One year of Zipcar

Zipcar logoI signed up for Zipcar last December to test it out, but didn’t start using it in earnest until April when I sold my car. In May Stephanie and I got our Vespas for getting around the city on a whim, but we rely on Zipcar for heavy errands, day trips, and weekend adventures.

Here are some things I learned after looking over my usage in 2007. On average I made two rentals a month. Average rental time was 18 hours. Average spent per month on Zipcar was $180! Given that I only started using Zipcar in earnest in April, I’m on track to spend over $2000/year on Zipcar. Yikes!

With my “occasional driving” plan, I pay $8.75/hour, capped at $65 per 24 hours. If I would commit to spending at least $50/month, which seems like a no brainer at this point, the hourly and daily rates drop 10%. I opted against that plan initially for fear that a month might go by where I didn’t use Zipcar. However, since selling my car, that hasn’t once been the case.

$2000 a year seems like a lot without any context. Luckily last year I made a spreadsheet estimating the cost of insurance, gas, maintenance, and tax on my car (which thankfully I’d already paid off). My monthly estimate was $250. So Zipcar at $180/month (and possibly $160 if I switch plans) represents at minimum a $70/month savings—not counting parking, which almost certainly would add $250-300/month.

So in real dollars, Zipcar is saving me money, worrying about things like insurance, gas, and maintenance for me, and offering one unquantifiable benefit: a wide selection of cars to choose from, depending on my needs or whims. This year I drove 10 different cars. Next year, who knows…



quick question on the zipcar math…how often on average did you drive your own car per month in your $250 calculation? It seems likely to me that you probably drove it more than the twice a month you drive the zipcar, which would change the outlook on your dollars to use ration a lot…

Roberta, actually after moving to the city, I’d leave my car parked at work and only go get it to take the same kinds of trips as I used Zipcar for now.

That $250 monthly estimate included about $45 for gas, which at the time was 1 tankful, which got me about 375 miles.

Every 24 hour Zipcar rental includes 180 miles, so if I use them twice a month for an average rental of 18 hours, were talking a maximum mileage of 360 miles.

I think my pre- and post-Zipcar usage is pretty similar.

This is very interesting. What happens to those numbers when you factor in the vespa? Transportation is such a pain….

I left the Vespa out of the calculations because the Zipcar functionally replaced my Honda Civic, whereas the Vespa replaced the bus. I think I drove to work and parked on the street for all of 2 or 3 weeks after moving to the city. After that it was all bus.

But yeah, the Vespa costs money to purchase, insure, fuel, and maintain, but way less than a car. I’m not sure what the annual tax on the Vespa runs, but for insurance, fuel, maintenance, parking permit, and occasional bridge tolls, I estimate that the Vespa costs about $100/month to own. Which along with the Zipcar is still a considerable monthly savings over car ownership and parking rental.


I’d avoid hiring a zip car for 24 hours when a traditional car rental (say Hertz or Alamo, I know, how non-PC) is $25-50/day depending on the season. Hertz throws in a free tank of gas with a 3-day rental. I save the zip car for 3 hours or less. My peeve about zip cars is that they always seem to be trashed with unknown stains, spills and smells. The last one I had smelled like a cat’s litter box. But, I agree, it is fun to try out all of their foreign models and not have to hassle with standing in line at a counter.

Darren, that hassle, and the often limited business hours of rental agencies (especially on weekends!) is well worth the few extra bucks for Zipcar, imho. As far as unclean cars, it really hasn’t hasn’t been an issue for me—I think they get cleaned weekly in SF.

Remember an 8 hour Zipcar rental is the same as a 24 hour rental, so if you’re already renting it for 6 or 7 hours, it pays to just rent it for 24, and maybe use it twice. The other benefit over a rental car agency is you get an accessible dedicated parking spot, which is gold in the city, so I can park and go as I please.


The thing with Hertz and Avis VS Zip: They don’t provide insurance. With people who don’t own cars, it adds another $30+/day to make sure you’re covered in an accident. Zip is free insurance with a deductible. On top of that, of course, other companies just give you a tank of gas maybe. Zip it’s always free, less of an incentive now the prices have dropped, but still good. The only thing to watch with Zip is the milage. I ended up doing a 4 day rental and Zip was 80% of the cheapest price that could give me.


Email (optional)

Blog (optional)