Car Sharing Versus Rental Cars

High insurance costs, arcane parking rules, and heavy traffic make owning a car in a major city an expensive and not very enjoyable proposition. One solution to this problem: car sharing.

If you live in a major city, you know that owning a car there can be a major hassle. High insurance costs, arcane parking rules, and heavy traffic make owning a car in the city an expensive and not very enjoyable proposition.

Enter car sharing.

Join a car sharing club and you not only save money, but you also help the environment, according to promoters. So far, they’ve convinced almost 310,000 drivers to join more than 24 car-sharing clubs in the US, sharing close to 6,100 vehicles.

Although there are several regional car sharing clubs, Zipcar is by far the largest, operating in 10 major metro areas across the country, including Los Angeles, Seattle and Portland on the West Coast; Boston, New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta in the East; and Chicago in the Midwest. In addition, the club operates on more than 100 college campuses in 21 states.

Once you join Zipcar, you’ll get an electronic key card that unlocks the car you reserve. As a member, you can pick a car, reserve it by the hour or by the day, use your key card to unlock it, and drive away. Rates vary by the plan and the type of car you choose. The club’s occasional driver plan costs $25 to sign up and a $50 annual membership fee. Car rentals run $9.50 an hour or $69 a day and up, depending on the kind of car you choose. And unlike rental car charges, Zipcar fees include gas, insurance, and 180 free miles. For more information on Zipcar or other car-sharing clubs, go to Zipcar.com or to Carsharing.net.