance, and they cap your deductible towards the Gig’s damage as long as your accident isn’t reckless and you comply with their member agreement. I think you’re still liable for your medical bills and those of your passengers if you cause the accident. Likewise, I think you’re responsible if the vehicle is stolen, but my credit cards’s CDW would cover me in that case.

      If you have car insurance, they’ll charge your car insurance beyond your deductible. Since I just have a CDW from my credit card, I believe my credit card provider would pay my deductible since Gig is a corporation as opposed to renting a car from private owner through Turo or GetAround.

      From Gig:
      If you are in compliance with this [Member] Agreement, your responsibility for damages to the Vehicle shall be limited to $750 (the “Damage Fee”), or if you are a AAA Member, the Damage Fee shall be limited to $250. You will be responsible for any damages up to the full amount of the Damage Fee including for actual, estimated or projected expenses, whether or not an actual claim is made or processed. In the event you have insurance or another source of compensation that covers the damage to the Vehicle, your responsibility for damages to the Vehicle will exceed the Damage Fee up to the limit of any available insurance or other source of compensation, however, in no event will we ask you to pay more than the amount of the Damage Fee toward any deductible. If you breach this Agreement, including but not limited to failing to use a Vehicle and its equipment in accordance with all applicable laws, including traffic laws, this Agreement and the Vehicle owner’s manual, this limitation on your responsibility for damages to the Vehicle will not apply and you will be responsible for all damages to the extent permitted by law.

  4. Do these cars still have their exclusive parking spots throughout Seattle or are they actually paying their way for a change?

    1. They were paying their way before. I think they paid the city about $1500 per vehicle per year.

      1. A little over 4 dollars a day is not paying their way. At 50 cents an hour, 24/7 rates would be above 4,000 dollars a year. That’s paying their way. It is more than the public would pay for 24/7/365.25 parking (as weekends/Sundays are often free, although 50 cents an hour is the cheapest hourly rate in Seattle today), but I have no qualms about charging a business a higher fare.

        So no, they weren’t paying their way before, and likely aren’t now.

      2. Metered parking in Seattle are not paid 24/7. Even Monday-Saturday, it’s only enforced 12 hours/day, which works out to be about $8,640 per space, assuming it’s occupied the entire 12 hours each day, with 5 days/year set aside for free holidays, and an average parking rate of $2/hr.

        At first glance, $1,500 seems much less than $8,640, but the average carshare car is not parked in a metered space 24/7. I don’t know what the percentage actually is, but if the average car is parked in a metered spot 1/6th of the time, it works out about right.

        There are other considerations. Whenever you purchase anything in bulk, there is usually some sort of discount on the unit price, to account for avoided overhead. For example, the normal process where people pay for metered parking involves credit cards. Credit card companies typically charge a minimum fee per transaction, no matter how small, which means when you pay $3 to park your car, as much as $0.50 of that is likely going to the credit card company. When the carsharing company writes the city one big check to pay for everything at once, such processing fees are avoided, and it is not unreasonable for the city to pass along the savings.

      3. I am aware metered parking isn’t 24/7. I mentioned that. Even if a rideshare vehicle isn’t in a parking spot 24/7, the parking spot reservation is. That’s the issue, exclusive use of property.

        I don’t believe public right of way should be given away at a bulk rate. Quite the opposite. I believe its reservation should come at a premium, especially for private for profit companies. I’m not just talking about carshares at this point. I believe such a premium should apply to cafes and restaurants as well.

        Pass the savings on to the public, not on to the business. I feel like you’re looking at this entire process backwards.

    2. They don’t have any exclusive parking spaces. Zipcar does have exclusive street parking spaces throughout the city those are signed indicating the space is for Zipcar car share vehicles only. Since Gig is free floating car share it does not get exclsiuve parking spots.

  5. I used Gig when it launched about a month ago and had a great experience. Everything worked well and the cars are brand new. I hope they find success in Seattle.

  6. Lower density urban neighborhoods on a classic street grid are not “sprawl.”

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