Every Wednesday, I have to get in a car and drive up to our satellite office in Ventura, CA. That’s 62 miles one way, so a bus was not going to cut it, but renting a car once a week just seemed silly, so I suggested checking out Zipcar.com, which is a ‘car share’ program.
Price-wise, Zipcar is pretty equal with a daily rental from any of the usual suspects when you factor in insurance, gas refill, and possible mileage overage. The convenience, though, seemed really great. See, Zipcars are parked on the street and available 24/7. Since you’ve got a membership and a card, you don’t have to deal with people or paperwork at any point once you’re signed up. And they’ve got a bunch of different membership levels for people who just need it once in a while to those who will use it several times a month or whatever. Of course, the higher the level, the more discounted your daily rate becomes. Something else to factor in: insurance and gas are included in the price. Seriously. With the price of gas in SoCal, that’s a huge plus.
No one I knew had ever used Zipcar, so I didn’t really know what to expect on my first time using it. Actually, I canceled my very first trip because it was raining (timing, right?) and I hadn’t driven in almost ten years. Yes, I chickened out, but I like to think that made the roads safer that day. ;o) You’re supposed to cancel your reservation no less than 24hrs in advance, but they were very nice and refunded the cost of the reservation once I explained the situation.
So the second time I used Zipcar, I actually did drive. I unlocked the car with my membership card (it’s got some kind of nifty tech thing) and I got in and whoosh! I was on my way. No muss, no fuss. The key dangles from the dash so you don’t have to worry about it walking away or getting lost. You just adjust your seat and mirrors, pick your radio station (or plug in your ipod, depending on the model of car) and off you go.
Now, the rule is that if the gas is at half a tank, you fill it up. So I stopped at a station that night and could NOT figure out how to get the damn thing to work! I went to the pump, put in the zipcar’s credit card and it asked for the odometer. I went back and got the odometer reading and put that in. Then it asked for my membership number, which I used, but it didn’t work. I tried it like 3 times before I broke down and called Zipcar. The guy on the other end was very nice and explained there’s an extra number on the card itself. He waited on the phone until I got the pump working, which was nice. And after the $38 price of half a tank of gas, I was profoundly grateful I didn’t have to pay for it and wait to get reimbursed by my company.
In the last couple of months since I’ve signed up, I haven’t had any problems. I usually wind up being the one to fill the tank, which is annoying but not unexpected since I have such a long trip to make. The cars are always there when I get there and the few times I’ve had to call, the reps have been very friendly and knowledgeable. They’ve got a really good variety of makes and models of cars, too, which is great.
All in all, I really love this service and recommend it to anyone car-less who has the option to use it where they live.
In the coming weeks, I’m going to review the actual cars that I use on Wednesdays. I’ll be posting on Thursdays, though, since I get home and pretty much eat and go to bed, I’m so wiped from the commute. Honestly, this is the best way I’ve found to decide on what car I will, eventually, buy. I get to use the cars on hideous, rush hour commutes on SoCal freeways… what better test could they get? ;o)