Here are some practical, on-the-ground thoughts.
Yesterday, we dusted off the Toyota for a trip to White Rock on family business.  It wouldn’t start.  Dead as a doornail.  Called BCAA, who arrived within 15 minutes.
Dead battery. No surprise.  But now comes the surprise.
“How often do you drive it ?”, asks the BCAA tech.
“Not much”, I say, “About 1,000 km a year.”
“OK, your battery died from low usage”, he says, “They self-discharge, and when they get low, this can alter battery chemistry too”.
“We see lots of this in the West End.  There’s so much within walking distance, and so many choices to get around.  Walk, transit, bike — car usage drops and dead batteries are common”.  “We’re seeing more of it all over Vancouver, too”, chimes in the BCAA tech’s co-worker.
“What you can do is this:  drive it 30-45 minutes a week, or put in a trickle-charger, or else dump it and join a car-share program.”  We chat for a few minutes.
Maybe the talk was a slick promo for BCAA’s EVO (I doubt it), but the techs had both clearly researched Car2Go as well.  They knew the ins and outs.
While we chatted, the BCAA techs checked the battery carefully and started the car with their booster; we idled it for 45 minutes, then made it out to White Rock and back without incident.
I think its’ time for us to consider a move away from car ownership and towards something else.  All because of the “West End Syndrome”.  All the transportation choices we use have reduced car dependency to the point that it’s detrimental to the car’s operation. Who knew?
Anyone interested in a Toyota Yaris? Very low mileage.


  1. We haven’t managed to cut the cord yet, though financially of course we should for the little we drive. I hope the government goes through with the insurance discount for light drivers…

  2. Isn’t this why God invested rental cars, car-sharing or car coops ??
    Yes at $75/day might be high but probably cheaper if used only 1-2 per month. Consider a Zip Car or Modo membership. Or car2Go or Evo which has a per minute, per h and a daily rate (tops out at about 4 h or $80/day, incl all gas and insurance)

  3. …… a business opportunity for providers of car charges. our burgeoning service industry. Is there an app for that? In most places you can call a taxi. or you can maintain a full charge in your battery with a trickle charger. or invest in a battery pack for emergences and helping others out. I speculate that the Toyota Yaris can not be had for a low price, considering the low mileage and the utility it provides for the price of a battery jump.

  4. Total cost of ownership of a recent Toyota Yaris that you drive 1000km per year is pretty low, maybe $3000 to $4000 a year.
    1000km driven on Modo would cost you (very approximately) $600 per year, or a bit more depending on how much time you leave them at your destinations.
    1000km on Car2Go would cost approximately $1200 – $1500/year.
    You could switch to car sharing and have $2000 or more in savings per year. You’d need to drive maybe 5000km per year before Modo gets more expensive than owning your own inexpensive car.
    That math is why I didn’t buy a car until I moved out of downtown AND had two kids. It would still have been cheaper to keep going with car sharing, but lugging two car seats around finally did me in.

    1. Hi David: I haven’t done the arithmetic yet, but I fully expect to find numbers like yours. After all, there must be some reason that around 30% of Vancouverites have a membership in one or two of the 4 car-share operations here.
      Our Toyota is old (like me), so our depreciation costs are low. Insurance remains the same, gas is very low, but maintenance costs will likely rise. Especially since low use is now an operability issue.
      Thanks for your thoughts.

  5. Don’t Modo and Zip cars have to be left at designated locations? If you don’t live near one of those then you have to take the wife and kids on the bus to pick up a car, do your trip, drop the car off at a designated spot, and then put everyone back on the bus again to get home. Sounds to me like 8 bus fares and a big waste of time every time I need a car.
    Car2Go and Evo can usually found nearby, but Car2Go has many Smart cars in the fleet that only take one adult passenger. No putting children in front of an airbag! So let’s hope there’s an Evo nearby or we’re back in the game of putting everyone on the bus just to get to the car.
    Nope I’ll stick with re-insuring my old, fully paid for car and buying gas once a month or so.

  6. Living downtown it certainly sounds like car-share is the way to go if you’re paying to keep a vehicle for such low miles. The nice thing about Modo is you can get different types of vehicles depending on your requirements, but the EVO Prius will probably handle most of what you need a car for.

  7. I presume this is because there is a “charge leakage” somewhere.
    The theme here seems to be that the best viable. Solution is to ditch the car and find an alternative.
    However, it must be a common problem for a variety of circumstances for people who can’t ditch the car.
    What about breaking that discharge circuit by disconnecting the negative terminal? Will that preserve the battery charge? Some consequences may include: your radio (people still listen to that?) will lose its presets and car alarm may not worknor may need resetting. On the plus side, less likely to be stolen.

  8. Ahhh yes, the disadvantages of a walkable, bikeable, Modo-able mixed use community are few and far between.

  9. Car collectors, who often leave vehicles parked for extended periods of time, will use a trickle charger.
    Leaving a car unused can indeed be harder on it than driving it. Different things fail than from regular use. Check the tires for cracking, not just tread depth. Same with belts. Wiper blades take a set from sitting in one position, and then chatter when eventually used. Change the oil on a time schedule, not a km schedule as acids collect in the sump.
    Eventually, car share can make sense.
    But the first step is to determine how old the vehicle battery is. If it is 5 years of age or more, replace it. Even if it held a charge after a long drive.
    I used to travel extensively for work. I could leave a vehicle for months, unplugged, without an issue. But a battery was then good for four or five years, not more.

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