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Old 05-02-2008, 07:03 AM
6 posts, read 15,009 times
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Can any of you tell me how effective/available the zip cars really are? Can they be a viable alternative to owning your own car? I'm moving to SF soon, and still have two years left to pay on my car; however, I have a family member who is willing to purchase it if I choose not to bring it with me. I would love not to have all of the expenses associated with a car, but would still like the convenience.

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Old 05-02-2008, 04:44 PM
655 posts, read 1,899,606 times
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I think this very much depends on 1) where you live in relation to the cars, and 2) how often/where you drive. We've belonged to City Carshare, a nonprofit Bay Area carsharing company, for the last three years, and I belonged to Zipcar for five years before that on the East Coast, too.

For carsharing to be a good alternative, you need to:

1) live within walking distance of at least one car (ideally more than one!);
2) not use a car for your daily commute--that's not the intent of carshares;
3) be able to plan ahead (or be flexible) in your car needs; and
4) not have a dog who needs to come along (I know, it seems like a non-issue, but that's our single biggest issue with carsharing, since our guy is too big to go in a crate in the car!)

If these work, then it's a terrific solution. Planning ahead and/or living near more than one car helps with availability (which can be an issue for some locations). For trips longer than a day, it generally still makes sense to rent a car, but for short trips, the carshare is much cheaper. Zipcar and City Carshare are the two shows in town in SF, and have slightly different pricing models--one or the other may be cheaper for you depending on the type of trips you take. (CC is a low hourly charge + per mile charge; Zipcar is a higher hourly charge but no mileage charge. Both offer reduced overnight rates.) Both also cover all insurance and gas costs. They share some locations but each also have their own cars, so choose whichever is most convenient to your home.

Overall, I've had very positive experiences with both companies (but have heard from friends that Zipcar has gone somewhat downhill in recent years as far as customer service). You can make reservations either online or by phone; I've occasionally even called in a reservation while standing next to an available car! They also have pickup trucks available, which we have used on many occasions. For what it's worth, we do have a car and still find a carshare membership extremely valuable--sometimes we want a car on one end of a trip but don't want to drive the entire way; sometimes we need a car with more/differently-configured space than our car has. Sometimes we just need to go two different ways with no transit options, and it allows us to remain a one-car family.
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Old 05-03-2008, 08:55 AM
6 posts, read 15,009 times
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Default Thanks!

Thank you so much for the information. I'm really leaning toward not taking my car, but I might give it a try for a month or so first, just to make sure. I definitely plan on using public trans to commute to work, especially since I don't know my way around the city at all. I'm not sure where I'll be living permanently yet, since I'll be staying with my brother initially, but I will keep my location per any car sharing vehciles in mind when making my decision.
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Old 05-03-2008, 07:17 PM
Location: San Jose, CA
7,688 posts, read 27,930,597 times
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They're actually priced higher than the big chains like Avis and Enterprise. True, you don't have to pay for insurance, but if you pay with something like an American Express or a travel card you'll likely get some free coverage anyway.
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Old 05-03-2008, 11:56 PM
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Remember, though, that car sharing isn't intended to be for full days. I rent cars frequently for work, and an average rental with insurance is $30+$10 for CDW + $9 for liability, plus however much gas I use. So if I'm using a car for the full day and going a distance, it may well be worth it--though City Carshare is $40 + 10 cents a mile for a full day reservation, so it really depends on how far you're going. But if I'm going to the grocery store or Ikea or some such thing and I only need the car for 2-3 hours, it's *much* cheaper to carshare, at $5/hour + 40 cents/mile. And for us, one important factor is when the cars are available--you can go pick up a car at 8 pm and return it at midnight, for instance, which you can't do with an off-airport rental place. Carshares are intended to serve a different niche than rental cars (and some actually partner with rental car companies to discourage you from using carshare cars for full-day adventures).

I should add, too, that one thing I really miss about Zipcar is that you could use your membership in any city that had Zipcars, a plus if you travel in those areas. City Carshare is Bay Area only so it doesn't have that perq. One thing to consider in choosing between the two.
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Old 05-21-2008, 12:45 PM
Location: Arlington, VA
593 posts, read 2,353,019 times
Reputation: 301
Zipcar works well, but sometimes you will arrive to find a damaged/dented car. It is a pain to waste time calling in the damages while you are paying for the car to sit there.
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