As a frequent road tripper, I am pretty sure I enjoy driving across country more than your average traveller. No other form of travel puts you in control as much as a road trip, with the ability to cover lots of ground or take it slow by stopping, changing plans and embracing surprises.
With ample free time on my hands, I decided to do something last year that I had heard of for some time – be a driver of cars for Canadian snowbirds. The company I hooked up with is Hit the Road, and while the actual road tripping parts were great, a few bumps in the road (pardon the pun!), in particular the actions/inactions and disorganization of Hit the Road left me with a sour taste in my mouth.
What is Hit the Road?
First, some background on what car delivery is all about, to help you decide if it’s something you’d be interested in. These services exist because retired and wealthy Canadians head down to Florida, Texas and Arizona each winter – and they don’t want to drive.
So, while they fly back and forth to their sunny destinations, somebody has to drive their car. One such company that arranges car delivery for Canadians is called Canada Driveaway, or Hit the Road. They also provide this service for people who may be moving across Canada, say from Toronto to Vancouver.
To car owners they advertise providing a safe, quick and reliable service for a fee. Then hittheroad.ca / canadadriveaway.com locates a willing driver to spend a few days on what they liken to a ‘free road trip’, providing compensation to cover gas and possibly some expenses.
Sounds pretty sweet doesn’t it? It could be, but for a fair review, let’s see how things stack up when it comes to using hittheroad.ca vs. a rental vehicle.
Benefits of using hittheroad.ca instead of renting a car
- you get a free car to drive for a specified number of days
- you get to personally meet the person / people who own the vehicle
- there is the potential that you may drive a vehicle that is nicer than anything you would rent
- compensation paid to you upon successful delivery is made in cash
- overall, it should save you money
Risks of using hittheroad.ca instead of renting a car
- the pickup and drop off locations will not be as convenient as the nearest rental car company
- you are limited to the provided insurance coverage, there is no all-inclusive ’loss damage waiver’ or other coverage option
- a deposit of $500 is required before you can drive any vehicles for Hit the Road
- you do not get paid anything until you have delivered the vehicle
- your support system is a small organization that may not always be reachable
- roadside assistance is not provided if the car breaks down
- you are given a limited number of days
- you are given limited kilometres / miles, which may restrict the route you wish to drive
- you are limited to the dates and destinations offered by hittheroad.ca
- confirmations tend to be done last-minute, within a couple of weeks of departure, meaning the cost of your one-way airfare (if needed) may be high
- you have no control over the quality of the vehicle being driven, it may be an old, beat-up car
- there is no eating or smoking allowed in the vehicles and you can not bring pets
- you are told not to drive at night
- there is limited space in the vehicle as the owner will have their personal items in the trunk and possibly the back seats as well
There you have it, what it really means to deliver a car using a service like Hit the Road. If you’re just in it for a drive to get from A to B as quickly and directly as possible, while taking the risk that nothing will go wrong, then it can be a great option. If you are used to having flexibility on your road trips, want to book things ahead of time, enjoy having no-worry insurance coverage or need lots of vehicle space then you may want to reconsider.
How much do you get paid for car delivery?
This is the most common question people have asked me. From the two experiences I had driving for hittheroad.ca it seems to be around $100 per day. You can negotiate more depending on the route and car requirements, or if you’re backpacking across country already, you might only be paid enough for gas money.
With that information you should be able to make an educated decision yourself whether driving a car for hittheroad.ca is something you may be interested in.
Warning: I suggest stopping here and spending your time reading something else, unless you prefer controversy.
Disorganized Business Practices
At the start of this review of Canada Driveaway / Hit the Road I mentioned they seemed surprisingly disorganized. So let’s have a little recap of the issues I encountered from the time I agreed to work with them, up to the time I dropped off the last car.
Disorganized Issue 1: Wrong Information. Where is the car?
The first car I picked up for hittheroad.ca in April 2011 was located in the Fort Lauderdale area. Before agreeing on the assignment, I had numerous emails and phone calls with the owner of hittheroad.ca, Mr. David Smaller. Our first chats said he had a car in Miami. After more questions it became either Miami or Fort Lauderdale or Hallandale.
The dilemma this created was – do I fly into Miami or Fort Lauderdale to get the car? Prices for flights varied greatly. I decided to fly into Miami, it was cheaper.
Pick up day arrives, so I head out early to the address listed on the official ’vehicle delivery agreement’ provided by Canada DriveAway. Should be easy. After an hour of searching, the car owner and I realize the wrong city was listed on the agreement. Turns out the car was 15 miles away, in Hollywood, a city never even mentioned once by hittheroad.ca.
Alright, no big deal. Everyone makes mistakes…there is a fun road trip ahead. I mentioned this issue to hittheroad.ca when I picked up the car but didn’t receive any apology or acknowledgement of error.
