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Car sharing services like Zipcar are changing the landscape of the industry. There’s a convenience to the concept that traditional car rental cannot offer. However, due to the nature of Zipcar, there are a few key differences. People often ask, can you use Zipcar for long trips, and if so, how can you do it?  

How You Can Use Zipcar For Long Trips, Like Road Trips, Even Across State Borders:

  1. Sign Up For Zipcar
  2. Use Zipcar Roundtrip, Not Flex
  3. Book Your Car By The Day
  4. Limit Your Trip To 14 Days Or Less
  5. Return The Zipcar To The Same Parking Bay (With A Quarter Tank Of Fuel)

1. Sign Up For Zipcar

This is probably an obvious statement, but you must sign up for a Zipcar account before using Zipcar’s service. You can do this by going to Zipcar’s website at and selecting the perfect plan for you.

Plan benefits and prices vary depending on location. Areas with more traffic tend to be more expensive. Some regions even offer you a Family Plan, which is helpful if you have more than one driver in your household who might use a Zipcar from time to time. There are even free membership plans in some locations, where you don’t pay a fixed fee, but your trips cost you more.

The monthly fees you pay for your Zipcar membership allow you to get discounted rates, additional insurance, and other bonus features. You can also choose to use either Zipcar Roundtrip or Flex, but since you want to drive long distances, Flex will not work in this case.

To sign up, you will have to choose your plan, create an account by giving your name, email address, and password, upload your driver’s license and a selfie (so Zipcar can verify your identity), enter your billing information, and then install the app.

2. Use Zipcar Roundtrip, Not Flex

Zipcar Roundtrip is similar to traditional car rental services in the sense that you book the car, pick it up from a particular spot, and return it to where you got it in the first place. Flex is more of an “I need a car right now” service, where you can pick up the car somewhere near you and then drop it off anywhere within the so-called “Zipzone.”

Flex is excellent for quick one-way trips, like going shopping. But for longer journeys, like road trips, Roundtrip is the best option to choose. When you open the Zipcar app (after you’ve created your account and signed in), it will allow you to choose between the two. For your long trip, select the Roundtrip option.

Roundtrip allows you to even travel across state borders, anywhere in the United States and Canada. You are limited to 180 miles per day for free (which is plenty), but you can drive even more than that at an additional cost.

3. Book Your Car By The Day

Once you’ve selected Roundtrip as your service of choice, it’s time to book your car. You can book a Zipcar Roundtrip vehicle as much as one year in advance, so it’s perfect for your long holiday trips. However, payment options through Zipcar are a bit tricker than traditional car rentals until you understand how it works.

Zipcar offers three options. You can book your car and pay by minute, hour, or day. The first two options are great for quick trips that won’t take more than a few minutes or hours, but long trips require longer bookings. Booking the car by the day will save you a lot of money since you are only billed for twelve hours per day (this varies slightly based on the region).

Zipcars cost less per minute or per hour than per day. But if you booked a Zipcar for three days and pay per hour, you will pay for 72 hours, whereas booking with payment by the day will cost you the approximate equivalent of 36 hours.

Remember that rates vary between different regions, so the exact amounts may differ, but that seems to be a general rule. So, when booking your Zipcar for a long trip, choose to pay by the day.

4. Limit Your Trip To 14 Days Or Less

You can book a car on Zipcar Roundtrip for a maximum of 14 days at a time (or just a day) . This is plenty of time, but it might not be enough depending on how long your long trip is. If you want to book the Zipcar for more than two weeks, you basically have two options.

The first option is to try and book the same car (or another car) immediately after the 14 days are over. Zipcar members are entitled to do so, but then you are relying on the hope that Zipcar will have a car available. Let’s be honest, there’s a good chance that you will be able to get one (possibly even the same car), but you can never know for sure, especially during the busy holiday seasons.

Your second option, generally the safest, is to plan your trip to conclude within the 14 days you can book the car. That way, you won’t have any unwelcome surprises when the two weeks have run out and you need to return the car.

Another reason it’s better to limit your trip to 14 days is that Roundtrip requires you to return the car and park it in the same parking bay you got it from. Making a trip back after 14 days just to try to book another car could be a significant inconvenience. So rather plan your trip to conclude at the end of 14 days while also factoring in the return trip.

5. Return The Zipcar To The Same Parking Bay

When your trip is almost over and you’re on your way to returning your Zipcar, check that you have enough gas left in the tank. Zipcar requires you to leave the car with at least a quarter tank, regardless of how much fuel it had in the tank when you picked it up. If you have to, just stop at a gas station around the corner from the Zipcar’s parking bay and top it up to an appropriate level.

We all hate it when we get a rental car, and the gas meter is on empty. Rental agencies that do that get bad reviews. Don’t be the type of person who does that to other people.

Once you’ve confirmed that your fuel is where it’s supposed to be (a quarter tank or higher), you can return the Zipcar to the same parking bay where you got it in the first place. Parking the car in any other parking spot could incur additional costs billed to your account.