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In 2000, Zipcar began providing cars in cities for members to share when they need them (hourly or by the day). These cars have a wireless technology that facilitates a reservation and key system. Zipcar lists six ways to car share with them: report damages, keep the car clean, don’t smoke, keep pets in carriers, return cars on time, and keep the tank at least a ¼ full. 

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The Good

  • Availability
  • Insurance
  • Reservation options

Zipcar is one of the largest car sharing companies in the world. While they primarily operate in the U.S., they have cars in seven countries with plans for expansions. Along with several locations, they also have several car options to suit your driving needs.  Customers can drive Zipcars for a max of 180miles for every 24-hour period you have the car. For any milage a customer drives over, they will be charged an extra $.45 per mile. Drivers can reserve Zipcars for a minimum of 1 hour and a maximum of 9 days.

With Zipcar, it's easy to reserve a car when you need it in advance or during the last minute. Reserve online, through app, or over the phone.  Zipcar is available in 44 states, 224 U.S. Cities, 6 countries, and 23 international cities. Including the U.S., Zipcar is available in Canada, Austria, France, Spain, and the U.K. When looking at the selection of cars, there is a variety of cars available in a number of areas. In Los Angeles alone, there are approximately 18 Zipcar locations. In each of these locations, there are 1-25 cars available for use.

Every member of Zipcar is covered.Members will pay $1,000 deductible fee in damages per incident. The main insurance coverage Zipcar provides is (100/300/25) third party auto liability coverage:

  • $100,000 in bodily injury per person
  • $300,000 bodily injury maximum coverage
  • $25,000 for property damage

Zipcar is part of the new "sharing economy" that is becoming widely popular and looked at by the media. However, Zipcar seems to have no negative press, besides a few incidents of car theft. Most Zipcar members report the cars to be usually clean, although there are mixed reviews. Overall, cars seem to be well maintained and available for those who have scheduled them.

Zipcar is available for use 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Users, if located in a service area, will be able to receive help and make reservations at any point in time. When you become a Zipcar member, the prices cover car washes, some tolls, gas, insurance, and provide roadside assistance. Zipcar also offers a 30-day trial for their customers. If you decide the service is not for you, they refund the membership fees.

The average price for service in participating cities breaks down as follows:

  • A membership for Zipcar costs $7 per month
  • A one-time application fee of $25
  • Cars cost $9/hour or $73/day to rent (can reserve for as little as 1 hour or up to 7 days)
  • Late return fees start at $50
  • If you drive more than 180 miles during a 24 hour period, you will be charged $0.45 for each additional mile
  • Zipcar chargers $50 for every hour you are late.

Zipcar members can reserve cars online, through an app, or by phone (for an additional $3.50). The Zipcar app was named one of the 50 best iPhone apps for 2011 by Time Magazine. Today, many people find the app easy-to-use, but a little plain.

The Bad

  • Additional fees
  • Limitations

If you need to use one of their cars frequently for entire days, the price can get expensive. Additionally, if you go over 180 miles in one day, they start to add on charges by the mile.

The overall costs have kept some from renting with Zipcar, especially since they do not include a number of services commonly found in other car-sharing products. When you use Zipcar, the only features available include:

  • Gas
  • Tolls
  • Roadside assistance

Zipcar offers a variety of car brands and models, but that doesn't mean a customer will be able to rent them. The styles they offer include convertibles, cargo vans, hatchbacks, compact, minivans, suburbans, hybrids, and luxury cars. For instance, in L.A. there are 34 car models that you can choose from whereas other cities have similar choice options. If you want a specific car in your area, their website and app allow you to browse by model or style.

The Bottom Line

With the variety of styles and the number of cities Zipcar is in, purchasing a membership is a good investment. Those who travel to different cities, or need a car every now and then in their city will definitely benefit from using Zipcar. If you are interested in car sharing, we definitely recommend Zipcar. Those that use Zipcar for car-sharing purposes can expect the following from the service:

  1. Reasonable Rates
  2. Insurance included with high deductible
  3. Gas, toll tags, and roadside assistance included
  4. Questions concerning common customer complaints
  5. Variety of car makes and models to choose from

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