There are times in life when you just need a car to get somewhere. Whether it’s to a cool hiking trail you heard about from a friend, or if you’re planning on making a big trip to the grocery store, some scenarios call for four wheels.
Zipcar is a fantastic service for folks who don’t own a car but need to use one. Or somebody who needs to rent a car in a pinch, but doesn’t want to get raked over the coals by rental companies.
Whatever your situation, this service can get you the vehicle you’re looking for. It’s both convenient and easy to use.
But, if you’re thinking about renting a vehicle through Zipcar, you’re probably wondering how much they cost. What does on-demand access to a car cost, anyway?
Well, the answer varies depending on a few factors. Your location, the time of year, and the type of car you want all impact the cost of their service.
We’ve outlined this pricing guide to give you a general idea of what you can expect to pay.
What is Zipcar?
By using the service, members can get a car for an hour, a day, or for however long they need it as long as someone else hasn’t booked the vehicle during that time.
Currently, the company has more than 10,000 vehicles available in 500 cities across the United States, Canada, and several European countries including Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, New York City, Toronto, and more.
It’s particularly popular in cities where people don’t own cars but may need one from time to time to take a day trip, go to Ikea, or even pick up groceries.
It’s also very popular in college towns because many college students don’t own cars but occasionally need access to one.
Ultimately, Zipcar is an excellent alternative to both car ownership and car rental for folks who don’t drive regularly but want to drive sometimes.
How Does Zipcar Work?
Zipcar makes it super easy to get wheels and get out on the road.
All you have to do is head over to their website and sign up for the service. Then, you can pick a plan and wait for Zipcar to verify your driver’s license. As soon as they clear your license, you’re free to start booking rides.
When you want to book a ride, you log into the app or head over to their website and start looking for cars in your area.
for $25 in free driving credit
The company has vehicles parked in designated parking spots and lots all over. These spaces are where you’ll pick the car up and where you’ll drop it off when you’re done with it.
You can choose from a variety of different makes, models, and styles so you can book your vehicle with confidence.
Once you find a car that suits your needs, you’ll book it for the hours or days during which you want access to it. You choose your own pickup time and drop-off time.
If the car is booked by someone else during a particular time slot, you won’t have the option to reserve it (that time slot will be grayed-out in the booking interface).
At the start of your reservation, you’ll head to the location of the car. Zipcar lets you know the exact address and cross streets and will help you make sure you find the vehicle.
Once you reach your reserved vehicle, use your Zipcard to unlock the car. You won’t be able to open the car unless you have your Zipcard on hand.
The keys are located inside the vehicle, usually in the center console. Then, all you have to do is start it up and hit the road.
You’re free to use the car for whatever you want (as long as it meets the company’s Terms and Conditions), so sit back and enjoy the ride!
What Kind of Cars Does Zipcar Have?
The company offers a range of different car options. In total, they have about 30 different makes and models. They have a variety of different vehicle styles, so you can always find something to accommodate your needs.
They have smaller sedans like the Ford Focus for when you need a set of wheels with four seats and a small trunk. This is perfect for instances when you want to pick some friends up at the airport or grab some groceries.
But, if you need an SUV to move some larger items or cruise around with a bigger group, they also have Subaru Crosstreks and other models along those lines.
They even have a few luxury vehicles like Mercedes and BMWs, too. So, if you need a set of fancy wheels to cruise around in, Zipcar can take care of you.
Of course, you’re going to pay a bit more money for a large SUV or a luxury vehicle. Whereas a lower-end car runs as low as $8-$9 per hour, an Audi or BMW could cost you as much as $30-$40 per hour.
The exact car selection varies from city to city. Not every make and model is available in every location, and some towns have a relatively small range of vehicles.
To see what’s available in your area, sign up for the service and browse their catalog. If you enter your zip code into the search browser on their site, you’ll be able to pull up all of the vehicles available in your region.
How Much Does a Zipcar Subscription Cost?
To reserve a car, you must first become a member. Being a member means that you pay a monthly subscription fee to the company. Zipcar offers different membership options at different price points.
For example, their Occasional Driving plan costs an annual fee of $70. The cost is paid up front.
With the Occasional Driving Plan, you’re locked into a subscription for the full 12 months. This plan allows you to drive up to 180 miles per day. If you’re above 180 miles on a given day, the company charges $0.47 for each additional mile. The excess mileage fee is tacked onto your total.
Their Monthly Plan, on the other hand, costs $7 per month. Unlike the Occasional Driving Plan, this one gives you the freedom to unsubscribe at any time. This plan is accompanied by the same 180 miles per day policy, as well as the same mileage fee, as the Occasional Plan.
Zipcar’s third membership option is the Extra Value Plan. This plan is designed for folks who plan to book cars on a daily or weekly basis. The plan starts at $50 per month, depending on where you live. In large cities and college towns, it tends to run a bit pricier.
