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Feb 202013
 February 20, 2013  Posted by  Cars, Hot Deals, Services
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Car sharing is an alternative to traditional car rental and car ownership. Recently acquired by Avis car rental company, Zipcar is the world’s largest car-sharing membership service. Unlike traditional car rental or ownership, car sharing usually includes gasoline, auto insurance, 24/7 roadside service and up to 180 free trip miles per day. To participate in car sharing, you must meet certain eligibility requirements. The requirements include a minimum age of 21, a valid driver’s license, and no recent moving, alcohol or drug-related violations, or auto accidents.

If you drive less than 7,500 miles a year and you don’t need a car for work every day, then car sharing can save you thousands of dollars a year. If you don’t drive enough to justify the expensive of car ownership, then kicking the car habit through car sharing is a great way to keep significant cash in your pocket. Use the Zipcar savings calculator to find out how much you can save with Zipcar membership.

How Zipcar works – the basics

To join Zipcar, you apply online and agree to let the company check your driving record. Once approved, you are issued a Zipcard, which is your ticket to any car in the Zipcar network. After reserving a car online, that car is expecting only you (and your Zipcard). When you arrive at the car and, hold your Zipcard above the card reader, the door and ignition locks release and you’re in. The keys are waiting for you.

Once you are approved, other family members may join your account. Each member gets his or her own Zipcard with a unique username and password. All household members are on the same driving plan and all charges are billed to the first member’s credit card.

Zipcars are available on hourly, daily, or monthly plans. Membership rates vary from one city to the next, but currently are $7 to $9 per hour, depending on location. Rates are generally higher for shorter time periods and in bigger metropolitan areas.

Where to find Zipcars

Zipcars are available in many cities in most of the lower 48 states, including Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Fort Worth, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Portland, Providence, Richmond, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and many more. Zipcars also live on campus at several universities across North America.

Cars are located in each city in reserved parking spaces. This means you will always know where to find the car and always have a parking spot to come back to — yet another benefit of Zipcar membership.

International Zipcars

Outside of the United States, Zipcars are available in Canada and the United Kingdom. As a member, you can use any car in the Zipcar network internationally as long as you associate a valid credit or debit card to your account. There are thousands of cars out there. You reserve and use international Zipcars in the same self-service way. It’s like having your very own car in each city.

Is Zipcar for you?

Many members use Zipcar to save money and time, as well as to make a positive environmental impact. Zipcar is often less expensive and definitely easier than owning a car. There is no car to wash, no time or money spent on car maintenance, and gas and insurance are included with membership. When they’re not using a Zipcar, many members opt for public transportation, riding a bike or walking.

A Zipcar is a great alternative if you need a first or second car once in a while, or a bigger vehicle for moving goods or a large group of people for a special event. You can also drive different types of cars for different trips, a BMW for a night on the town or to impress business clients, or a car with a ski or bike rack for a day of fun. Using a Zipcar for a few hours is less expensive, faster and more convenient than renting a car for a day from a traditional outlet.

As with most rental cars these days, you can’t smoke in a Zipcar. You must return the Zipcar to the same place where you picked it up. And if you want to cruise with your pet, it must be confined to a carrier at all times while in the vehicle.

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Carole Cancler

Carole Cancler is a business and technology professional with experience in food science, technical writing, and product development. Her former company, Private Chef Natural Gourmet in Seattle, Washington specialized in frozen gourmet meals. Prior to that, Carole spent 11 years at Microsoft as a software engineer and program manager. Her writing expertise includes business intelligence, websites, newsletters, and recipe development. Currently, she focuses on writing and consulting for the food and technology industries and, for fun, teaches cooking classes. Her first cookbook, The Home Preserving Bible is available on Amazon. Carole owns and operates Greater Seattle on the Cheap.

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