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What is Zipcar & How Does it Work?

Wondering what is Zipcar and how does it work?

You’re not alone.

It is easy to assume that ride sharing leveraging technology is a new concept that was introduced by Lyft or Uber.

But despite the big moment the market leaders are having, Zipcar was providing a unique form of ride sharing long before other companies started making the headlines.

What is Zipcar?

Considered the world’s largest car rental and sharing service, Zipcar is a car rental service run by Avis Budget Group out of Boston, MA.

The company offers a unique service for its registered members, you can get to enjoy convenient access to a vehicle whenever you need it, wherever you are.

There are Zipcar locations for members all around the country, and even in others!

What is Zipcar

This is a subscription-based service that allows you to reserve a car and pay at an hourly or daily, rate depending on how long you need it and pay a monthly or annual fee and the cost of the reservation.

The green parking spaces you have noticed in college campuses, downtown areas, and even airport parking?


Those are Zipcar parking spaces.

When you are a subscribed member, you are free to use the cars parked in those spots whenever you need a ride.

The primary objective of this service is to offer convenient and affordable transportation when you do not have your own car.

At the end of 2016, they had announced that it offered close to 10,000 vehicles to the over 1 million active members across 500 cities in the 9 countries it serves:  US, UK, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Austria, and Turkey.

How Does Zipcar Work?

Because this is a subscription-based car rental service, you need to be a member to use it, for which you will be charged a $25 fee on application.

If you are approved, the company will send you a Zipcard with which you can access vehicles parked in designated spots.

You will also be required to pay the membership fee monthly or annually.

Being a member essentially allows you to rent these cars when available.

Is it complicated?

Not at all.

Renting a car is as easy as downloading an app from the store to your phone to make a reservation while on the move, or doing so conveniently on Zipcar’s website.

You can rent a car anywhere from an hour up to seven days, reserving it in advance or using the Zipcard the company sent you to get inside the car.

The keys are always locked inside the car.

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How Does Zipcar Work for Gas?

Your Zipcar rental fee covers the cost of gas.

They provide a gas card within the glove box of each of their vehicles to use when paying for gas.

You don’t have to use your own money!

You simply buy gas using the Zipcar credit card and then follow the prompts within the app to log it.

Zipcar Cars & Zipcar Truck

Zipcar offers a selection of vehicles ranging from subcompacts and pickups to vans and SUVs.

While the available selection may vary by area, the typical models include Mini Cooper subcompact, Nissan Frontier pickup, Toyota Prius hatchback hybrid, and the Ford Escape SUV.

The company has also added a fleet of high-end luxury sedans for business including Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Audi.

Can I choose?


You get to choose a particular make and model of the car during reservation.


Pro Tip:  One of the cars that have been made available is the Honda Fit EV, an inventive all-electric car that is considered one of the most efficient vehicles today.


Benefits of Zipcar

Zipcar is a company on a mission to make the world a better place by helping people share cars and reduce cars on the road by up to one million.

Fewer cars on the road mean better driving experience, less environmental pollution and more savings for everybody.

They offer a wide variety of energy efficient vehicles compared to any car sharing service today.

These range from two-seater minis to vans for ferrying heavy goods.

Better still?

The company offers cars that have hand controls which can come handy for people who cannot drive regular cars.

The Zipcar app that users install on their phones also serves as an extra pair of keys to get into the reserved car.

This means that even if you lose your card or forget to lock the car, the app has extra features you can use to lock and unlock the car remotely.

Zipcar Membership vs. Car Rental

There are many reasons to use Zipcar compared to traditional car rental.

The first is that it is often more affordable.

The $7 to $10 hourly charge covers the use of the car, gas, and insurance.

The convenience of reserving the car of your choice using an app or online on the company’s website is the service’s greatest selling point.

Convenience is everything nowadays.

Members will never need to stand in queues and wait for a rental car at some office.

The company operates a 24/7 call line to offer any form of support or assistance to its members.


The reservation system that Zipcar uses reduces uncertainty and helps users plan and budget their trips with precision.

