This is my review of Zipcar where I will answer all the questions I myself had before I signed up for a Zipcar membership so you won’t have to wander. In my opinion, Zipcar is the best car rental service if you need a car to run quick errands and to haul stuffs from A to B, or go on short trips within 180 miles. Here’s why.
For free $25 Zipcar credits, sign up using my referral link.
The referral credit can be spent on your Zipcar rides, even the first ride! When you sign up using that referral link, both you and I will receive $25 Zipcar credits each.
What Makes Zipcar Different?
There are so many unique aspects to Zipcar that its competitors seem to miss. For instance, a Zipcar can be picked up and delivered at any time of the day 24 hrs 7 days of week. Compare that freedom to Enterprise, where you have to deposit their cars during their business hours. Zipcar is also significantly cheaper than its competitors if you rent for few hours, since most cars go for $8/hr AND it includes insurance + gas. If you rent for entire day, or multiple days – then all car rental services cost approximately the same.
Besides, Zipcar has a cool factor which I found out when I drove one. All their cars have a nickname. 🙂 I have rented several times and they have all been clean, well-maintained, non-abused vehicles with <2000 miles on them. The cars come in different shapes and sizes, can be parked for free in the city in parking spots owned by the company. If there are Zipcars close to you, it is very convenient to use. Makes life so much easier. Also if you are a college student, they even waive the application fee. There is no application fee for students PLUS the yearly membership cost is only $15!
Zipcar Membership Types
Before you can book and drive Zipcars, you need to be a member. That is how you will have a “Zipcard” (or mobile app authorization) to unlock the vehicles.
To become a member:
- be at least 18 (if affiliated to college) or 21
- have a driver’s license (international license works as well)
- a mailing address where you can receive the Zipcard
Let me go in detail about the different membership types they have.
Rates are different for different cities. Washington DC shown below. Check rates for your location here.
I am on the Occasional Driving plan since I only drive when I need to get groceries or with friends for weekend getaways out of city. The disadvantage of Occasional plan is that Zipcar charges $2/hr (or $9/day) more during Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Customers on the Monthly Driving Plan do not pay those extra $$$ for cars during Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Extra Value users get 10% discount on all car rates PLUS their membership cost is given back as Zipcar credits. For instance, they are charged $50/mo at the beginning of the month and $50 ride credit is added to their account. Note that unused ride credits do not roll over to next month.
Note: All 3 plans cover gas and insurance. All 3 plans allow 180 miles per 24 hours period for free. Additional mile costs about 45 cents each. Each reservation gives you 180 miles and if you extend the reservation while on the trip, you get 20 miles per each extended hour (beyond the 24th hour). Max reservation length is 3 days, so 180×3 = 540 miles.
ProTip: You are allowed to spend that 540 miles however you like. For instance, drive 400 miles on day 1, 40 miles on day 2 and 100 miles on day 3 and YOU WON’T BE CHARGED EXTRA. Think bachelor party and road trips 🙂
Zipcar Rates: How much is the rental price
Zipcar rates are impacted by a lot of factors: the make/model of the vehicle, city, membership type, college affiliation status, weekend vs week days (if on the occasional driving plan), etc.
NOTE for college students: If you signup as college student or university affiliated personal, the application fee is waived. AND the annual membership is only $15. You still get $25 driving credit on top if you sign up using referral link.
To give a fair estimate, this is what I have learnt from my experience and research. Ford vehicles are the $1/hr cheaper in general because they are subsidized by Ford. Sedans and Hatchbacks cost the same, vans are a little expensive, luxury cars are more expensive.
Depending on the car model, drive from $9.75/hour and $76/day (any 24-hour period) during the week and $11.50/hour and $85/day on Friday through Sunday. Gas, insurance and up to 180 FREE miles are included.
Monthly Driving Plan
Depending on the car model, drive from $9.75/hour and $76/day (any 24-hour period). No surge pricing on weekends. Gas, insurance and up to 180 FREE miles are included.
Extra Value Plan
Gives you 10% discount & the monthly cost is refunded as Zipcar credit. Depending on the car model, drive from $8.78/hour and $68.40/day (any 24-hour period) during the week and $10.35/hour and $76.50/day on Friday through Sunday. Gas, insurance and up to 180 FREE miles are included.
