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Should I Use Zipcar?

I have asked myself that same question.  So I went to zipcar.com to check it out.

Zipcar, by the way, is a car-share company offering an driving alternative for people who don’t want the expense and hassle of owning a car.  Zipcars are available for use from specially designated parking spots throughout greater metropolitan areas.  Maybe you are one of those people who take public transport to work but sometimes you want a car – like for a big grocery shop or a beach trip.  Maybe you are also wondering if Zipcar is for you.

Well, a while back I was taking the bus to work, and thinking of using Zipcar for my occasional driving needs.  Here’s what I found out.

First, there actually are Zipcars near me, as the company claims.  I thought they were just near metro stops.  After I typed my address into Zipcar.com’s map function, I found I could walk to where Zipcars are parked in about 15 minutes.  That’s pretty good.  The nearest metro stop is four miles from me.

I could drive a bunch of different kinds of cars – from Scions to Jettas to Minis, even BMWs and large trucks.  Driving nicer or bigger cars increases the rate.

Speaking of the rate ... it sounds pretty impressive.  You can drive a ZipCar for $7.50 per hour, and that includes gas and insurance.  If you want a car for a day, you can get it as low as $70.  

At first I didn’t think this was such a good deal, and decided to rent a car for a day so I could drive to an appointment in McLean after work.  Car rental companies claim you can rent a car for as cheap as $28 per day.  But once you pay for insurance and gas, the price winds up being about $75.  That’s what it was for me.

Instead of doing that, I could have taken a bus from work to the nearest Zipcar location – or gotten a ride with a co-worker – and donned a nice little shiny car to take to my meeting in McLean.  All told the trip probably would have taken 4 hours, so only $32.  Maybe that’s what I should have done.

On the other hand ... joining Zipcar means you have to pay $60 up front for an annual fee, or commit to using Zipcar in an amount equal to $50 per month.  Since this was a one-time deal and I wasn’t sure I wanted to make any kind of commitment, I didn’t choose Zipcar.

Is there another way Zipcar might work for me?  Well, I have to do errands after work occasionally, maybe two or three hours at a time.  That would cost $20 to $25. Hmmm ... the bus is a lot cheaper.  It does take longer, though.

Like a lot of things, whether Zipcar is for you probably depends on your particular situation and what’s important to you.  Fortunately, Zipcar’s website is fun, easy to use, and contains lots of information.  I definitely recommend you surf over to zipcar.com and check it out for yourself. 

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