Once you reserve a car for a set period of time, there will be nothing else to worry about – before or during the trip.

The car is yours for the duration without extra charges.[divider]

Zipcar Memberships & Plans

Wanna save money?

You can when you use Zipcar.

If you use public transit, but occasionally need a car.

Share a car?

Sometimes you may require a second car.

Some people – such as independent contractors or freelance workers – may need a car for a specific job.

Zipcar Memberships & Plans

New business owners can benefit from the use of a car when getting started.

If you don’t own a car, but want to travel, on-demand car rental is perfect!

They have plans built around the occasional user, heavy drivers, those using it as a business solution, and even students.

Zipcar for Everybody

This standard Zipcar membership option is the one most commonly used.

There are plans for many different needs:

  1. The occasional driver.  You pay as you go.
  2. The regular driver.  You pay a low monthly fee.
  3. Extra value plan.  You pay a higher monthly fee for discounts on your rentals.

For your first time, you can cash in on new user savings by entering a Zipcar promo code to get $30 off your first reservation.

That way, you can try it before you buy it, so to speak.

Zipcar One Way

The greatest drawback according to many reviewers online?

It’s two-way policy.

This required that a user must return a rented car to the same parking area by the end of the rental period.

Not anymore.

They have now introduced a one-way trip option called Zipcar Flexible that allows drivers to rent a vehicle at one location and drop it off at another.

The company has also made it possible for renters to change their destination mid-trip and even extend their reservation indefinitely.

To make this possible, the company added hundreds of new Honda cars to its fleet including Honda Fit and Honda Civic.

Zipcar Flexible is currently available in Los Angeles, Denver, Seattle, Boston, Providence, Washington DC, and Baltimore.

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Zipcar for Business

This revolutionary service is not just for university students, commuters, and tourists.

Run a business?

Need reliable and hassle-free transportation?

Zipcar is offering you over 10,000 cars you can use worldwide.

They offer a range of different vehicle types to meet your business needs—from executive sedans for corporates to pickup trucks and vans for when you need to deliver a customer order.

The low price the company charges is inclusive of cars, insurance, parking, mileage, and maintenance.

Just as with individual users, business users must sign up for the service and will be required to reserve vehicles by the hour or day.

Convenience and simplicity.

Simplified billing means the business gets to save money on transportation and because the driver chooses the type of vehicle to reserve, the business will always pay for the type of vehicle they need for a specific errand.


Pro Tip:  If you’d like to try renting a Zipcar but don’t want to spend much before you know if you like it, try using a Zipcar new users promo code!  You can sign up with this special promo link, and enter promotion code ZIP30 when prompted for $30 off your first rental.


Zipcar for Universities

When this platform was first launched, it focused its car sharing services on universities that needed new convenient and more sustainable transportation options.

This offered students and staff affordable wheels when they needed them.

The company rose to the challenge.

Since then, they have excelled in collaborating with parking and transportation stakeholders to offer a service that spilled over to the general public and the corporate world.

Zipcar for Universities offers students great benefits including eliminating the need to find on-campus parking.


It alleviates congestion and dependable transportation without the need to worry about gas and insurance.

The company has a simplified online application and approval process for students aged 18 and above.

Zipcar for Airports

Members traveling abroad for fun or business or returning home do not have to worry about what happens when they land.

With Zipcar for Airports, they can reserve cars by the hour or by the day for when they land.

They have a list of all the airports in the US and Canada, and in London, Edinburgh, and Glasgow in Europe that members can browse and reserve available cars.

And the cost?

As with other pricing structures, they charge by the day or hour and the price includes up to 180 miles of driving, gas, and insurance.[divider]

How to Get a Zipcar Account

Applying for a Zipcar account is very easy.

You can apply for membership right from your browser or via the downloadable app.

There are choices to join as an individual, with an organization for a business account, or with a university as a student or staff member.

How to Get a Zipcar Account

You will, of course, be expected to fill in basic personal details including legal names, email address, and payment information.

When you complete the signup process?