Of course, BMW and Mercedes will cost more. BTW did you know that these German fancy cars do not have the green funky Zipcar logo pasted on them? I just thought its interesting.
How To Use Zipcar?
The process is simple. Apply online. Do not forget to use referral link so you get free $25 credit.
Wait for your Zipcard to arrive in mail.
Download the Zipcar app on your phone. Activate your card.
Reserve car close to you. Unlock the car using your Zipcard or smartphone.
Drive. Refuel if you need to. Return the car. End trip.
Filling Gas In A Zipcar
Just as each user has a Zipcard, each car has a Gas card. It is located towards the driver’s side near the glare shield. It’s green in color and is basically a credit card provided by the company. We are supposed to use that card at the Gas stations to refuel. The cost is covered by Zipcar and we don’t pay for gas at all. I usually use the premium fuel. If the Gas card does not work, we are allowed to use our own debit/credit card or cash and Zipcar reimburses us when we give them the receipt.
I’ve read on forums that usually all cars will have a backup gas card hidden near the passenger’s compartment.
Ending Your Zipcar Trip
To end your Zipcar trip, park the car in its designated spot and turn off the engine. Close the doors and shut the windows. Hold your Zipcard on the reader to end your trip. The reader is the same reader you used to unlock. You should get email and receipt of the trip once the reservation period is over.
Other things about Zipcar rentals
Insurance is covered by the membership. The default deductible is $1000 in case of incidents. What that means is in case of collision or accidents, damage of up to $1000 can be charged to your account. Damages above that 1000 will be covered by Zipcar. However you can upgrade to something called complete waiver using the “damage fee waiver” option which brings the deductible to $0. The cost of that upgrade is $9/mo or $79/year. Now even if you have collision or accidents, Zipcar will cover the damage entirely. This image has the full detail:
Gas is free and we can use premium fuel as well. No restriction. Please note that we are required to have at least 25% of the tank full when we return the car. This is a courtesy to the next rider.
Hourly vs Daily rate: Sometimes it makes sense to rent for entire day. When hourly rate X # of hours > daily rate, it is no brainer that one should book for the day. The ‘day’ is a 24 hour period and the clock starts ticking when you unlock the car for the first time.
Rates during the night time is almost 50% cheaper! The same cars are almost half off during the night hours.
Max rental duration limit is 3 consecutive days. You can technically rent back-to-back but you’d still have to bring the car back to an acceptable parking lot, end the trip, book again, and start a new trip. I’d suggest to rather use Avis or Enterprise rental service if you need to book for longer duration. Zipcar makes more sense for daily or hourly use.
One way trips in a Zipcar is allowed in some cities.They do allow 1-way driving between popular cities. It actually helps them to move cars from low demand city to high demand ones. Talk to customer support because they will know better.
Finding closest Zipcars near me – Search through the app. The website is not real time. The app gives much more detail about each car and their time slots of availability.
My Perspective: Why I like Zipcar so much
Zipcar is convenient. There are so many Zipcars available around my place at any time of the day. I do not own a car. The public transportation around me is good enough however friends and I go for long weekend trips and grocery quite frequently. It is cheaper to rent than to own a vehicle. Gas and 180 miles are included. So is the insurance. We have rented for 3 days in the past and 540 miles is great for a memorable road trip. Zipcar is exciting and it lets me do things that I cannot with an Uber or Lyft, frustration free. For all these reasons, I feel like Zipcar is perfect for me and I have been a happy user thus far.
Zipcar Promo Code (referral link for $25)
As mentioned above, if you want $25 free Zipcar credits sign up using my referral link. The $25 will be credited as soon as your account is approved and it will be applied towards your Zipcar rides, including the first one. Likewise, I will also receive $25 credit in my account after you complete your first ride on Zipcar.
Some of the alternatives I can name: Uber & Lyft (ride share), Hertz, Enterprise, Avis (rentals). I have used Uber, Lyft, Avis, Enterprise and Zipcar and I like Zipcar better. Enterprise is not that far off though.
I hope that my review of Zipcar was helpful to you. Definitely use the referral link if you decide to sign up for Zipcar so you can get that free $25 credits. Thank you for stopping by and I’ll see you in the next one!