CommuAuto and Automobile/Flex in Montreal: A Cost Deep Dive

So, a few friends of mine has been asking about this service which we have used for several years so I figure I would write a detailed blog post about it to show case why how and when I am using service and why it is quite convenient.

So there are two main ways of using CommunAuto, and the first way (As I would like to call the CommuAuto way) is using it as a two way car rental this is very similar to the traditional car rental model where you pick up the car use it and drop it off back where it belongs. This is a very affordable for short-term rental but obviously can’t easily get more expensive versus renting a cheap car for a day (especially during winter promotion time where certain companies offer a $10 per day rental).

The second way is known as Automobile or currently has been rebranded as Flex. this is a much more innovative concept where you pick up the car free parked (or might be even ticked lol) in variety of residential neighborhoods by first checking out available vehicle near your current location, book it, go use it and drop it off at any of the compatible neighborhood similar to the one you drop off but could be anywhere within the green compatible release of where the municipality has reached agreement with the CommunAuto Company.

So far what have been mentioned are all publicly available information and that are fairly easy to understand and digest (despite some really awkwardly complicated pricing structure). See:

All these are fine and dandy but what I am about to tell you are to really interesting offering that people are probably not being fully aware: which is where AutoMobile Unlimited and ValuePlus Plan pricing “convovle”. See the below for the graphically summary of the “convolved pricing”

Update2: updated corrected video:

There is a hugely interesting facts that people seldomly notice or care: which is listed on this page:

Specifically, the fine print:

Preferred rates with Auto-mobile vehicles

All subscriptions to Value Plans give access to discounted Auto-mobile vehicles : 35¢/min instead of 40¢ (other conditions remain unchanged: $12/hour or $50/day, 100km included, taxes not included), as well as the parity of the price of your package when it is more advantageous for you.

What does the parity of the price of your package mean?

This means that, at any time, when you use an Auto-mobile vehicle, the rate applied is the most advantageous between:

  • Discounted Auto-mobile Rate: 35¢/minute instead of 40¢ (other conditions remain unchanged)
  • Or, the basic price of your Value, Value Plus or Value Extra package with a minimum of 4 hours charged.

Regardless of the duration of your trip or the number of kilometers traveled, the best price is always granted automatically. You do not have to worry about anything!

This fine print is actually quite annoying to visualize but basically, you can envision Automobile cost as a Step-like Function that ramp to 12$ every hour with some plateau. and CommunAuto cost as a finer Step function that increase based on KM and TIME then use a MINIMUM function to summarize both and get the above visualization.

If one thing you got out of that image, it should tell you that regardless of how you use an automobile, within 3h and 100km limit, your cost will not exceed 35$. My typical experience is around 15$ or so per trip if I use extensive time but not extensive distance < 1h trips (e.g. airport runs, or the FLAT part of the fee diagram above.).

More to come as I add the actual recommendation part instead of just data rambling.

Update 1: 

I forgot to add the function is actually a bit more complicated than that as the above only capture the CommunAuto cost vs Automobile cost but does not reflect the minimum 4 hours + hours rule highlighted in red. 

To better illustrate this and explain it: It is best to show you a real actual bill of the record of travel. 

Okay, noticed the two lines above. The trip on 04-22 was short, using Flex vehicle for just over an hour in total traveling about 23km, it costed $13 while on 04-29th, against, it is a a Flex vehicle but much longer period of time while traveling similar distance (most likely shopping) yet costed just barely a few more bucks. This is a clear illustration that it may NOT be super advantageous once you reached ~15$ threshold ish as that triggers Local Rate converting Flex cost to CommunAuto and the rate stalls. In the above example, a three hours of extra usage costed about $3 more. Guess what I am going to do next time if I already went over the free period?

Another issue you might notice, above the first red line, the 04-20 19:53 trip, which I used a bit under 2h. I did not use 4h yet got billed as such, this is not a bug but a feature: the cost triggered a communauto “parity of the price” forcing a 4hour usage due to the red text in the quoted section mentioned above. Now, assume, I already did most of the travelling, having a car sitting around for two additional hours (than what I did), would have costed the same. This means, if I returned the Flex car at 20:38 instead of 17:52 with same km on the meter, I would have been charged the same. Now, you may wonder how that is going to help the end user. It does help tremendously, in the case of shopping or going to places WITH automobile, park, then come back, duration long enough to trigger parity of the price.

Major TLDR for now: I will try to explain this maybe in another post another time:

  1. You probably want to the ValuePlus plan + Unlimited Commuauto with to take advantage of all the synergy if ever travel beyond the free 30 minutes. Better yet, have your spouse on it too as the saving from monthly Flex membership alone is probably around 30×2 each month. This will probably come out to be around 30 (main) + 3 (comember) for two communauto + 30 x 2 (Unlimited Automobile/Flex) so a total of 93ish before tax for TWO people to have access to the Flex vehicles. Which is reasonable considering that monthly bus pass alone for one person is like… 85+ with STM.
  2. You want to either travel in less than 30 mins all the time or
  3. For some reason if you go over by enough time to reach the OTHER side of the cost pyramid e.g.a above 90 minutes or 1h ($12) beyond the free time, you trigger the parity of the price which means, from that point onward, usage is a LOT cheaper and by using the car for THREE/FOOUR hours since you are getting dinged for that regardless if you use those time or not (as that is a REQUIREMENT to trigger parity of price: minimum 4hours will be billed regardless if you use them all up or not.).

Update 2: Source code of the visualization process added: