Car2Go comes to Columbus

Abernathy Miller, Columbus Alive

Let's be honest, parking downtown sucks. In fact, you can't officially call yourself a Columbus resident until you've had your car towed at least once (I was initiated last week on 4th Street...thank you City of Columbus). Finding a prime parking space in the capital city during peak hours is almost as unlikely as winning the showcase showdown on The Price is Right.

Enter Car2Go. The international car-sharing service just launched in Columbus, and though it won't solve the great Columbus parking struggle, it might save you some grief (and money).

"[Car2Go] becomes part of the lexicon in the cities where it's available," Car2Go location manager Nick Hill said as we zipped in and out of traffic last Friday afternoon. "People start using Car2Go in lieu of having a second car. It is way less expensive than maintaining, insuring and fueling a personal vehicle."

What makes Car2Go unique from most car rental services is the fleet of cars (SmartCars, to be specific... More on that later) are free-floating throughout the city. You can locate a car either through a smartphone app, the car finder on their website, the customer service line, or if you see one on the street, just hop in. Once you're done with the car, you drop it off almost anywhere within the service area. You don't have to return it to the main office, or even put it back where you found it... you just swipe your membership card, get out and you're done.

Honestly, I was totally skeptical of driving in a SmartCar. I thought for sure during Friday rush hour I'd feel like a mouse in a stampede of elephants. I was totally wrong. Driving a SmartCar felt exactly the same as driving any other midsized car I've owned, except parallel parking was a cinch and I didn't have to worry about it not starting (a recurring theme in my car ownership history). And despite it's size, I felt really safe.

Another perk of using Car2Go is the parking meter policy. If you're using a Car2Go vehicle and parked at a meter that is more than 30 minutes (and not in high usage rush hour lanes) you don't have to pay for parking. No, seriously, you don't have to feed the meter. Car2Go pays the city in advance for the use of metered parking spots, so as long as you are within those guidelines, you can post up as long as you want. It's like, a little victory in the ever-shifting battle between motorist and meter-maid.

Rates start at 38 cents per minute (and that is only the minutes the car is in use, not parked.) And discounted rates are available for hourly and daily use. Gas and insurance are included, and every car comes equipped with a GPS.

The only slight down-side, is Car2Go is membership based. To become a member you have to register online via their website and wait 3-5 business days for your membership card to arrive in the mail. On the up side, you can register for free by using the promo code "Cbus" for a limited time. The membership card allows you to "open" up car2go vehicles on the street.

So next time you're circling the block to find parking for the twentieth time, remember, there is another option.