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Car Sharing - ZipCar, FlexCar, City CarShare - do they work?

SylviaSylvia Posts: 1,636
In San Francisco and other cities the car-share business is booming. Whether the decision is economic (payments, parking, gas, insurance) or environmental plenty of people are using them.

What do you think of these services? Have you tried them? Pros? Cons?

Car-sharing catching on with Bay Area drivers
Firms provide autos for those who don't want hassle of ownership

For economic and environmental reasons, Tara Hunt wants to avoid buying a car, but sometimes she needs to drive from San Francisco across the Bay Bridge to Ikea or Home Depot. Keith Kamisugi finds it a hassle to own a car in San Francisco -- especially trying to find a parking place near his home -- but he has to drive to business meetings and on occasional errands.

For Hunt and Kamisugi -- and thousands of other Bay Area residents -- car-sharing is the answer to that dilemma.

"Not owning a car in San Francisco is a big benefit to me,'' said Kamisugi, 36, who lives in the parking-deprived Inner Richmond District. Car-sharing "fills the gap between my use of public transportation and the times when I need a car.'' continue reading...


  • rockyleerockylee Wyoming, MichiganPosts: 13,993

    WHAT ????? I've never heard of this before. :surprise:

    I've heard of time shares in real estate but car shares ? :confuse:

    Wow, we really are drawing straws in this country. :surprise:

  • PF_FlyerPF_Flyer Pennsylvania Furnace, PAPosts: 7,966
    I had a cousin who lived and died in NYC without ever having owned a car or bothered to get a driver's license as he really didn't need one to live his daily life. Had someone thought of something like this back then, I think he might have taken advantage of it.

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  • john_324john_324 Posts: 974
    I have some experience with Zipcar myself.

    My girlfriend drives a Miata. Occasionally she has need of having a car with actual cargo space ( ;) ), so she joined Zipcar.

    It actually works as advertised. You make a reservation in advance for a specific car for a specific time period (hourly). Zipcar then codes the vehicle's eletronic module to accept your card (when you join, you get a credit card-style access card). Card unlocks the Zipcar; keys are inside, tethered to the dash. If it's low on gas, there's a credit card in the glove compartment so you can refill it.

    You have to bring it back by the time it's due (locking it at the end with your access card tells Zipcar that you've returned it) or you get a BIG penalty. If you need more time, you can attempt via phone or web to extend your reservation, provided no one else has reserved it at that time.

    Zipcar tends to like funky but utilitarian vehicles...Scion xBs, etc. All the cars in a given area their own unique names (I've ridden in "Bullwinkle" and "Big Boi"), so when you search online, you can search by name or location.

    In practice, everytime we've used it, it works as it is always where it's supposed to be, in good condition. It can be tough to get through to Zipcar on the phone (if you want to extend your reservation), but on-line usually works.

  • larsblarsb Posts: 8,204
    When you consider the costs of owning and parking and insuring a car when you live in the downtown area of a large city, this type of car sharing program can potentially save you a ton of money. From one of the recent Bay area stories:

    Johnson and her husband, who live in a small Mission District apartment, drive to the grocery store, to pick up friends at the airport and to go hiking. They spend between $30 and $75 a month -- less than insurance used to cost when she owned a car. "The prices are very low,'' she said. "When I tell people how little we spend, their jaws drop.''

    Apparently 350,000 people worldwide are in car-sharing programs.
  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    ...I wonder if this could backfire and encourage driving in the city.

    I know of several city dwellers who don't have a car, because of cost and parking issues. They don't drive at all. Now these services put driving a vehicle on a regular basis within their reach.
  • Karen_SKaren_S Posts: 5,095
    The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership hopes to find willing interviewees who have used Flexcar, ZipCar or a similar service and has positive things to say.

    Please respond to no later than February 11, 2007 with your daytime contact information and a few words about your experience.

    Edmunds Manager UGC Click on my screen name to send a personal message. Need help navigating? Check out Getting Started in Edmunds Forums.
    Need help picking out a make/model, finding inventory, or advice on pricing? Talk to an Edmunds Car Shopping Advisor

  • explorerx4explorerx4 Central CTPosts: 12,032
    yes, 'only positive things to say'.
    2017 Ford Fusion SE 2014 Ford F-150 FX4
  • boyziggyboyziggy Posts: 1
    Car sharing is vastly cheaper, and infinity more convenient then owning a car in most parts of San Francisco. I'm a member of both Citycarshare and Zipcar, which I use for different purposes, and I love them both.

    Being a non-profit, Citycarshare is significantly cheaper for most times you need a car. Most of my car trips are on Citycarshare, and are for grocery shopping or other quick trips around the city. On average I use a Citycarshare 2-4 times a week, and my monthly bills run around $100 a month- which covers gas, insurance, and parking. On average I use Zipcar once or twice a month for trips outside the city or times when I want to use a car for a whole day- and I average about $60 a month, plus another $20 a month for independent non-owners liability insurance.

