If you’ve ever had to rent a car, there’s a strong chance that you grew disenchanted with the process very quickly. Not only did you likely find that rates were sky-high, but you may have also run into other problems, such as stiff penalties for things such as one-way rentals.
One company sought to change that. Zipcar was born in 2000 and has grown across the country ever since. Those looking to use Zipcar can reserve automobiles and be billed by the minute, hour, or day.
Zipcar memberships also exist on a monthly and annual basis. Those with a reservation can pick up a car, use it for however long they need, and return it to a centralized location. Zipcar has grown tremendously over the past few years and has primarily focused on doing so in large metropolitan cities like New York and San Francisco.
In these cities, where residential parking lots are sparse, Zipcar members have a viable alternative to car ownership. Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about Zipcar so that you can determine if it’s a useful alternative to a traditional rental car agency.
What Is Zipcar?
Zipcar is a car-sharing service that has existed for nearly two decades. Zipcar members can reserve cars for a predetermined period. The ability to do so is noticeably different from traditional rental car agencies, which require customers to book for at least 24 hours.
In 2013, one of the most popular rental car companies, Avis Budget Group, purchased the company for $500 million. Since then, the Avis Budget Group has allowed Zipcar to operate as a subsidiary. The car-sharing aspect of the business didn’t change after the purchase.
In 2016, Zipcar memberships surpassed more than 1 million. Zipcar now exists in seven countries, including the United States and Canada.
According to the company website, Zipcar’s mission is to “enable simple and responsible urban living—a future filled with more car-sharing members than car owners in major cities across the globe.” If you’re interested in Zipcar, you get to choose from one of three membership subsets:
- Zipcar for Universities
- Zipcar for Businesses
- Zipcar for Commuters
How Does Zipcar Work?
Zipcar has set up a unique system for membership. You begin by heading to zipcar.com and browsing the various membership options available. Once you’ve chosen your membership, you’ll submit your driver’s license number for verification.
After the company authorizes your driver’s license, they will mail a Zipcard to you. You can expect to receive a Zipcard in the mail within seven business days. This card is attached to your Zipcar account.
Once you receive your Zipcard, you’ll need to activate it. You can do so easily online or in the mobile app. Upon activation, you are set to book a reservation. You can book reservations at either zipcar.com or on the mobile app.
After activating the Zipcard, your account is active, and you can join other Zipsters in the car-sharing network to make reservations. After making a reservation, you’ll head to the predetermined pick-up location.
Upon arrival, you won’t have to worry about pesky paperwork or inspections. Instead, you’ll scan your Zipcard on a key code reader, thus unlocking and signing you into the car.
From there, you can use the car as you need. Zipcar requests that you always leave the keys inside the vehicle and that you use your Zipcard to lock and unlock the car when you enter or exit.
When driving, Zipcar has six rules they ask drivers to abide by:
- Report any vehicle damage or untidiness
- Keep the car clean and remove all trash
- Fill the tank up to at least a quarter tank
- Do not smoke in the vehicle
- Do not allow pets to roam around the car — keep them in carriers
- Return on time or use the app to extend your reservation
Zipcar includes a gas card in each of its vehicles. You may need to use this credit card to fill up the car before returning it to the drop-off point. The drop-off location will always be the same as the pick-up point, as the company only allows round trips.
What Are Zipcar’s Rates?
When creating a Zipcar account, you’ll need to pay a $25 one-time application fee. You can then choose between monthly membership, which costs $7 per month, or annual membership, which costs $70 per year. Zipcar offers a 30-day money-back guarantee on its services.
In addition to the monthly or annual membership that you choose, you’ll need to pay additional rates when you use the car. Prices can vary depending on what type of membership you create and the vehicle you wish to use.
For instance, hourly rates start as low as $7.50. Renting a Honda Civic costs $9 per hour or $74 per day while renting a Honda CR-V costs $10 per hour or $80 per day.
Zipcar includes up to 180 miles per day in each of its rentals. After you pass this threshold, Zipcar will charge you an additional 45 cents per mile.
So, let’s say that you rent a Honda CR-V for a day and drive 280 miles. Your first-time costs will be:
- $25 application fee
- $7 monthly membership fee
- $80 daily rental rate
- $45 for 100 additional miles
- Total: $157
Gas, maintenance, and insurance are all included with the cost of renting a Zipcar vehicle. If you are late to drop off the car, you’ll be charged a $50 fee.
Zipcar estimates that using its services could save you $600 per month compared to the cost of car ownership.
If you elect to use Zipcar for Business, you’ll need to pay an annual membership fee of $35 per driver. However, you’ll receive a 10% discount on weekday driving rates.
If you are a commuter looking to use Zipcar, your rates may vary as well. Your membership fee is significantly more expensive, costing $199 per month. You’ll also pay 45 cents per mile for every mile that you drive. However, a parking spot comes included with this service. And, you’ll receive discounted weekend prices starting at $7.25 per hour.
Zipcar’s car share service has grown significantly over the past couple of years. It’s not uncommon to see Zipcars in some of North America’s major metropolitan cities. Below are some of the most prominent Zipcar locations. You can also use their search tool to find Zipcar locations in your area.
Zipcar was founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts, so it should come as no surprise to see that the company has such as firm hold in the Boston area. Boston is also unique because it is the only city where Zipcar allows one-way trips.
You’ll find hundreds of Zipcar locations scattered throughout Boston. Fares in the Boston area start as low as $11 per hour.
New York City
If you live in New York City, you likely never need a car. But what happens if you’re looking to take a day trip out to Coney Island or head to the Hamptons for the weekend? A New York City Zipcar could help. Renting a Zipcar in New York City is a bit more expensive with prices starting at $12 per hour.
Traffic in Los Angeles can be awful, which could detract you from owning a car. However, if you need a vehicle in a pinch, Zipcar is there for you. Zipcar rates in Los Angeles are quite affordable, starting as low as $9 per hour.
San Diego is a gorgeous city. There’s nothing better than taking a day trip in a car and driving up the coast. Thanks to Zipcar you can now do so. Zipcar offers its services in San Diego for as little as $10 per hour.
You should know that Zipcar does not allow you to take its cars across international borders. So, you can’t take the car from San Diego south into Tijuana, Mexico.
No matter if you’re traveling to Fillmore Street or Marin, Zipcar in San Francisco has you covered. One of the most prominent Zipcar locations, the San Francisco Bay Area offers Zipcar’s services for as little as $11 per hour.
Zipcar doesn’t just exist in the United States. You can also find the services in Canadian cities like Toronto, making it easy for you to do things like see the Mono Cliffs. Pick-up and drop-off locations in Toronto are a bit sparse, but the company is growing in the area rapidly. Hourly rates start at $12.
Looking to Rent With Zipcar?
If you’re looking for a car rental in the United States, Zipcar could be a viable alternative to traditional agencies like Budget and Enterprise. Be sure to use the promo link included here when signing up for the car-sharing service. The promo code will provide you with $25 in free driving credit. The code works everywhere in the United States, from Boston to Chicago to Seattle.