If you live on a college campus or in an urban area where you do not really need a car for your daily commute, a car-sharing service may be ideal when you require a car for occasional purposes.
Car sharing is a great way to save energy and time by combining trips and saving gas, in turn reducing your carbon footprint.
Car sharing is also cheaper and more convenient than renting a car and is an option worth considering if you require a car once in a while.
Our Zipcar Review: The Basics First
Launched in 2000, Zipcar is a subsidiary of the Avis Budget Group and has become extremely popular as one of the most well-known car-sharing services in the world.
Zipcar offers convenient, flexible, and comprehensive car-sharing options and offers a wide range of self-service vehicles, which are available for use by the hour or day.
Zipcar has its operations in urban areas and in over 600 universities in several cities and towns across the U.S., U.K., Canada, Belgium, Costa Rica, Iceland, Spain, France, Turkey and Taiwan.
Zipcar offers you an excellent alternative to owning your own car and has hubs all around the world, making it among the largest global car-sharing companies.
And, once you have a Zipcar membership, you can use the cars anywhere at all.
Not only is Zipcar a great option for people who don’t drive often, but also for travelers who want on-demand access to a vehicle but do not want the hassles of paying for a rental car.
Using a Zipcar is very similar to hiring a rental car.
You can use your membership card to reserve a car, and after you drive it for your predetermined amount of time, you return the vehicle to its original location.
This process is very different from ridesharing options, such as Lyft and Uber, where you book a cab via your mobile app and the driver picks you up in their car and drives you to your destination — similar to a taxi service.
How Zipcar Works
Zipcar has membership plans that you can subscribe to and via the plan, you can locate, reserve and drive the Zipcar vehicles.
Each Zipcar has a specific home location where you pick up and return the vehicle.
These locations are mainly parking lots which are mostly near business areas, universities, hospitals, etc.
In a few simple steps, you can get access to complete Zipcar Freedom — here’s how.
Applying for a Membership
- Application for Zipcar membership is very easy. All you need are a driving license, your contact information, your credit card details, and a nominal application fee.
- The process usually takes a few hours if you are a licensed driver in the U.S. or Canada.
- If you have a foreign driving license, then the process will take a bit longer and you also need your passport for the application process.
- However, before applying for an individual account, it is a good idea to check if your university or organization has a pre-existing account which you can use.
- Once your application is approved, you will receive your Zipcard or membership card in a week with access to Zipcar vehicles worldwide which you can start driving immediately.
- You can add co-drivers to your account anytime you want, such as your family members.
- However, the person you add as a co-driver must also pass the background check and also pay the membership and application fees.
Reserving the Zipcar
- Zipcar rentals allow you to rent a car by the hour or on a daily basis. You can rent it for 30 minutes, 1 hour or even up to 7 days for one-way and round trips.
- You can make your reservation via the mobile app or the company website, where you need to specify the start time and end time of your Zipcar reservation.
- If the car is not being used by another driver, you can start your trip early.
- If the car is available, you can even reserve the car just 30 minutes before your start time.
- Zipcar allows you to reserve your car up to 1 year in advance.
- For any reservation that is less than 8 hours, you can either reduce the time or cancel the reservation 3 hours before the trip begins.
- In the case of longer trips, you need to give a notice of 24 hours for cancellation or modification of your reservation. If you do not do so, you will be charged the full amount of the reservation made originally.
- Extension of the reservation can be done at any time without any penalty, as long as your reservation does not overlap with another user’s booking.
Unlocking and Using the Zipcar
- You can unlock the Zipcar by tapping your Zipcard to the reader located on the windshield.
- The trip meter starts as soon as the car is unlocked or at the start of your reservation time, whichever is the earlier time.
- The keys are usually located inside the car and you can start the car with the regular key or use the push start button, depending on the type and model of the vehicle.
- On your trip, you can make as many stops as you want; however, you will be charged until the end of your reservation time, even if you decide to return the car earlier.
- If you want to extend your reservation time, you can do it via a text message or through the mobile app.
Returning the Zipcar
- When your trip is complete, you need to drop off the Zipcar at the assigned parking spot and lock the vehicle using the Zipcard or the app.
- The company charges your credit card that has been stored automatically.
- In case you drive over 180 miles in a particular trip, you will be charged 45 cents for every additional mile you drive.
- The fuel and insurance cost is usually borne by Zipcar; however, if you get a ticket, have an accident, pass a bridge or highway toll or do not refill a low fuel tank, you will be charged a fee.
- In case you are late in returning the vehicle, you may be charged a fine in the range of $50-$150 depending on the delay in returning the car.
Eligibility for a Zipcar Membership
For a Zipcar membership, you must meet the following criteria:
- You must be 21 years old, or 18 years if you are a student studying at a partner university.
