Zipcar is a car-sharing company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts that was founded in 2000 by Robin Chase and Antje Danielson. In 2007 Zipcar merged with its biggest competitor, Flexcar, a similar service based in Seattle. Since the company began, Zipcar has grown to include locations in over 50 major cities around the U.S. as well as Vancouver, Toronto, and London. The company shares more than 6,000 vehicles in total between around 275,000 drivers. In addition to its locations in major metropolitan areas, Zipcar also serves major universities such as Caltech, University of New Hampshire, Hofstra University, and Wesleyan University, among others.
To become members, customers must pay a one-time application fee and then an annual fee. Rates for car rentals differ from city to city and cars can be taken on an hourly or daily basis. Membership eligibility is based on a number of factors, including age, license status and driving record. Customers must be at least 21 years old, have a valid driver’s license from any country, have no more than two incidents (moving violations or accidents) in the past three years, no more than one incident in the past 18 months, no major violations in the past three years, and no alcohol violations in the past seven years. Included in Zipcar membership is a Zipcard, an access pass to rental cars, gas, 180 miles per day, an online reservation system, Zipcar Mobile, a service that allows customers to reserve Zipcars from their mobile phones, a free iPhone App, universal membership at Zipcar locations around the world, 24/7 roadside assistance, online account management, and discounts from local partners in the customer’s home city.
The Zipcar system begins when a customer signs up for membership online. The member will then receive a Zipcard in the mail about 3 to 7 days after joining. When the Zipcard is received, the member can then go online and make a reservation for a car of their choice and the car will be dropped off in a designated parking spot in an area of the member’s choosing. The member can then go to the car and unlock it by holding the Zipcard up to the reader on the car’s windshield. Once inside the car, the driver will find the keys on or under the dashboard. Drivers are responsible for filling up the gas tank once it gets down to ¼ of a tank. A fuel card is provided to pay for gas, as it is included in the price of membership.
The fleet available to Zipcar customers consists of different models from BMW, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo. The different car models are aimed at customers who need a rental car for one of many reasons: large trucks for moving or other big projects, smaller cars for everyday, short-time uses, and luxury vehicles for company purposes. Part of the company’s mission is encouraging people who live in metropolitan areas to use Zipcars as a replacement for owning a car, generally in addition to taking public transit. This is promoted as a green initiative, and according to Zipcar, each Zipcar takes 15-20 personally-owned cars off of the road. The company is also using plug-in hybrid vehicles in certain areas in the U.S.
Extra value plans are offered to members to help them save money on Zipcar services. There are four different levels to the extra value plans: EVP $$50, EVP $75, EVP $125, and EVP $250. All extra value plans waive the annual fee, retain the one-time application fee, charge a monthly commitment fee, depending on the level (either $50, $75, $125, or $250), but the member gets that amount back in driving, lower hourly and daily rates, and allows members to add other drivers to their accounts. At the $50 level, members also receive 10% off on driving. The $75 level gets members 10% off driving plus a one month rollover option. Similarly, the $125 and $250 plans give members a two month rollover option and 10% and 15% off driving, respectively.
Liability insurance for $300,000 is generally provided to members over 21 for each accident. This amount can vary depending on the city, though, and in some areas comprehensive and collision insurance are also included. Members are responsible for the first $500 of repair, recovery, and loss of use costs. In states that require no-fault insurance, the member also has to pay the first $500 of costs. If the member is found to be at fault in an accident, the insurance will cover from $500 to $300,000 in property damage or bodily injury. State-mandated levels of insurance are provided for drivers under 21. Non-members driving Zipcars who are involved in accidents and members involved in accidents in vehicles not supplied by Zipcar are not covered by the insurance.
Zipcar has partnerships with businesses, universities, and other organizations, called “Z2B.” The programs Zipcar has with these institutions generally include a discount on the annual membership fee as well as a discount on Monday through Friday driving. The partnerships with universities provide access to Zipcar services to students by placing locations on or near campuses.
Zipcar provides car sharing services to people in major metropolitan areas across the world, enabling them to use cars only when necessary, or in addition to other forms of transportation. Much of the mission of the company is based on lessening the carbon footprint of vehicles and integrating technology into the car rental and car sharing industries.