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Cedric Mathieu is Canadian director for Turo, the world’s largest peer-to-peer car sharing platform

Of all the trends shaking the automotive industry today - from autonomy to electrification – there’s only one that has a direct, fundamental impact on Canadian car owners (and their pockets): sharing.

It started in 2014 with the expansion of infamous ride-sharing platform Uber to Toronto, allowing any car owner to generate meaningful revenue from driving their car. While ride sharing has grown tremendously in popularity since, another type of sharing has taken Canadians by storm in the past two years: peer-to-peer (P2P) car sharing.

There are clear reasons for Canadians to share their cars. Cars are underused – they sit idle more than 95 per cent of the time – and the cost of car ownership in Canada is outrageously high. According to Statistics Canada, we spend more money on our cars than on food each year. Putting this depreciating asset to work makes economic sense. It transforms the way people think about cars.

So far, only one company has been able to navigate the intricacies of Canadian car insurance requirements to make P2P car sharing accessible and safe for Canadian car owners: Turo. With 10,000 private cars listed on its platform since launching in Canada two years ago, Turo has become the largest car-sharing network in the country. More than 1 per cent of the Canadian population is now part of Turo’s community, looking for a cheaper, more personalized experience than traditional car rental offers.

The impact could be massive: Consider that if 1 per cent of Canada’s 23 million cars were shared, this virtual fleet of privately owned cars would dwarf the fleet of all the largest car rental players combined. The car rental counter could be a thing of the past before we know it.

This disruption touches industries beyond automotive and car rental. The insurance industry is starting to take note, some more proactively than others. Intact Financial Corp. is an early adopter, collaborating with P2P players, including Turo and RV-sharing platform RVezy.

However, many insurance companies and regulators have not yet welcomed the opportunity for car owners to share their cars with others. Provincial laws in a few provinces make it impossible for P2P car sharing platforms to operate. Insurance policies provided by platforms such as Turo don’t work in British Columbia, Manitoba or Saskatchewan, making it impossible for car owners in these provinces to derive revenue from their cars to offset the cost of car ownership.

What’s more is that in provinces where insurance law permits car sharing – such as Ontario, Alberta or Quebec – personal insurers still have to approve their policyholders before allowing them to share their cars on a P2P car-sharing platform, even though these insurers don’t carry any additional risk. A number of insurers are evolving their guidelines to allow for their policyholders to participate, however others, including TD Insurance or Economical, are preventing Canadians from benefiting from car sharing, ignoring the rising consumer demand for change.

As a result, P2P car sharing in Canada has become dependent on the goodwill of large insurance corporations and is unequal across the country thanks to the insurance industry lagging in evolution. While in Quebec, 89 per cent of Quebec car owners are able to list their car on a car sharing platform, in Ontario only 54 per cent of car owners can do so, and 43 per in Alberta.

It’s time the insurance industry, regulators and governments across the country consider the economic and environmental benefits to providing all Canadians with access to P2P car sharing. Insurers who continue to ignore the shift in how Canadians interact with their cars will be left in the dust. If, like many Canadians, you’re interested in putting your car to better use, call your insurer and ask if they allow for it – you may be surprised to hear their answer.

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