Zipcar!

Last month I finally got around to joining Zipcar. I’d thought about it for years, but took the plunge when I was trying to find a doctor who took my health insurance. Most of them were sale of viagra in Deep Northern Jersey ™, and really needed a car to get to.

Today I took a car out for the first time. I’ve heard mixed reviews of ZipCars: some people love them, some people say the cars are never there when you need them. I’m assuming this is because people return them late. I booked a two hour slot for what I hoped was about an hour and a half long trip.

And it might have been an hour and a half long trip had I not a) gotten horribly lost and b) made the terrible decision to head out to the suburbs during a rainy rush hour. It took us about 45 minutes to get to our destination (Google Maps had estimated 15). Luckily there wasn’t a reservation after us, so I was able to extend it 30 minutes. We made our two stops (art supply store and hardware store) and I got the car back at exactly 5:30.

I have to say that after driving through suburban northern New Jersey I finally understand why everyone hates Jersey so much.  But the ZipCar experience was a pretty smooth one. I was embarrassingly a little bit excited about the fact that I could just go online and magically have a car for a few hours. There are a number of cars parked within a 10 minute walk of my house. The rates seem a little steep (our 2.5 hour excursion cost about $35 after taxes). Then I remembered how much it cost to insure and maintain my car back when I had one, let alone the cost of gas or the car itself. For as often as I need a car, maybe once or twice a month, the ZipCar is an obvious win.

I’m sure at some point I will have a run in with a missing or broken car, and curse all things ZipCar, but so far it’s been a pretty pleasant experience.

Filed under: Hacking

3 thoughts on “Zipcar!

  1. Shawn says:

    That seems really expensive for a couple hours.
    I can rent a car for $35 for the day in Seattle. and “We’ll Pick You Up”
    I’ve wondered about zip car.
    My car died in Oct 2006. I sold the dead car for $800 & bought a Taig mill.
    The mill makes money instead of taking it. Much better!
    I work from home anyway so no big deal.
    I thought I would really miss driving, but I don’t miss it at all.
    It costs less than $1 to ride the bus & I live by the transit center in the middle of town.
    Insurance, maintenance, gas & people on the phone yak, yak, yaking instead of driving…

    1. Kellbot says:

      99.9% of the time I take public transit. In warmer weather I take the PATH to Manhattan and then bike across the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s great. But there are times when I either need to carry something larger than a backpack or go somewhere it isn’t safe to bike and public transit doesn’t go. So for those times ZipCar is handy, and cheaper than taking a cab.

  2. I too use ZipCar. Except that I also own a car and Rochester has only two ZipCar locations both affiliated with the University of Rochester … and I live near the main campus.

    I have not done the analysis to compare ZipCar with using a regular rental company, mostly because it’s the complexities of rental car companies that is the problem. It’s not just $35 per day (or whatever price happens to be that day), you also have to deal with taxes (beyond sales), purchasing additional insurance (specifically if you do not already have car insurance), and paying for your own gas. And since ZipCar is self-serve, there is also no paperwork to fill out, and no possibility of up-selling, etc.

    So my logic works like this: “car rental would probably be cheaper”, “but it’s additional hassle”, “and there’s extra charges that I can’t compute beforehand”, “I don’t feel like figuring it out”, “I guess I’ll stick with ZipCar for now”, loop, repeat. Intuitively, it seems more expensive, but my deeper intuition says it’s about the same cost.

    But yeah, I think it’s not hard for ZipCar to piss you off.

    I’m not fond of needing to reserve a vehicle 3 days in advance (or more if it’s something like the weekend) — and to specify exact hours that I’ll need it. Cars generally work, but they’re not as pretty as the cheerful, clean, Cooper Mini flagship car would imply. The reservation system seems to work well, but I imagine it’s not hard to get backed into a corner when you can’t make it back on time. Staff always seemed helpful and responsive.

    Owing to the maximal efficiency of constantly sharing vehicles, I feel that the entire company walks a fine line with its customer relations. They’re right on that edge of being just too efficient … too un-personal to keep me as a customer. But so far, so good.

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