Like university students everywhere, Adam Wuisman wanted to take a road trip as soon as his studies were over. Problem was, once he graduated from the University of Toronto, he was pretty much broke.
Solution: sign up with Canada DriveAway and frappe la route with someone else’s car.
“I love travelling,” he says, “but I had no money. This let me drive a nice car and stop along the way if I see something interesting.” Since last October, Wuisman has availed himself of DriveAway’s services eight times. “I’ve been to West Palm Beach, Texas, and California—among others.” He recently drove from Vancouver to Toronto in a Dodge Sprinter. “Plenty of room for my stuff in that one,” he says with a laugh.
The concept is pretty straightforward. Canada DriveAway has a list of privately owned cars that need to be taken from Point A to Point B; once you pass muster, you get the keys and off you go. You’re given pickup and drop-off points and a little expense money, and are expected to deliver the car in one piece and in a timely manner. All paperwork—including a border-crossing manifest—is handled by DriveAway.
“We get cars from a variety of sources,” explains owner-founder David Smaller. “For example, northbound snowbirds who need their car relocated from, oh, West Palm Beach to Toronto, people who are relocating for work or school, or people who can’t afford a truck hauler.”
Ex–social worker Smaller got into the drive-away business after he was laid off in 2008 and tried his hand at the “eco-ethical clothing” business. He needed an inexpensive way to hawk his wares. “Money was tight, and I had to figure out a way to drive across Canada.” By his own admission, Smaller borrowed the concept for Canada DriveAway from another company.
It hasn’t been an overnight success, and nobody’s making big bucks, but Smaller almost always has cars on the go, and on most trips, if you play your cards right, there will be a bit of money left over. For example, Smaller just had a 2012 Nissan Sentra delivered from Nepean, Ontario, to Langley, and the budget was $600. Out of that, the driver was expected to pay for gas, food, and accommodation, and had to get back home.
According to Smaller, people who want to see the world this way come from everywhere, “but we seem to get a lot of Europeans who are over here on work visas and want to see the country without spending a fortune to do it.” Although most deliveries have a set time frame, there’s occasionally some wiggle room for those who want to do side trips. Drivers are allowed one passenger, and owner ride-alongs are discouraged.
As for the cars, they run the gamut. Much of the time, according to Smaller, they’re pretty run-of-the-mill conveyances—Corollas, Kias, and Buicks. Occasionally, there’s a Jag, BMW, or pickup truck.
“We’re not just relocating a vehicle,” he adds. “This is collaborative consumption.”
On the other hand
These aren’t rental cars. They’re privately owned, and the owners can be sensitive about damage.
References and a damage deposit of $500 are required.
Smaller’s company isn’t the only game in town; Toronto Drive-Away Service, Cars to Florida, and Professional Drivers offer similar services. In all cases, a security deposit is required.
The car may be filled to capacity with the owner’s possessions, not leaving much leftover cargo space.
You need to provide a clean driver’s licence and abstract.
You need to be at least 25 years old.
You don’t have to drive hell-bent for leather, but there won’t be time for extended side trips.