I have been quite vocal about my experience with http://www.icarsclub.com because I was looking forward to taking advantage of it in Singapore. People outside of Singapore may not know that owning a car in Singapore is for rich folks or people who don’t mind 1/3 of everything they make going to towards their car. I see in my own condo building, not high end, very expensive cars that look to be rarely driven. I am sure these folks are car poor cause if I had that kind of money I would probably be living in a bigger pad. In Singapore some locals choose to live cheap but own a car – I guess some sort of status symbol of sorts. All that being said though, it is nice to be able to get in a car once in a while, especially when one has a family. Sometimes the public transit thing is just a lot of work if one wants to roam around town on errands or go somewhere slightly further than normal – like the Kranji countryside for example. Taxis are okay in Singapore but if you were to use one all day it would be cheaper to rent a car – even UberX is awesome (prices in Singapore are the same as a taxi right now) but yet using Uber all day would still be more than renting a car.
So the idea that I can share someone else’s car for a day at reasonable rates without the hassle of dealing with a rental car company is appealing. Enter iCarsclub. Find a car near you, rent it online, go drive it and return it. Sounds great but what I discovered is the promise is so much better than the execution. I will add I successfully rented a car yesterday and all in all was a great experience but the issue is dealing with the service and the company – not the driving experience.
The way it works with iCarsclub is to go online to their site and submit the docs you need to get verified to rent cars. No biggie – it says it takes 3 days. Right. It actually took 3 weeks to get approved which I assume is just cause there is either a backlog or no one working on it. The frustrating part is when I used their support to check in on things – there was never any reply. To this day actually not one support email has been answered. Then I took to twitter – no replies. Left a message on their Facebook page – no replies. Again – to this day there has never been any replies to any of my social media messages. None.
Approved and ready to rock I started to find a car. The selection is actually pretty good and I was surprised to find some pretty cool cars but I was looking for cheap and no too far away from me. This is where I found the service to be badly implemented in that it looks like pretty much all cars are always available but what happens is that the owners of the cars are not blocking their own usage. It only shows when someone else has rented the car. For the first car I rented, which means you have to pay all the fees associated with it – will discuss the payment stuff more later, everything appeared to work fine. Yet moments after reserving the car and paying for it the system would sms tell me the owner rejected my request. Of course being the ass that I am I would sms the owner back to ask why – first owner said his car was in use every Sunday and I asked him why he didn’t block it as so. He said he wasn’t aware of needing to do that. So the owners are just accepting or rejecting based on their schedule versus updating the system to say the car is blocked. Lame. What’s lamer is I as the user can’t leave a review on that car since one can only leave reviews when you have rented the car already. This is silly.
So minutes later I found another car, I got the refund from the last attempt which is not a refund but a credit to the rental account. This is not a huge deal but when you get rejected a lot this could be frustrating but it seems there is a way to force a refund but I didn’t try it. The next rental went the same way – the user rejected it mins later. I again sms’d them and the owner said they were using the car for personal use. Again I asked why they didn’t block it and they didn’t reply. It seems the owners are not at all aware of how to use the system properly.
Finally I rented a car and everything was confirmed for Sunday at 2pm. Around Sunday at 12 I sms’d the owner to confirm pickup spot. Owner replied that he had canceled the rental due to car trouble. Did I get a cancellation message – no. Owner said to call iCarsclub but I didn’t have a number. No where in all the emails and sms’s did I see a number. While this was happening someone called me from iCarsclub. A no caller ID call that I almost didn’t pick up – I don’t get why they can’t use caller ID so that one can at least see a number and call back. I answered and they said they were canceling the car and the money would be back in my account and that I would need to find another car.
Since I finally had someone on the line I decide to go all in and ask what the fuck was wrong with them.
Let me summarize some of this:
Why is no one responding to FB or twitter :: They don’t think they need to reply to social media. Plus they are busy opening China.
Why does no one respond to the online help system (powered by Zopim) :: They never got any emails from me. (I sent 4).
Why do the owners constantly cancel versus blocking their cars :: They probably don’t know how or are lazy.
Why can’t we complain in same way about these owners :: They don’t want any bad feedback about owners since they may leave the system.
Isn’t the users renting just as important as the owners when it comes to service :: No comment.
I tried to dig in more but the guy obviously didn’t know much and said he would try to find another car and sms where it was. I still needed to go online and book it.
Which I did and the request was confirmed by the owner. He sms’d me to say where is was, same as what the system was saying, and that it would be unlocked with the keys in the glove box. Now this is where it is weird in that with a country like Singapore this might work but in most countries I would want that car locked until it unlocked for me. How else would you know you are safe or that someone did not tamper with the car resulting in some damage that I might have to pay for. For this transaction it was on a nice street and in broad daylight but who would want to rent a car at night that was unlocked for example? Not me. This is where I am not sure if they don’t have the tech to remote unlock and lock stuff or if this is just how the owner does it. It worked in this situation but I don’t think this is scalable or would work outside of ultra safe countries like Singapore.
I grabbed the car and settled in. One thing I forgot was to get my own cash card for ERP and parking – I don’t remember this being in the tutorial but is pretty important in Singapore since pretty hard to get around without it. Fortunately I could stop into any gas station and buy one. Small Singapore formality that cannot be forgotten. I used the car almost all day and even extended it by 30 mins cause we were late getting home.
The return consisted of parking it back on the street in that same place and putting the keys back where I found them. Of course the car was unlocked since that is how I found it. I did use the system to end the time and stop the insurance but this did not involve remote locking it. Once again I see where this could be problematic – what if someone stole it right after me or took something from it. My time would be marked as over but would it come back on me in any way? The system should do remote lock and unlock or something more secure.
It cost me bout 85 SGD for everything. I don’t know how that compares to a car rental – I need to check but my experience with any car rental is this was less hassle. All of our trips on public transit would obviously be much less but I don’t think we could have covered the same ground by bus and train in the same time period. Taxi’s or uber covering all the same ground would be much more. A combo of transit and uber would be much less and doable but still the hassle factor is much higher.
So this worked for me. I got to use a car for a part of the day. We will most likely do it again and I don’t think there is another option besides iCarsclub but this product could use a lot of help. On the payments since this service suffers from what a lot of services in Singapore suffer from – they only accept PayPal for credit cards via PayPal. No drama since credit cards are the norm here but the process is so cumbersome and web only. Payments in Singapore for online services need some competition from the likes of Strip and others ASAP.
ICarsclub needs to hire some real product folks to make this work.