We are offered many transportation solutions within grasp of our smartphone. They range from public transportation to car buying options to an electric scooter for that last mile to your doorstep. Everything in-between is a hodgepodge of temporary conveyances that are utilized, at least seldomly.
What if you have to meet a client or do a job interview where there is no bus or train service? What if you cannot afford a rental car for a day, an app-based hire service or a taxi to go back and forth to your appointment?
When was the last time you took a vehicle from a car share service?
You may live in a city where there are plenty of options available. Most cities have at least one car share service where members can take a vehicle for an hour or more just to get to where they need to be. You can do your grocery shopping, take bulk items home, or meet someone for some work.
One such service is Zipcar. It is one of the largest car share services in the world, operating in 500 cities and 600 college campuses across 10 countries. Zipcar operates 12,000 vehicles in these markets. And, by the way, Zipcar is a subsidiary of the Avis Budget Group.
To utilize Zipcar and other car share services, you have to be a member. Membership is charged yearly or monthly, depending on the type of use you would anticipate from Zipcar.
Vehicles are charged by the hour with pertinent tax and use charges on top of the hourly fee. Those hourly fees can range from $7.50 and up, or a flat fee of $69.00 a day depending on vehicles. Mostly, the vehicles are compact sedans or smaller SUVs. Some cities have more luxurious vehicles available, as well as normal vehicles.
One thing to note about the fees is that they are inclusive. Basic insurance is included, along with a gas card in each vehicle, maintenance, and a dedicated parking location. However, you are limited to 180 miles per day of driving.
These car share services operate in urban areas, such as the downtown core, in and around college campuses, and in urban enclaves away from the city center. The vehicles are usually positioned within a few blocks from a transit connection or a busy section of the city. They are perfect vehicle substitutes for urban dwellers who are unwilling to pay for vehicle taxes and parking fees.
To demonstrate how Zipcar and other car share services work, we took one out for a three-hour tour.
One of our writers had to do an interview for another outlet they write for in a suburb southwest of Minneapolis. Since our writer lived near downtown, there were a choice of vehicles available to us at various hourly rates. It was decided upon a two-to-three-year-old Hyundai Elantra SE that was sitting at an apartment tower close to the Mississippi River. All we needed was to confirm the reservation through the app, whip out the Zipcard, and off we went.
The Elantra was pretty basic. The car has just over 20,000 miles on the odometer, which is less than expected for its age compared to one rented from its Avis or Budget lots. The blue SE sedan did not have power seats, Bluetooth connectivity, or a backup camera, but it was easy to drive. It was not really our focus to play with technology while on this mission. Yet, the Elantra got us to our destination and back without any hassle.
The Zipcard is the key to your vehicle. Pressing it against the reader will lock and unlock the vehicle every time. The key – yes, a real key – was hanging securely by the ignition switch. If you run less than a quarter-tank of gas, there is a gas card on the visor for you to use. Just remember the mileage on the odometer to key into the gas pump.
With our 35-mile roundtrip, we enjoyed having the blue Zipcar Hyundai Elantra at our disposal. It helped us accomplish our task without having to resort to buses, dial-a-rides, and ride-hailing app services. In fact, our time in the Zipcar Elantra cost less than using one of the two ride-hailing app services available in the Twin Cities.
We have options to get where we need to go. If it is available in your community, give car sharing a try. If this is your alternative to car ownership, it is certainly worth exploring.