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Zipcar was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and began in 2000, so they have been around for a fair amount of time. They provided rental cars with two different plans – either you could opt for an hourly or daily rate. Today they are available in 43 states, and they are considered a viable alternative to owning a car, but when I get into it, is Zipcar worth it?

Zipcar is a viable option for short trips ranging for a few hours rather than hiring the vehicle for days on end. What you intend to utilize it for will dictate its value, but generally, using the service for a single hour or two to run errands is considered worth it by most users. 

This form of hiring a vehicle is certainly a valid option, but there are certain variables at play, and although it is unique in its business model, they still compete against the likes of Uber. However, Zipcar’s purpose is to provide those who do not own a car with a semblance of autonomy. I suggest only using it for shorter trips, but do come along for the ride to find out more.

Zipcar: Fees And Affordability

Zipcar offers packages ranging from as little as 30 minutes, and the range goes all the way up to 7 full days. These trips are usually round-trips where you return the car to the pickup location; however, they also offer one-way ventures. To get started, you need very little; all that is required is that you are 21 years old or 18 if you are a student. 

Also, you will need a valid driver's license and hold either a debit or credit card. So once you have all of that down, what is next? Well, the application fee of $25 must be paid, plus there is also a monthly membership of $7 or $70 per annum. This does not include the rates for the actual loaning of the car, though; so, if you only need a ride now and then, you may be better off with another provider.

 However, these fees and those for younger members may vary according to location, so although specified prices, do be sure to check the exact costs incurred where you are traveling. To see the prices where you are located, visit this page, and be sure to select your location at the top of the page.

You will have to pay an application fee of $75 once off for a business account. There are also fees for specific age groups. For instance, if you sit in the 18-20 age range, you pay $1 per hour and $12 per day. If you are between 21-24, your fee is $0.70 per hour and $10 per day.

Other costs are involved, such as mileage fees, cancellation fees, toll fees, taxes, and others; for more information on these, see their price page here. The hourly and daily rates may also be subject to change depending on various factors, as outlined here.

The fees you pay will cover the gas, insurance, and a daily driving limit of 180 miles. Unfortunately, at times, due to various factors, the rates may either be highly competitive or not at all, as opposed to traditional car rentals. And if you look at the figures, particularly for daily rates, often it would work out cheaper to opt for conventional rental options.

Additionally, if you plan on a more extended trip, even if taking the car for several days, you must be aware that Zipcar does have caps on its mileage allowance. And going above and beyond, this holds a hefty penalty of around $0.55 per mile you travel over it.

The company offers two types of plans essentially; the Zipcar Smart plan and the Zipcar Plus plan. The initial plan's worth is dependent on your overall usage. With this package, you are enticed to use Zipcar's services more frequently and are therefore rewarded with what works out to be a fair deal. 

Likewise, the Zipcar Plus plan also tries to get you to use their services, but the recurring monthly payments are rather substantial with this option. With this choice, contrary to what you may imagine, if you are using it rather frequently, then it may be better to seek to invest in alternative transport.

Who Would Benefit From Zipcar?

Zipcar is actually a subsidiary of Avis Budget Group, and they now have a presence at airports and other locations. You are likely to find these cars parked in dedicated spots such as parking lots or garages around your city. If you are an urban apartment dweller or a hotel guest, you are most likely the ones to benefit most from this service. 

In some cities, you can find a Zipcar located on every other block, which in contrast to traditional car rental companies, is far more prolific. If you wish to sign up for their services, you must meet the criteria mentioned previously, and if you are a foreigner, you will need to provide your passport and foreign license. Additionally, anyone wanting to use their service must have a clean driving record. 

If you do not want the burden of owning your own car and do not need to travel too frequently and keep your travel distances short, then you are likely one who falls into Zipcar's target market. It is a viable option instead of owning a car or renting from a traditional car rental company. Additionally, Zipcar is expanding and is even available to those who reside in Europe. 

Overall, suppose you do not drive frequently or are visiting a different city and merely need to get around from time to time (especially if you fly between cities a lot). In that case, this is certainly something worth considering as it allows you peace of mind to know that there is on-demand access to a vehicle without the fuss of waiting for Ubers or having to pay to park a rental car. 

Is Zipcar A Viable Option Compared To Traditional Car Rental?

If you intend on carting the family on a fun-filled getaway and will be gone for days on end, then your best bet will be to go with a traditional rental company. 

This is because, over “long-term” stints, the price of Zipcar rentals is simply not validated. Rather reserve its use for when you are visiting another city or are someone who could benefit from on-demand transport without the expenses of owning your own. 

For a day's worth of driving, though, there are times when Zipcar may actually be able to match or better the cost of your typical rental company. In these situations, the convenience of Zipcar outweighs the hassle of getting yourself to the rental company. 


As we have seen, there are instances when Zipcar is undoubtedly worth it, and depending on where you are and your exact needs (i.e., how long you require the transport for), this is a service worth looking into. However, with many such providers, there are also times when it simply isn't a feasible option, for instance, when you want to take a road trip with the family.