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Back in 2013, Zipcar car sharing was bought by Avis Budget Group for 500 million dollars and continued to grow, reaching 1 million members in 9 countries. Since 2016, over 10’000 cars members could use in the designated areas, making people wonder whether they can have access without having to pay too much for membership or, better yet, get it for free.

Specifically, concerning the Zipcar membership cost, there are no free memberships available in cities of the United States for individual buyers. On the other hand, it’s possible to join an existing membership without paying additional fees, but it depends on the company and contract.

Of course, there are ways to save on a membership involving coupons and specials, but ultimately you won't have access to the service without paying a general fee. The confusion surrounding the ‘free' membership is that citizens of the United Kingdom do not have to pay to be members of the basic plan. So, why does America not have a free membership?

Why US Citizens Have Free Basic Zipcar Membership

If you do some quick scanning on the Zipcar website, you’ll see that all the Zipcar cities in the UK have a basic plan that is free of charge for becoming a member. Unfortunately, there are no cities in the US that provide the basic plan in a similar way.

The basic plan in UK cities allows you to join for free and only charges a 10-euro application fee but provides you with the same amount of credit when the application is approved. Although it sounds enticing, the free plan has higher rates meaning if you use the car often, it will still be cheaper to be part of the smart membership, which starts at 6 euros monthly.

Regarding the US cities, the membership was created for practical, consistent use of the vehicles instead of only catering for the one-off drivers or traveling tourists meaning more partnerships and deals are involved in the membership.

Therefore, although the membership comes at a monthly fee, it includes quite a few perks that come at a more acceptable rate.

US cities like Chicago have a cheaper Zipcar membership (8 dollars a month) that include 180 miles a day, compared to the UK, which only provides 60 miles, covering more road in the membership fee. Moreover, a partnership with the State and Provincial Park resulted in free parking if you travel there with a Zipcar.

As US memberships include more benefits for daily use, it comes at a general fee.

What Are The Exceptions Of Getting A Free Membership?

The success and growth of Zipcar have yielded fruitful relationships with different departments resulting in free memberships for certain individuals. Zipcar has joined hands with more than 600 universities allowing personnel and students to use the membership without paying the additional fees.

For example, if you are part of the Stanford University program, you don’t have to pay a membership or joining fee. Likewise, if your company also has a Zipcar account, you can evaluate your membership prices, if any.

Another exception to ‘free' membership is a cancelation. New members can do a 30-day risk-free trial where they will be refunded the fee if they choose to cancel it; however, you'll still have to pay the non-refundable application fee of 25 dollars.

Can Friends And Family Use Your Zipcar Membership For Free?

As previously stated, some partnerships like major companies and universities, have memberships where you can join as an ‘associate member’ without having to pay joining fees or membership fees; however, individuals who want to add family and friends to their existing account should be aware of the rules that specifically apply to them.

Certain contracts and partnerships, like most universities, have put memberships in a place where new associate members can join for free and only be billed for the trips which they are responsible for; however, for individual memberships, the trip cost is the ‘First member's responsibility unless the contract indicates otherwise.

The Zipcar contract states that the ‘First member’ is responsible for all payments concerning the ‘associate member,’ meaning your friends can join without paying, but the process won't be free. Application fees, driving records, insurance verification, and membership fees may still apply to the associate members.

According to the Zipcar support page, you can join a business or family account upon invitation, provided you have your own account and approved application.

As a result, individual memberships that plan on adding friends, family, or colleagues won’t be able to provide membership entirely for free as there will always be general fees that either the first or associate member should pay. Still, the membership fees will depend on the specific plan on sponsorships the ‘first member' has.

How Can I Save Money On A Zipcar Membership?

Although obtaining a free membership is strictly speaking not possible, if you join one of the specific university or major business programs, you can join a sponsored membership with various discounts.

None of the sponsorship programs can provide free membership, but popular discounts can include the following:

  • A certain percentage off on the first-year membership fee
  • A free application form
  • Driving credits once the application is approved (Often for the same amount as the application form)

Popular sites like “Retailmount,” “Coupons. CNN,” and “” all provide discounts ranging from 20% – 30% off or provide you with a free application opportunity; other sponsorship might give you the 25 dollars in credit.

In order to join a sponsored membership like the examples mentioned above, you can work directly with the sponsoring website or representative and obtain the information you require, like an URL or code, to receive the discount.

Keep in mind that Zipcar states that sponsored memberships are only available to new members who are joining for the first time. Existing membership plans cannot be changed to a sponsorship plan.


The only way to get a free membership is through specific organizations with an agreement and partnership with Zipcar, like universities and some major corporations. Regarding Individual memberships, the general fees apply to all members; even associate members as first members still take financial responsibility for them.