    So basically for a total cost of between $130-$230 a month i get to drive a nice new car anytime I want to, selecting from a fleet of several hundred vehicles throughout the city. It's priceless! The only drawback is having to look at your watch and make sure the car is returned on time. It takes a bit of getting used to, and forces you to shop faster then you otherwise would.

    Citycarshare is more convenient for shorter unplanned inner-city trips, as they have more locations throughout the City, and they have an excellent voice-recognition system that allows you to make reservations from your cell phone 2 seconds before you get in the car and drive off. This type of convenience of being able to just jump into a car just about anywhere in the city, at any time, has been a huge quality of life improvement for my wife and I. Until you experience this, you can't imagine how much it will improve your life; things like random late night trips to ocean beach ($2 an hour after 10pm); zipping across town to your favorite restaurant on a lunch break; or deciding to surprise your significant other by picking them up as they're waiting for their Muni bus ride home. These improvements to your life are pretty unique to Citycarshare, mainly because of the cheaper price per hour, and minimum duration of the rental.

    Citycarshare allows you to rent the car for just 15 minutes, which is excellent when you want to zip a couple miles for that excellent Thai takeout place for dinner. I think about 90% of my Citycarshare reservations take place about 10 minutes before I need the car. It's impossible to have this level of convenience using rental car agencies. It's quite rare that there's not a car when i need it.

    Citycarshare's greatest drawback is having to pay the $300 deposit. But they are a local non-profit, and don't have the hundreds of millions in capitol financing from investors wanting a ROI.

    Citycarshare offers full car insurance, not the state minimum $5,000 of property damage that Zipcar and Flexcar offer. Getting into a car accident with Zipcar or Flexcar could easily put you into bankruptcy if you don't carry your own car insurance!

    If you use Zipcar, BUY YOUR OWN NON-OWNERS CAR INSURANCE POLICY! There are horror stories about Zipcar members who assumed that adequate liability insurance was provided for them, only to find out after an accident that they're financially screwed.

    Citycarshare and zipcar have been a huge improvement in my life. I cannot speak highly enough for it. Living car-free used to be a chore. Now it's a blessing!

    -Ziggy Tomcich
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    California legalized personal car sharing a year ago. Oregon passed a peer to peer sharing law back in June, 2011. The deal is that you list your car on a sharing site, enable a smartphone app to handle the unlocking of the doors and make a couple of hundred bucks a month.

    Sound appealing?

    Or does the idea of some grubby stranger driving your baby around make you crazy?

    New Company Rents Your Car By The Hour (Forbes)

    Personal Car-Sharing Takes Off as States Ease Insurance Laws (ABC)

    One commentator thinks the idea is fraught with liability:

    Personal Car Sharing and Manslaughter Charges (
  • fintailfintail Posts: 42,937
    $45 a day? I can easily rent a car for that from an established agency. I would never rent out my own car, as I don't consider 99% of drivers to be my "peer" when it comes to vehicle care.

    I like the $15/hour Z4 idea though. BMW has had an hourly rental scheme in Munich for a couple years now...BMW On Demand...some cool choices there.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    "Nearly 6 million of General Motors Co.'s OnStar subscribers will be able to rent their GM vehicles through the car-sharing business RelayRides and avoid the hassle of meeting renters in person to give them keys.

    The two companies say the partnership, which will be announced today, allows owners of GM vehicles to rent their cars or trucks to other people for extra cash. OnStar gave RelayRides permission to develop technology that allows renters to unlock OnStar-equipped vehicles through smartphone or by replying to text messages."

    OnStar to soon offer car-sharing (Detroit News)
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAPosts: 15,294
    Maybe I can try out a Volt this way to see if it is "all that!"
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    Now that you mention it, a Volt owner probably would enjoy a lot of rental income from people wanting to tool around in an electric rig.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683
    Good read on why a good idea didn't work; not big enough to buy cars cheap enough for the fleet it sounds like. Not enough customers either.

    "Zipcar was a prodigious money-loser. Funding growth around the world, it never once turned a profit, losing about $55 million since 2007. And the entry of behemoth Hertz made its task all the more costly."

    Zipcar: Entrepreneurial Genius, Public-Company Failure (
  • carthellcarthell Posts: 128
    I considered the service, especially when the company parked two vehicles at my work site. Over the breakdowns I had over the the past two years, I've found that the sites where the company put their cars were simply too inconvenient to reach, and few in number. I typically use the major car rental business in my neighborhood, and the car dealerships I go to have a rental office nearby.

    It did not help when the two cars at my work site was reduced to one due to a catastrophic event, undoubtedly. It has been that way for many months, and I'm not going to fight for the use of one vehicle.
  • steverstever Posts: 52,683

    "BMW subsidiary DriveNow has expanded its car-sharing service in San Francisco to include street parking, eliminating the need for customers to pick up and drop off cars at designated stations.

    Although the idea considerably enhances DriveNow's convenience, for the moment street parking will be limited to just a few specific areas of the city."

    BMW Expands DriveNow Car-Sharing To Include Street Parking in San Francisco

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