2006_8_ask_zipcar.jpgHow does Zipcar work? Is it really worth it?

Zipcar is a great option for people who want the flexibility of having a car to drive without actually owning one. It's a car share program with cars available throughout NY and NJ, as well as several other cities throughout the US. Anyone who is 21 or over with a license and a clean driving record can become a Zipcar member after paying a one-time application fee of $25. There are several different ways to have a membership, including Occasional Driving Plans ($50 annual fee and $100 deposit) as well as Extra Value Plans (10-15% driving discount, $50-$250 monthly commitment, and the higher commitment plans include rollover).

We have the Occasional Driving Plan, which has proven many times over that it is worth it. Cars can be reserved either hourly or per day (from $10/hr and $69/day), and with every car you get gas, insurance, reserved parking, XM radio, and 120 miles. Any additional miles are billed at $0.30/mile.

What we have found really makes this worth it is the free gas. As we all know, gas prices have skyrocketed, and this is really a bonus. Zipcar doesn't just offer small cars - they have everything from Mini Coopers, to Toyota Prius' as well as SUVs and trucks. How hard is it to get a vehicle when you want one? Well, it depends on when you are looking for one, etc. As you can imagine, cars on the weekend are harder to come by, especially last minute. However, we have been able to reserve a vehicle for an entire weekend, with only about a week in advance, during the winter. We have not been so lucky during summer months. You are better off if you can reserve early.

Ok, we have to talk about the downsides of Zipcar... but there are only a couple. We have found that it is a good deal if you are reserving it for a full 24 hour period. Hourly sometimes gets a bit tricky, because of NY traffic, it is hard to estimate how long you actually need the car. If you return a car late, the next person who has the reservation gets screwed, so you are charged a fee. If you return it early, there is no discount, you still pay the for the full reservation. Secondly, some might not like driving a vehicle that has a big Zipcar logo on the side and the back. We don't really care all that much - in fact we feel that maybe we get an occasional pass here and there if our driving skills suck a little bit, because people assume we must not drive too often.

What do other Zipcar members think?