Zipcar

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Zipcar

A car-sharing service with a signup fee, a monthly or annual membership fee, plus daily or hourly rental rates.

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Zipcar began providing rental cars with hourly and daily rates in Boston, Massachusetts in 2000. Zipcars are now available at hundreds of US locations in 43 states and Washington DC. As an alternative to owning a car, a sharing program is a step up for those who want more autonomy than provided by ride-shares like Uber and Lyft, and the ability to keep to their own schedule and avoid the crowds on public transit.

To join, each Zipcar member must pay a one-time application fee and choose between the option of a per month or per year membership fee. Drivers must be 21 or older unless joining a university-affiliated program at one of 570+ US campuses where college students age 18-20 will also be accepted. A valid driver's license and approved driving record are also needed.

Once you receive your Zipcard in the mail (in 3-7 days), you can start reserving and renting vehicles. Hourly and daily vehicle rates are available and vary per vehicle. Occasional trip and commuter options, as well as one-way rentals, are offered. 

Keep reading for pros and cons, plus Zipcar reviews from real customers.

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The Good

  • Availability
  • Reservations
  • Insurance
  • Features and Fees

Availability

Zipcar is one of the largest car-sharing companies in the world. Zipcar currently operates in ten countries and 43 U.S. states. Within the United States, they have vehicles available in 350+ cities and on 570+ college campuses, making it easy to rent a car for an appointment, trip, or errands. You just pick it up and drop it off in a specially marked Zipcar parking spot at an appointed lot location. This service is convenient for college students and those who are looking to avoid the costs of car ownership, whether for financial or environmental reasons. 

For example, in Los Angeles alone, there are approximately 18 Zipcar rental locations. In each of these locations, there are 1-25 cars in the lot available for use.

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Reservations

Drivers can reserve Zipcars for a minimum of 1 hour and a maximum of 14 days. Customers can drive Zipcars for a max of 180 miles for every 24-hour period you have the car. For any miles traveled over the 180-mile cap, there is a $.45 per mile charge. 

With this sharing service, it's easy to reserve a car when you need it in advance or at the last minute. Book online through your account or via the free iPhone or Android apps. Once you go to find your rental car in one of the designated parking spots, you simply use your Zipcard to unlock the vehicle by holding it to the card reader on the car's windshield. 

Insurance

Members receive insurance coverage as a part of their membership and fees. The coverage is a little different, depending on your age and when you joined. 

All members under age 21 are covered by the minimum financial responsibility limits for the jurisdiction where an accident occurs. 

For members age 21 and up: 

  • Members who joined August 1, 2018, or later will receive liability coverage up to the minimum financial limits in the state where an accident occurs.
  • For members who joined March 1, 2015, through July 31, 2018, a 100/300/25 plan is in place. 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
  • Members who joined prior to March 1, 2015, receive $300,000 combined single limit coverage per accident. 

Features & Fees

Zipcar is part of the new "sharing economy" that is becoming widely popular and looked at by the media. Zipcar's fleet 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 fees cover gas (via a gas card), insurance, and 24/7 roadside assistance at 1-866-4ZIPCAR for customer service if you have a problem. 

Zipcar also offers a 30-day trial for new customers. If you decide the service is not for you, they refund the membership fee (but not the application fee). 

The approximate price for service in participating locations breaks down as follows: 

  • A one-time application fee of $25 
  • A membership fee of 
    • $7+ monthly fee for the aptly named Monthly Plan, or 
    • $70 annual fee for the Occasional Driving Plan, or 
    • A special pre-paid Extra Value Plan is available in certain cities, offering a prepaid amount each month towards your membership and vehicle rental fees.
  • Vehicles cost about $9+ per hour or $73+ per day to rent. (You can reserve for as little as 1 hour or up to 14 days.) 
  • Late fees start at $50, plus another $50 for every hour you are late.
  • If you drive more than 180 miles during a 24 hour period, you will be charged $0.45 each for additional vehicle miles traveled. 

The Zipcar mobile 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

Additional Fees

As a non-traditional car rental service, if members need to use a Zipcar 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 using Zipcar.

If you are planning on renting a car for a full day or an extended trip, the rates may exceed standard car rental rates available from a daily rate rent-a-car company like Avis Budget, Enterprise or Hertz.

A Zipcar membership allows you an easy rental process and way to unlock the car that traditional rental companies don't have. So, you will have to decide whether the ease and familiarity with your Zipcar carshare are more important than the full-day prices available at other companies specializing in full-day rather than hourly rate plans. You may just want to double-check before leaving on a week-long trip. 

Limitations

When you use Zipcar, the only features available include:

  • Gas
  • Roadside Assistance

Zipcar offers a variety of brands and models to drive, 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, luxury cars, and other premium vehicles. For instance, in L.A. there are 34 models that you can choose from whereas other cities have fewer options. If you want to drive a specific make or model, you can use the site or the Android or iPhone app to browse by model or style.