- You should have an unrestricted and valid driver’s license for 12 months at least.
- In a period of 3 years, you should not have had more than 2 accidents and moving violations.
- Within a period of 18 months, not more than one accident or moving violation.
- You should not have any driving offenses related to alcohol or drugs in the past 7 years.
- You should not have any major violations in the last 3 years related to reckless driving, speeding in the school zone, driving 20 miles/hour over the designated speed limit, driving with a suspended license, or leaving an accident scene.
Zipcar has 5 membership plans, all of which offer the same basic features.
However, the cost varies on the basis of the distance you drive and your status i.e. if you are an individual, a student, or a business.
The plan also varies according to the location, and you must check your local rates before you sign up.
All the plans come with a free trial and a 30-day money back guarantee.
1. Occasional Driving Plan
- Application Fee: $25
- Annual Fee: $70 (these are refunded on a prorated basis if you cancel within the year)
- Co-Driver Fees: $35 per year + $25 application fee
- Weekday Rate for Basic Cars (Hatchbacks and Non-luxury Sedans): $8-$12 per hour
- Weekend Rate: $7-$11 per hour
2. Monthly Driving Plan
- Monthly Fee: $7 (non-refundable)
- Co-Driver Fee: $3.50 extra per month
- Rates are same as Occasional Driving Plan
3. Extra Value Plans (EVPs)
EVPs require you to commit to driving a certain amount every month and the amount for this is made as a pre-payment.
Anything you drive above the specific amount, you pay extra.
EVPs are available in increments of $50, $75, $125 and $250.
Co-drivers only have to pay a 1-time application fee and the monthly commitment can be shared with the co-driver.
You can shift from one EVP to another for a fee of $25 per change.
- $50 Plan: You lose the prepaid time that is unused at the end of the month.
- $75 Plan: Allows the unused time to be rolled over to the next month for a single month.
- $125 and $250 Plan: These allow the unused time to be rolled over for 2 months.
4. Business Plan
These plans have a 1-time application fee, annual fee (ongoing) and per-driver fee, which all vary according to the organization and the location and are much higher than Personal Plan charges.
Business Plans have daily and hourly rates.
On weekdays, the rates are slightly discounted (around 5%), while weekend rates are not discounted.
There is a special business rate between 7 am and 7 pm, which is around 10-20% lower than the daily rate.
In certain cities, you can get specialized vehicles such as vans and pickup trucks for higher rates.
You have the option of billing each driver separately or you can make a single payment for the entire account.
5. Student or Faculty Plan
If the particular university has a Zipcar lot, then the students and faculty get special prices, credits for signing up, and other perks on Zipcar memberships.
Rates vary according to the place; however, they are much lower than the Occasional and Monthly Plans.
Pros and Cons of Zipcar
- Zipcar can be more affordable than other options such as Car2Go, Uber, and Lyft.
- You have a wider range of vehicles to choose from compared to other car-sharing services such as Car2Go, Hourcar, etc.
- If you cannot drive a regular car, Zipcar offers cars with hand controls, while other services do not offer vehicles for disabled drivers.
- The Zipcar app functions as an extra set of keys. If you are logged into the Zipcar app, you can unlock the car from any place and without returning to the car. If you happen to forget the keys inside the car, you don’t have to worry about locking them in as you might with other car services.
- Zipcar’s services are widely available compared to its competitors.
- You can drive a Zipcar in any country you travel and use the Zipcar network, as long as you can legally drive in the particular country.
- You can be sure that once you reserve the Zipcar for a certain period, it will be available for that time.
- Although you don’t have to return the Zipcar you rent, especially in the case of one-way rentals, to the home location, you must return the vehicle to a Zipcar lot and, until you do so, your reservation will not be complete.
- If you leave the Zipcar on the street, you can incur heavy fines. This makes it difficult to use a Zipcar for point-to-point trips which do not have a second Zipcar lot.
- Irrespective of the Zipcar membership plan you use, you are required to pay an annual or a monthly fee or commit to driving a certain amount in a month.
- You cannot go on a trip spontaneously, get into a Zipcar, and drive away. You need to plan and reserve a Zipcar in advance before your trip and choose the starting and ending times at least half an hour prior to making the reservation.
- To get a Zipcar membership, you must be 21 years old or you must be a student affiliated with a partner university — even as a student with a clean driving record, you must be at least 18 years old.
Car sharing is a great option compared to owning a car if you don’t drive your car often or use it for long distances.
This is where Zipcar comes in as an extremely viable option.
Zipcar is affordable, user-friendly, and widely available.
Choosing a Zipcar gives you the freedom to get onto the road whenever you want and go wherever you want.