CarBuyer jumps in on a car sharing experience with the Shariot app in Singapore
A new name has recently entered the car sharing scene in Singapore. Shariot is an app-based system that claims to feature a pool of more than 250 cars parked all around Singapore, and with usage rates that start from as low as S$1 per hour.
The brand itself is just two months old, so it’s a very new entrant into a segment populated by some very established players.
How effective is car sharing these days? The Covid-19 pandemic is rightly making many people apprehensive about the idea of a vehicle previously driven by someone else, and while practically every app promises your experience to be fuss-free, we decided to check out Shariot ourselves to see how effective it really is.
The premise of car-sharing is that you register through an online portal or app, and once you’ve been verified as a legal driver you can book and pick up a car at any of the designated spots around Singapore, and use it for as long as you’ve rented it for. Once you’re done, you need to return the car to its designated spot.
There are ‘A to B’, and ‘A to A’ sharing portals, and Shariot is an ‘A to A’ portal where you need to return the car to exactly where you got it from. It can present some logistical issues if you don’t plan ahead, but more on that later.
We breezed through the initial sign up, which was quite simple but you do need to take pictures of your driver’s license and identity card, then upload them through the app along with your credit card information. There’s a S$100 refundable deposit that is immediately billed to the card, and a waiting period of a day or two as the backend staff verify your information.
Once you get an email announcing that your account has been verified, you’re good to go.
A car sharing app has a lot of moving parts that can go wrong so you do have to appreciate that there’s a lot of work that you don’t see. Log in through the phone app with GPS enabled and it will show you the nearest cars that are available to use in the vicinity. We found one within a 300-metre walk in a HDB multi-story carpark, and proceeded to book it for a time starting an hour later.
What happens is that the car is now reserved and no one else can rent the car from under your nose.
The app tells you which carpark the car is in and at what carpark lot number, but as we know, some HDB parking spaces are like mazes and if you’re in a hurry to rent a car in an unfamiliar place, best to give yourself a 30-minute headstart to find the vehicle, go through the pre-drive checks, and even refuel it.
There are no car keys, and the car unlocks through the use of the phone app. Very snazzy and high tech, but this also means that you must not ever let your smartphone run out of battery while using a Shariot vehicle or you could risk being stranded.
You now need to photograph the car from both sides, front and rear, and send the images through the app to verify that there is no damage prior to you taking over. Cool idea in theory, but what if the car is parked up against a wall or in a very poorly lit car park that’s too dark to see clearly?
Then you get in and verify that there is at least ¼ tank of fuel still in the car. But what if there isn’t and the previous user ran the car dry? You lodge a complaint through the app, and you will get a $15 credit into your account later on for the trouble. Either way you’ll still need to drive the car out for an immediate refuel because no one’s going to leave you with a full tank of fuel anyway. The car we picked up had the fuel gauge on 1/8 tank.
But before you go anywhere, it’s best to give the interior a good clean up with sanitising solution as you really never know who was driving the car before you. In the middle of a Covid-19 pandemic, one can never be too careful.
See what we mean about giving yourself a 30-minute buffer before the time you really, really need a car?
These are also private-hire use cars, so you will need to contend with having the decals on the front and rear windscreens.
As you do need to return the car to the same carpark that you picked it up from, it’s really not a clever way to commute because if you drive it somewhere and park it for four hours, you’re still paying for the four hours of non-driving time.
If the stress of parking fees in commercial buildings these days isn’t enough, you now need to add the stress of the car you’ve rented racking up fees by the hour too.
There are 3 vehicle classes: Shariot Saver for small cars, Shariot Standard for medium cars, and Shariot Plus for large cars. But most of the time, when you need to car share, you just need a vehicle and typically anything will do so a large percentage of users will search for Shariot Saver vehicles.
We rented the car for four hours on an off-peak weekday and it cost S$29.75 plus S$2.08GST for four hours and 15 minutes on Shariot Standard. That’s when we discovered another condition: you don’t get a refund on unused hours. If you return the car 30 minutes early and log out of the system, that’s the end of your book and any extra time is forfeited. It’s really easier to extend your booking than to overbook the time you may need.
The brand’s website has full details on its pricing schemes, and while we feel that car sharing is a great idea if implemented properly, there are many other variables at play that can make or potentially break any car sharing service, of which right on top now is the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
On the whole, car sharing systems also require users to be a socially responsible bunch that don’t drive under the influence of alcohol, don’t use the car to ferry illegal substances, and not treat the car as a dining room or worse. You really don’t see the condition of the car you’ve booked until you get to it, and if it’s in a wholly unacceptable condition and you are in real urgent need to get going you’ll be kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place.
For many people, there’s also the matter of acclimatisation. Shariot drops a number of different models around so there’s a high chance that you get a car that you are totally unfamiliar with. If you pick up a vehicle at a rental shop, there’s staff there to lend a hand, but for app-based systems you’re on your own in figuring out what button does what.
It’s one of the most affordable car sharing systems you can get in Singapore right now but they are not without caveats. Sound advanced planning by the user will go a long way in alleviating most concerns though, but the end result is a mixed bag.
If you’re just looking for a quick ride somewhere, a taxi or private hire ride will be quicker. If your own car is down for servicing though, this might actually be useful if you can score a drive in a car parked near the service centre to continue your day, then come back to pick up your own car when the mechanics have finished their job.