The Bottom Line

With Zipcar's wide reach in the US and easy vehicle accessibility with the Zipcard membership card, allowing you to skip the rental counter, purchasing a membership is a good investment if it is available in your area.

As well, if you are able to commit to an annual membership payment plan, you save about 15 percent by paying up front.

Locals who occasionally need to drive for errands or a commute will definitely benefit from using the Zipcar app. If you are interested in car sharing, we definitely recommend Zipcar.

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User Reviews

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6 Reviews

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Liz
April 22nd, 2019 Brooklyn, NY DETAILS
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They're incompetent and can't even provide a car. I reserved a car for a full day but it wasn't there when I picked it up. I called Zipcar for another car and they hung up on me. When I called back I was sent to a second location and no car was there. I called Zipcar again and was placed on hold for 20 minutes and then was disconnected. I called back and was sent to a third location and again no car was there! And for some reason the third car was only reserved for 1 hour instead of a full day. This was Easter Sunday and it completely ruined my kid's holiday. I was never able to get a car and my 6 year old son missed his Easter egg hunt.

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Thomas Gee
April 22nd, 2019 Chicago, IL DETAILS
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When I first started to use Zipcar in 2016, I thought it was great. Their was a car location right near my home and the rates were reasonable. There were cars for below $10/hr and a per mile rate option as well. Since I only needed a car once every few weeks to run local errands, these were great options for me. However, the below $10/hr cars and per mile options seem to have gone away and it's more expensive now for me to use Zipcar. I still thought it was a good option though until I found out today the locations near my home will no longer have cars available. I'm guessing it has to do with the cost and feasibility of renting parking space and with how much demand there is for cars in a given location, but bottom line, it looks like I won't be using Zipcar anymore.

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Metalligal
February 26th, 2019 New York, NY DETAILS
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I’ve used Zipcar for 6 years in NYC. Don’t bother unless you like to drive in cars that are not mechanically maintained, inconvenient and enjoy a frustrating & unsatisfactory customer service experience. I started using Zipcar because it was a convenient & effortless car sharing service. It used to be a great company until AVIS acquired them in 2013. The servicing of the vehicles has declined rapidly since that acquisition. I’ve called into Zipcar to report services problem when I've picked up a car and then when reserving that car a week or two later had the same issue. Not small issues, major, like the passenger seat is unmovable and up close to the dash board which made it impossible to use since we were 5 travelers. There has been animal hair allover the seats that covered our clothing on the way to a wedding ( animals are required to be in carriers). We’ve experienced seat belts that were not working, service lights on dashboard that were still there a month later. There are lots of Zipcars and lots of Zipcar drivers in NYC so to get another Zipcar at the last minute is impossible if there’s something wrong with it. I understand that there will be issues occasionally …but this has become a REGULARLY occurrence. I now call in to ask if the car I’ll be using has any service reports before I use it. I thought this would help but it turns out that the majority of Zipsters can’t be bothered to call in service issues or is it that Customer Service has a policy to not let drivers know that there was an issue reported? Regardless or which it is, this has not work since I have very often this past year gotten to a car that cannot be started, has a broken something or other, service lights on or is filthy, really filthy…food scraps, stained seats and on occasion cigarette ashes ( smoking is prohibited). I have this past month ( Feb 2019) called them 5 times to get answer to a question and was told that they would respond within 48 hours…the first response came as a form email after 10 days and 2 additional calls to them. The second response has not come but it is now 12 days & 2 calls since I called. Is it time to buy a car? I think so. The idea of car sharing is convenience, Zipcar is an inconvenient & frustrating service.

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Emily
February 7th, 2019 Lindon, UT DETAILS
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Zipcar is an awesome service. When I was in Seattle, we needed a car to get out to a hike we were wanting to do. It was very easy to find and use the car and it was within walking distance of where we were staying.

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Paulo Soares
January 21st, 2019 State College, PA DETAILS
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I reserved a car through the Zipcar app this morning, and the process was just OK. But when I arrived at the pick up location THE CAR WAS NOT THERE! Then I called Zipcar and they informed me the car had been towed and they were still trying to recover it. BUT IF YOU KNOW THE CAR IS NOT AT THE PICK UP LOCATION WHY DO YOU SHOW THE CAR AS AVAILABLE? All that I could get was a refund. NO courtesy hours for the hassle of wasting my time to go somewhere for nothing. And this is the second time something like this happens. In the first time, the car was there but the battery was dead. They knew about it but they didn't make the car unavailable. Very bad. They don't care about their customers. Unreliable. Just don't use it if you plan to do something important.

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Lesa Burgess
August 22nd, 2018 Pleasant Grove, UT

I was visiting San Francisco when i used zipcar for the first one. Being in a big tech-y city like SF, it was easy to find an available car and ride around the city. Had no issues and thoroughly enjoyed this easy service. I have not used his service being in a smaller city, so I’m not sure about their services.