You will wait for your account to be approved. and when it does, the company will send you a personalized Zipcard that you will use to unlock Zipcars.

When it does?

The company will send you a personalized Zipcard that you will use to unlock Zipcars.

Zipcar Requirements

To become a member, you will need to have an approved Zipcar account.

This means that if you have not created one, you will need to—either via the app or on the company’s website.

It’s easy!

All you need is to have your driver’s license information as well as a valid debit or credit card.

The payment information is necessary to pay the membership application fee.

You also use it for the monthly or annual subscription fee and other charges you will incur while using Zipcars.

To be eligible for a Zipcar account you must also meet these requirements:

  • Be aged 21 years or over, or 18 if applying as a student at a partner university.
  • Have held a valid and unrestricted driver’s license for 12 months.
  • Had no major traffic violations including speeding in excess of 20 miles per hour over the limit, – reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident, driving with a suspended license, or speeding in a school zone over the past three years.
  • No alcohol or drug-related driving offense over the past seven years.
  • Maximum of two or less moving violations and accidents over the past three years.
  • You must not have had more than one moving violation or accident over the past year and a half.

The Rules of Zipcar

One of the top reasons why this is a thriving community and not just a car rental service is because it has six simple easy-to-follow rules.

They are:

  1. Report damage.  Inspect your car thoroughly inside and out before and after your session.  Report any damages, dirt, or low fuel.
  2. Keep it clean.  Leave the car clean after use.  Remove all personal belongings and throw away any dirt or litter in the trash or recycling bin when returning the car.
  3. No smoking.  Do not smoke in the car, not even with the windows and doors open.
  4. Fill up the gas.  When returning the car, ensure that the tank is at least ¼ full. Use the fuel card inside the car to fill the tank.
  5. Return on time.  Zipcar charges late return fees, it is, therefore, important to return the car on time as scheduled to avoid extra charges and to not inconvenience the next user.  In the case of an emergency, you should call or text ahead of time to handle an extended reservation.
  6. All pets must be kept in carriers.  When traveling with dogs or cats, they must be kept in their pet carriers at all times.

How to Get a Zipcar Rental

When it comes time to making a Zipcar reservation, there are only a few steps!

Here is the basic breakdown, with an image below to illustrate just how easy this process is.

  1. Apply for an account (either in the app or online).
  2. Reserve a car (you will choose the amount of time you need).
  3. Unlock your Zipcar rental (using your Zipcard).
  4. Drive, then return to its reserved parking spot.

It’s really as easy as that!

How to Get a Zipcar Rental

And with cars parked all over the country, you’ll always have access to quality transportation without having to wait in line.[divider]

Zipcar FAQs

When it comes to trying out a new service and getting the most out of it, there are usually a lot of questions.

Especially with something as tech-savvy as Zipcar!

What do people ask?

Here are a few of the most common questions, along with their answers.

How long does it take to become a member?

It depends on the situation.  It can take as little as a few hours, or as long as a week or more.  If you’re looking to rush things along, you can pick up your Zipcard at a local office instead of waiting for it to come in the mail (otherwise mailing time is typically 3-7 days).  Your application may take longer to process if you have a driver’s license that isn’t from the United States or Canada.  Otherwise, you’re looking at about a week or less total wait time.[divider]

What types of vehicles are available to drive?

There is a wide variety of vehicle selections available.  Depending on its purpose, you could rent a Mini Cooper, a cargo van, a hybrid such as a Prius, or you could feel posh in a BMW or Mercedes.  Models, of course, vary by city.[divider]

Do you offer roadside assistance?

Yes!  Your membership comes along with a 24-hour roadside assistance membership.  Simply call (1‑866‑4ZIPCAR) for assistance with this if you need to use it.[divider]

How long can I rent the car?

You can rent a car for anywhere between 30 minutes and 7 days, depending on your needs.  If for some reason you’d like to extend a rental period past 7 days, it depends on availability, but it’s possible.  Just give their customer service team a call and they’ll try to work it out for you.