DriveAway with someone’s vehicle

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      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.


      We're now using Facebook for comments.


      Lee L

      May 28, 2014 at 10:11am

      I love this idea and have thought of using such a service but....

      But crossing the Can/USA border in a strager's car, especially in the southern direction, gives me great pause. JUst how much assurance can a small company give as to the intentions of the car owner. My dog doesnt know how to sniff out cocaine or meth but the 'border' collies do. I think I'll have to pass. It is at least something to consider if you are wanting to use this service.

      Dan S

      May 28, 2014 at 3:40pm

      Lee - I have driven several times across the border for CanadaDriveAway. Theses cars are owned by SNOWBIRDS. Retired Canadians in their 70s or older. The only drugs are heart medication! Try not living by your fears! Makes like much more fun ;)


      May 28, 2014 at 4:35pm

      Dan - Great thought when you are busted at the border. Will think of it again then.


      May 29, 2014 at 6:50am

      Road trips I have taken with CanadaDriveAway have let me see beautiful sites. I visited Yellowstone, Yosemite, drove the Pacific Coast Highway... I also met several wonderful people who I am still friends with.
      Never once was I busted at a border.
      If someone is busted at a border, it is those whose lives are confined by the fear of the unknown, busted at a border of your own design.

      Erik Paulsson

      May 30, 2014 at 12:12pm

      I just drove a car for CanadaDriveAway and crossed the border twice. I was driving from Windsor to the Sunshine Coast and thus I drove through the US and then up into Canada through the Kootenays. I checked the car out first to make sure there wasn't anything illicit in the vehicle. You have the ownership and insurance and a waiver from the company signed by the owner stating that you are driving the vehicle for them.

      Crossing into the US I had no problem and coming into Canada they did want to search the car, but it was quick. I explained that my stuff was in the back seat and the owners stuff was in the trunk and they understood that. They were very friendly (I crossed the border in Creston, BC).

      Yves was my brother

      May 30, 2014 at 10:25pm

      Great column...If only Laturnus hasn't tried to be Frenchy!....Hit the road is not "frappe la route" in French but "se mettre en route" or "prendre la route"

      Mind you, even Madame Marois, much as she is quick to preach about the sanctity of the language, use literal translations on English expressions that are never ever used in francophone countries outside I wouldn't be surprised if the average Quebec driver did talk about beating up a road...

      hitch-hiking, by the way is "faire de l'auto-stop" or "faire du stop" in French!!!
      For those of you that break in a rash when looking at French words...
      All the goods I get from the USA have labels in US English, Spanish and French..

      Transit systems in Oregon use routinely English and Spanish