Do you live somewhere that enables you to get around on foot or on bicycle, and only have the occasional need for a car? If so, you may want to check into car sharing and see if there is a service in your area. While most people end up spending $500+ a month for the privilege of owning their own car (between payments, insurance, gasoline, and maintenance), if you don’t need a car every day, why pay for it to sit in your driveway? When I lived in Santa Monica, CA with my wife (which has a walk score of 95%), we only had one car – my wife drove it to work every day, while I worked at home and only had my feet and bicycle for transportation. If and when I ever had a meeting or an appointment that was too far away for public transportation, I rented a car for a few hours from FlexCar (now Zipcar). At the cost of a few bucks an hour, including gasoline and insurance, it was much cheaper than keeping a personal car parked 99% of the time. I did have an issue with Zipcar once they took over FlexCar, in that they removed all the cars from my area, but when the cars were there it worked quite well. I no longer live in Santa Monica, but I am planning on moving back to Los Angeles this year – so depending on where I end up and if cars are nearby, I may ditch my car once again.
Because I have been thinking about this lately, I decided to do a little research to see what I could find out about different car sharing companies and the communities they can be found in. Since I cannot mention each and every community across the country with programs of their own, I wanted to focus on some of the bigger names in the industry to give you an idea of where they are and how they work. If you have a personal favorite, or one not listed here that operates in your town, be sure to let us all know about it in the comments!
Considered the big gun in the car sharing world, Zipcar maintains thousands of cars in over 100 cities around the world. While rate plans differ depending on the city, using Los Angeles as a sample I found out that there is an annual fee of $50 and an application fee of $25 just to get started. After that weekday rates are $8/hour or $66/day, weekend rates are $9/hour or $72/day, and those rates include gasoline, insurance, and 180 free miles.
Connect by Hertz
Another service found in many cities across the world, Hertz is better known as the car rental company – but they saw the market for short-term car sharing as well, and jumped right in. While they offer several different membership plans, the most common one has got to be the pay as you go/no commitment one, as it is with other services. There is a $50 annual fee, a $25 application fee, rates are from $8/day, you get 180 free miles, gas & insurance is included, and the cars come with GPS navigation units. Hourly rates are cheaper when you sign up for one of the plans with a monthly fee, which also come with an hourly credit to your account.
I-GO Car Sharing
I-GO is Chicago’s non-profit car sharing service and is affiliated with the Center for Neighborhood Technology, a “creative think-and-do tank” dedicated to promoting urban sustainability. They have several different plans ranging from the Standard no monthly cost and rates from $6.75/hour not including miles all the way up to the Anytime, costing $30/month and $7/hour including miles. Cars are spread out all over the Chicagoland area, from Albany Park to Wilmette.
Based right here in the Denver/Boulder CO area, e-Go Carshare is a non-profit service started by a group of Boulder citizens who were very concerned about minimizing their environmental impact. In 1997, the “Little Red Car Co-op” was formed, and in 1998, Boulder CarShare was founded. It was then rebranded as eGo CarShare in 2009 in order to bring its service to the city of Denver. I have an e-Go car in the grocery store parking lot across the street from me, and it seems to be used quite a bit. The service is free to join (meaning no membership fee like most others, just a $25 application fee), and they have two plans to choose from – the Free Wheelin’ plan, which is $10/month, between $2.50 – $4/hr + $0.30/mile (depending on the car), and the Peace of Mind plan which is $0/month but between $4.50 – $6.50/hr + $0.30/mile (again depending on the car). There are 6 locations in Denver and 12 in Boulder.
City CarShare has cars available all over the Bay Area, from Noe Valley to North Beach and all the way to the East Bay. Another non-profit, a group of Bay Area transportation activists launched City CarShare with the help of several local nonprofits and the cities of San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley. They offer three plans to match the way you drive, and there are no usage commitments, subscriptions, or deposit requirements. The first plan, the ShareLocal, is $5.50/hr weekdays, $6/hr weekends, $1.50/hr at night, $.35/mile, and $10/month. The last plan, the Sharea-Little, is $6.50/hr weekdays, $7.50/hr weekends, $.40/mile, and $45/year. As with the other companies, gasoline, insurance, and maintenance are included.
Located in Austin, TX, car2go has a slightly different model for car sharing than most of the other companies. They operate on a per minute charge, rather than an hourly or daily rate. After paying a $35 registration fee, renting one of their cars costs $.35/minute with a $12.99/hr maximum, and $.45/mile after the free 150 miles. Their entire fleet is made up of smart fortwos, those little 2 seaters we are starting to see more and more of in this country.
Located in, you guessed it, Philadelphia, PhillyCarShare is a non-profit car sharing service that maintains 250 cars around the city. Hourly rates are between $3.45 – $7.00 per hour, and one package come with free miles and an annual fee while the other you have to pay a $.25/mile and a $15/month charge. As usual, the service comes with gas, insurance, and roadside assistance, and there over 80 locations in Center City and hundreds throughout Philly.
And here’s a few more:
- Citywheels Cleveland
- And for those of you with a taste for speed and luxury (and a bank account full of money), check out Club Sportiva. Sure, it’s a place for sharing a Ferrari, Lamborghini or Aston Martin, but it’s still car sharing!
Have a car sharing service in your area that you use? Please let us know about it!