Although Extra Value Plan members pay an increased fee, they enjoy a 10% discount on any car they want. So, if you reserve an SUV that would usually cost $25 per hour, you’ll get it for nearly $20 per hour instead.
for $25 in free driving credit
Additionally, all Zipcar members pay a $25 application fee no matter which plan is selected. You’re required to pay this fee with your credit or debit card as soon as your sign up for the service.
Discounted memberships for college students and professors
If you don’t want to pay full price for a Zipcar membership, you may not have to. Many college professors and students who have a current university email address are eligible for a discount.
The company partners with roughly 600 colleges and universities to bring affordable rides to students and teachers all over the country. In exchange for allowing Zipcar to park cars around their campus, the company offers students a discounted rate on memberships.
Currently, the student discount is $15 for the first year. After that, you’re likely to pay full price unless Zipcar has an exclusive deal worked out with your school.
If you’re affiliated with a college or university, and you’re interested in taking advantage of this discount, click here to find out if you qualify.
When you sign up, you’ll need to use your school email address as your log-in address.
How much does it cost to rent a vehicle through Zipcar?
After you’ve paid your application fee and chosen a membership plan, you’ll pay for every vehicle rental separately. Rentals are charged by the hour or day, depending on how long you need it.
Hourly rates vary from city to city and increase with higher-end vehicles. In most cities, hourly rental cars start at $9 per hour.
Daily rates also vary on the same factors. Typically, daily rates start at around $80 per day and increase for bigger and nicer vehicles.
Other Transportation Options:
You’re also charged for your mileage. As we mentioned above, every rental allows you to drive up to 180 miles per day for no additional charge. Once you exceed 180 miles in a 24-hour period, you’ll have to pay $0.45 per extra mile.
The excess mileage cost is higher for luxury vehicles and cargo vans. Currently, each mile costs $0.55. The company will notify you of the cost of excess miles before you check out.
Furthermore, you’ll be responsible for paying late fees if the car is returned past your deadline. Prices start at $50 and begin to accrue the minute after your allotted reservation time ends.
If it’s a luxury vehicle or someone else has the car booked immediately after you, the late fee tends to be much higher.
Zipcar takes returns seriously, so make sure to get it back on time.
How much does it cost to rent a Zipcar?
Do I have to pay for gas?
No. You don’t have to pay for gas. The cost of fuel is included in your rental fee.
In each car, there is a Zipcar gas card tucked into a slot on the driver’s side visor. When you pull up to the gas station, you’ll swipe this card just like you would with your bank card. Then, you’ll enter your Zipcar identification number or PIN (located on your Zipcard).
It’s a straightforward process. One of the nicest perks of using this service is that fuel is included in the reservation.
However, Zipcar does ask that you return the car with at least a quarter tank of gas as a courtesy to the next driver.
What Happens if I Crash or Damage a Zipcar?
All Zipcars have insurance coverage, and members are covered under those policies. So, you probably won’t have to worry about paying for repairs if you happen to damage a vehicle.
According to Zipcar, their plan grants “liability coverage up to the minimum financial responsibility limits required in the state/jurisdiction in which the accident occurs.”
In other words, while their insurance policy does cover you in the case of an accident, it only includes the minimum amount required according to your state’s liability limits.
Each state has a different liability limit. This means that the extent to which their plan covers you depends on where you live.
In Massachusetts, for example, the state liability limit for personal injury is $8,000 per person, per accident.
So, if you get into a car accident and have to go to the hospital, Zipcar’s insurance plan will cover up to eight grand in hospital bills. You’re responsible for paying anything more than that.
I Lost My Zipcard! How Much Does a New One Cost?
The Zipcard is one of the most crucial components of the Zipcar experience. It’s what you use to unlock a car when you pick it up and to lock it after you drop it off.
When you go to pick up your reserved vehicle, you’ll tap the card to the activation sensor on the windshield of the car. Once the rental is activated, your trip begins.
The same happens when you drop the card off at the end of the session. This is how the company can tell that you’ve returned the car on time.
So, if you lose your card, you won’t be able to pick up the car or get into it. Therefore, you’ll have to order a new one.
Luckily, getting a new card is easy. All you have to do is call customer support.
However, the company will charge you $15 for a replacement card.
Zipcar is a Great Way to Get Some Wheels
This is a fantastic service for anyone who doesn’t own a car but needs access to one now and then.
It can run a bit pricey, especially if you’re renting luxury vehicles, but sometimes the convenience is worth it.
If you just rent a car for an hour every few weeks to pick up groceries, this can be way more affordable than buying a car of your own and paying for the costs associated with car ownership.
No spam, just stories.
Subscribe to the Gigworker.com newsletter and never miss a gig-economy story.
*We don't spam, we promise.