I joined Zipcar just over one month ago and I have to say: I loooooove it.
Chris and I choose to live car-free, but there are times when we need wheels (client meetings in the peninsula, big grocery shops, runs to Ikea, visit days to Tad's school which is in the boonies). We used to rent cars on sites like Priceline, where we could get a deal for around $20/day. But the insurance costs (because we don't own a car, we were required to get about $30/day coverage), the gas (why did all of their cars seem to be terribly fuel inefficient? Usually another $20/day), the parking tickets/lots (an average of about $10/day) and 'extras' (don't know where these came from, but you could put another $5/day at least on the rentals), and having to catch the BART both ways to the airport to get the deal (cars in the city tended to be about $15/day more expensive at least - so that's another $10 in total) all added up to $85+/day...not to mention the time it took to pick up and return the cars. 45 minutes each way to the airport and the length of time it took to pick up the reservation...at least 75 minutes to pick up, 45-60 minutes to drop.
I applied for Zipcar and got my card within a day or two (I opted to pick it up from the office just down the street) and started driving right away. There are just so many things to love about this service so I'm just going to list all of the things I heart about Zipcar that I never knew I would but now can't live without:
- There are locations EVERYWHERE. Check out this map of SF locations. Yowsa!
- You book a car, and you can go pick it up from your desired location within the next 5-10 minutes.
- You can book it online with a beeeeooootiful user friendly schedule that shows maps, cars, times available, costs, etc.:
- You can book it over the phone really quickly through an easy to follow automated booking system that will email you the confirmation (or SMS it) pronto if you don't have your computer handy. You can, again, pick up your car within minutes. In fact, you can be standing over the desired car and book it. Hang up. Fix your lipstick in the mirrors. Get in.
- Zipcar remembers your phone number, so you don't have to dig for your card when you call for help if you are calling from your registered number.
- They are super responsive when there are any issues with the cars. I was a dumbass and didn't know how to start the Mini...they were very patient with me.
- They have Mini Coopers, Mazda 3s and Toyota Prius'...I heart the Prius. It has a 'Power' button, not a key. It's soooo great.
- It's a 'community shared' car. This means when you join Zipcar, you are part of a community of people. I was walking down the street in NYC, chatting Zipcar up to my friend and a very stylish guy walked by us, turned around and said, "You are right, honey, Zipcar is da bomb!" winked at me and gave me a big grin. I was on the bus and mentioned Zipcar to my son and a couple smiled at me and said, "We love Zipcar." People can connect through these things.
- Sharing cars is good for the environment. Think about it. We don't use a car 24/7. Less cars on the road would be a good thing. Definitely less cars parked in this city would be even better. Less landfill when they break down. Less driving when we don't need to. Besides, Zipcar gives all sorts of green tips in their blog. And, they estimate that for every Zipcar they put on the road, it replaces about 15.
[The only thing that would make it better is if we could pick up a Zipcar at one place and leave it at our destination so we didn't have to drive it back. Think airport. Think home from airport. Think rushing to an appointment, but don't need to use it on the return. The logistics of that may be difficult, though. Ooooo...maybe Zipcar carpools too?]
- Zipcar has a Flickr account. That makes them very cool in my books. Now...how about Twitter?
- Zipcar is popping up all over the place. We used Zipcar over the holidays in Boston in lieu of renting (which, over the holidays would have cost us at least $95/day before insurance, etc.). Zipcar just turned up in London. Zipcar is in Toronto, Washington, DC, Chicago and New York. If Zipcar keeps growing, soon we can pick one up in any major city...fly in, zip to wherever, etc.
- Zipcar keeps track of your bills, how far you traveled, etc. I'm sure they have GPS data, too...but can't release it (yet). I can watch my usage over time, make notes for specific uses (client meetings, personal trips, etc.), charge it to different accounts (I have one for Citizen Agency and one for personal use), add family members to my plan (I have the Zipcar addicts plan, so I can share my prepaid hours) and change upcoming reservations easily online or over the phone.
- Speaking of the plan. When I first signed up, I picked the no monthly cost plan. After one month, I've decided to swith to the Zipcar addicts plan, which I can share with Chris and others on the Citizen Agency account. Basically I prepay $250/month and I get 15% off of my bookings: $7.44/hour or $55.00/day. If I don't use up all of my $250 one month, it rolls over to the next month. If I find I can't use it, I can downgrade once every 6 months.
- Extending my time with the Zipcar is simple, too. If nobody has it booked, I can just call in and extend my rental for as long as I need (up to 4 days).
- Zipcar pays for the gas. All of it. They give you a card and if that doesn't work, they reimburse you.
- I have Zipcar in a jiffy anytime I need it. Tad gets in trouble? Zipcar. Need to pickup something across town before the store closes? Zipcar. Last minute client meeting in the peninsula? Zipcar. Friends coming into the airport? Zipcar. At $7.44/hour, it's way cheaper than a cab and way more available (in this town).
- XM Radio is way cool. We enjoyed the station Ethyl. Unfortunately, some cars seem to not have it activated.
I picked Zipcar because it just appealed to me: it is everywhere, have amazing cars (love the Prius...and they even have trucks and SUVs if you really really need them), are totally accessible and friendly and the best website (Flexcar has a nice design, but wasn't friendly enough compared to Zipcar's upbeat attitude and quirkyness.)...that being said, all three services look awesome and amazing.
It looks like we will never have to buy a car afterall...