Disorganized Issue 2: Last-Minute Planning without Enough Information
Before signing up to deliver a car, you need to go through a process of providing a drivers abstract and references. Once accepted, you can begin talking about delivering a car. It’s generally a quick process, if there is a car available to go somewhere you are interested in, hittheroad.ca will be happy to sign you up asap.
However, it becomes difficult to make those arrangements as you will not be told any specifics until after confirming your agreement. Building on Issue #1 above, the process for confirming my Florida delivery went something like this:
Hit the Road: I have a car to pickup any time these three days.
Me: (Reply next day) – Ok, I can do that and book a flight down to Miami.
Hit the Road: (Next day) – Have a car the next week now, in a different city.
Me: Alright. Done. Deposit sent. (I had already booked a flight for the week before)
Hit the Road: *Silence for a week*
Me: Umm, are we confirmed?
Hit the Road: Silence for a few more days.
Hit the Road: (Three days before pickup) – Oops, my bad. Sending delivery details today. (They didn’t.)
I had actually started to expect a message saying “sorry, I don’t have a car for you.” and began planning my own way back home, until I received documents the day before pickup.
This is an example of how hittheroad.ca could improve their business. By locking in a date with their car owners further ahead of time, they’ll allow themselves more time to find a driver, who in turn will have more time to make plans and find the best travel deals en-route to picking up the car. Less stress and less hassle for everyone.
Disorganized Issue 3: Changing details after Accepting a Delivery
If you think the last-minute stress of agreeing on a car delivery is enough, it potentially doesn’t end once you’ve accepted a delivery.
On my second car delivery for hittheroad.ca I had a number of phone calls and emails with David Smaller. As I was now a successful driver, having delivered my first car, we agreed on a delivery of a new Jaguar from Phoenix to Toronto.
After being a tourist for a couple of days in Arizona, I printed out the delivery agreement papers that had come in by email the day before pickup.
However, three things had changed since confirming details with hittheroad.ca by email earlier in the week. First – it was a different car, but still a Jaguar. Second – I was given an extra day of driving to deliver the car. Cool, but that meant last-minute accommodation changes. Third – the trip expense reimbursement fee had been increased by $200, presumably to cover the expenses of the additional day, yay!
Disorganized Issue 4: Security Deposits and References
Hit the Road requires a $500 security deposit before you drive any cars. They also need references, both of which are reasonable, except they forgot that I sent them my references and later seemed to have no record keeping of when I paid my deposit.
They advised that the deposit is returned upon a successful delivery and the delivery agreements stated that the $500 deposit was to reimburse the vehicle owner any costs associated with insurance if the vehicle were damaged. Ok, all good, that seemed legit.
On more than one occasion when checking the hittheroad.ca PayPal link I got the notice that the account was frozen. Fun! They didn’t have any alternative to PayPal at the time, which seemed a bit Mickey Mouse, but thankfully I can say this is one issue they’ve since addressed.
Disorganized Issue 5: No Support if Something Goes Wrong
Chances are nothing will go wrong when you deliver a car and, for the most part, Hit the Road was fairly responsive to any questions posed to them from the time of signup to the time of picking up a car. Even while driving a car and providing a progress check-in Mr. Smaller would normally reply within a few hours.
Guess what? Something went wrong on my second delivery.
After parking the car in a secure parking lot, I returned to see the left corner of the rear bumper sticking out. Looking closer, there were very, very faint scrapes and it seemed that someone had bumped the corner of the bumper in my absence. There was next to no damage, save for a hairline crack in the corner and some surface scratches – the bumper simply ‘popped’ back into place with a gentle push.
Still, I reported the incident that day. After no response, I contacted Hit the Road again by email and asked if they wanted to advise the car owners and forward the photos. No response.
The next day I take photos of the slight scrapes and sent to Hit the Road, asking what they want me to do.
Again, no reply.
Finally, two days after the incident, I get a response to the tune of ‘talk to the owners tomorrow when you drop off the car.’ I was shocked that Hit the Road didn’t even want to advise the car owner in advance of the minor issue, to avoid a surprise.
Upon delivery, the owner was surprised, but also understood it was something out of my control. They paid the full delivery expense agreed that the car had been dropped off in good condition.
Considering this was a ‘top client’ I would have expected Hit the Road to have advised their client ahead of time, but that’s just my opinion on proper customer service.
Unprofessional and Unaccountable Management
Now on to the last two issues. A month after my second car delivery, I began the process to have hiththeroad.ca return my security deposit or advise me that it was used for repairs to the Jaguar. Little did I know that this would turn into a massive, drawn out ordeal.
The following issues stem from more than 100 emails exchanged between myself and David Smaller, the owner of hittheroad.ca and canadadriveaway.com
Unprofessional Issue 1: The hittheroad.ca Scam of Not Returning Deposits
Car delivery number two was completed on May 12th. As part of the process, hittheroad.ca requires each delivery agreement to be signed upon pickup and dropoff. Three copies must be signed, with one being mailed back to their headquarters in Toronto.
