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Author Topic: ZipCar.com - super cool car sharing service in the US for occasional drivers  (Read 6000 times)

mouser

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After over a dozen years of non-driving, i've reacquired the skill and discovered an amazing car sharing service that is in my town and in many other big towns/cities, called ZipCar.

As someone who grew up in a city that where the most common means of getting around is mass transport, not driving was no big deal.. But in most places, having a car is important.  Still, even where I am now i get to most places on public transportation, and having a car of my own seems overkill and way too expensive, especially with insurance costs.

But this ZipCar thing is perfect for people like me who would still like to do some occasional driving, to go shopping or pick people up at airport, etc.

Basically it's about $50 a year, and then you pay $8/hour or so for when you actually use a car.  This cost includes good insurance coverage and all gas costs.

All reservations can be done online, and you get a key card that unlocks the car during your reservation -- so you never have to deal with an actual human.

Pros:
  • Completely automated system.
  • Cheap if you very rarely drive.
  • As a member you can use zipcars in any state.

Cons:
  • Useless unless ZipCar operates very near you -- within walking distance; so only useful to a small fraction of people on planet.
  • They are strict about reservations (since others may have it reserved after you); so when you say it will be back by a certain time, it MUST be back by then.
  • Expensive if you need to use the care for a full day (then a standard car rental becomes cheaper)


Kamel

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That's a really neat service, much better than other options for sure.

Thanks a lot for this information. My mother in law might be very interested.
I'm the guy you yell at when your DSL goes down...

mouser

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i found some complaints against zipcar, mostly regarding the insurance coverage.
thought it would be useful to post them here for a balance view:
http://www.felixsalmon.com/000612.html
http://www.felixsalmon.com/000855.html

do note that this is from 2007 so i don't know if things have changed since then.

mouser

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seems like the zipcar insurance situation improved greatly in 2008:
http://carsharingus....insurance-right.html

Nod5

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Nice! I've seen similar services where you don't even need a keycard. When you register online you enter your mobile phone number and thereafter unlock the car by sending it a special SMS code (the key is in a glove compartment which also requires a code to unlock. A key factor is the number of cars (in relation to the number of users) -- is there a spare car most of the time or would you need to book far in advance or even reschedule to fit the car availability?

brewmonkey

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I use zipcar all the time.  Living in NYC, they are the most convenient car rental option.

Pros:
1. Convenient - there is garage just a couple blocks from work and from home.
2. Costs less than owning a car.
3. Gas is included in the rental price.

Cons:
1. Cars are always dirty.  If I'm going to keep it for the full day, I'll do a cursory cleaning with a hand vac.
2. Gas is always on empty, even though people are supposed to return the cars with at least a quarter tank.
3. Two out of the last three cars had a service light on.
4. If you're going to need a car for more than an hour on the weekend, you'll need to reserve it weeks in advance.

If it we're so convenient, I wouldn't use it.

mouser

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they should give some kind of reward when you fill up a tank that is below the 1/4 level.. i think that would help solve the problem of no one wanting to be the one to fill up the gas.

steeladept

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We have ZipCar in Pittsburgh, but I don't use it - I live too far away.  It is odd, here at least, because Pittsburgh City limits are so small you can walk it in under an hour in any direction from one side to the other.  AFAIK, ZipCar is only within the city limits, so it becomes somewhat bewildering to me how it can function profitably in this city.

As for the reward, what if filling it up automatically gave you 1 hour drive time?  Of course there would need to be a way to determine it actually NEEDED a fill first, otherwise people would try to keep it under an hour and fill it up to use it essentially for free.

mouser

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Quote
Of course there would need to be a way to determine it actually NEEDED a fill first, otherwise people would try to keep it under an hour and fill it up to use it essentially for free.
shouild be pretty easy for them to do, they make you enter the mileage of the car when you use their gas car, and they get the bill. (they already have to check the gas usage pretty strictly since otherwise people would abuse the gas card by filling up their own cars with it).

cranioscopical

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For those who can't zip when they fly around there are always butt-on bikes available.