So I waited until June 13th to send Hit the Road an email and inquire about the status of my deposit. The response was not what I expected. I got a response, but had to remind them of the date I paid my deposit and under what name, email I used. Not the most attentive over there at hittheroad.ca
Fast forward to August 11th. Two months later and not a single word from Hit the Road. So I send a follow up asking about the status. The response I get a few days later is ‘let’s meet for coffee’. Sure, I agreed let’s meet that week, just say when.
I follow up again the next week, asking if the refund is on the way or if my deposit was used for repairs, only to get a delayed response advising that Hit the Road hasn’t heard from the car owner yet (3 months after I dropped it off).
So, I chase Mr. Smaller again the next week. Now he advises they repaired the car on their own and has asked them if they want to put my deposit money towards the cost.
Silence again, until I email Hit the Road in September, finally expressing some frustration in this lengthy process, suggesting they return the deposit or send proof it was used for repairs.
Now things get interesting. Mr. Smaller replies saying he wants to offer them a $100 goodwill gesture. He proposes to meet again and suggests that the $100 be taken from my deposit. I respond the next day, make him a counter proposal and agree to meet, just tell me when and where.
Silence for two weeks.
I chase him again, saying I’m free to meet.
Silence again, until October 4th, Hit the Road sends a newsletter to their mailing list. I respond saying we’re overdue for our meeting about the deposit.
Guess what? Silence from Hit the Road.
Finally, on November 28th (5.5 months after I dropped off the car) I send hittheroad.ca a lengthy email outlining three options. Get the deposit sent over asap, show me proof it’s been used for repairs or ignore the issue and I’ll be happy to report these ongoing issues.
The next day he advises he drove their car recently and gave them $100 off. Did I want to spot him that money? Umm, no.
I advise him that he owes me $400 still, as we agreed by email that I previously received $100 of my deposit from my first car delivery. He claims that the extra $200 I received for delivery two was from my deposit and not from the extended day for that delivery (so I was given no extra pay for an extra day of expenses?). There is no record of that and the agreement clearly states the entire payment is for expenses, not deposit.
He wants to pay me $200, I say $400. He offers a middle-way solution. As it is November I agree to accept $300 just to get it over with.
On December 6th I receive an email payment notice for $100.
I ignore the notice, thinking it must be a mistake and he’ll send a corrected amount shortly. The reply I get is ‘what did we agree on?’.
So, with that we progress on to the last issue.
Unprofessional Issue 2: Aggressive and Innapropriate Attitude
When first wanting to drive for Hit the Road, there were a number of aggressive comments said that made me wonder how legit Hit the Road was. Nothing crazy, just your usual pushy sales lines like ‘if you confirm today, I can pay you extra’.
But, let’s get back to the escalating deposit money issue.
The communication continued on from December 13th to 15th and deteriorated quite rapidly as I point out his personal contradictions and inability to meet from our previous agreements. Accusations get thrown back and forth.
He claims my reasoning is flawed and lacks merit. Yet, his calculations include $100 of ‘withheld’ deposit, for no valid reason, along with saying that $200 is to be taken from the second delivery, yet there is no record of this being agreed upon or mentioned and contradicts what our signed agreement says.
Mr. Smaller ends his communications with a ‘lets agree to disagree’ attitude, saying he can’t offer me any more of my money back.
My last response is that I consider the issue unresolved and that – agreeing to disagree – is not a solution.
As it stands, I have received $200 of my deposit and Hit the Road has retained $300.
Other Reviews of hittheroad.ca
The last part of this post may seem one-sided, so please get in touch with Hit the Road and check them out yourself, or tell me about your experiences. I do know of other people who have driven for them – once – without incident, including other travel writers and bloggers.
It isn’t the type of company that has tons of online reviews either, but I did manage to find the two websites below. I share them only because they echo my concerns about deposit returns and an aggressive attitude from hittheroad.ca
Planes, brains and no automobiles from David Cheesman – who experienced the aggressiveness of Hit the Road, but managed to avoid being a driver.
Yelp reviews of HitTheRoad – one negative review, which echoes my deposit issues, quickly followed by a number of perfect reviews (Tripadvisor syndrome, perhaps?)
It took me a long time to decide if I should write this review as I took pride in delivering my Hit the Road cars on-time in accordance with their delivery agreement guidelines. I hope that the information posted here will help others decide if car delivery is a sensible option during their travels. I’m sure I will hear from Mr. Smaller shortly after this review and will be happy to post any response or comments he wishes to share.
If you’re considering Hit the Road, my suggestion is to just pay for a worry-free rental car. Or, consider these alternatives to hittheroad.ca (I can’t personally vouch for any of these services):