Good Life

Car2go vs Zipcar

March 20, 2013

Last Updated:

I’m a fan of alternate transportation methods. It makes life different, and cheaper, and sometimes more inconvenient, but definitely more interesting. One of the things I love about living in a little city, like Portland, is how it makes transportation easier. Whether you’re biking, walking, taking the Streetcar/MAX, riding the bus, car-sharing, or some combination, it doesn’t take ages to get to the “other side” of the city.

I’ve been using car-sharing (Zipcar to start) since January of 2008. At the time, I was just getting ready to go traveling for a year, so in preparation for selling my car, I signed up to try it out and have a backup just in case my car sold earlier than expected. When I got back to the States in 2009, I ended up not repurchasing a car, and have been using Zipcar, and Car2Go ever since.

So in an effort compare the current car-sharing services in Portland, here’s how they stack up:

Zipcar Review
Annual Fee: $50
Initial Application/Setup Fee: $25
Rates: from $8.50/hour, from $69/day
Service Areas: 39 states/provinces in North America currently (& some in Spain/UK)
Availability: sprinkled all around the city
Membership info

When/why to use Zipcar:

  • Includes: insurance, gas, 180 ‘free’ miles
  • you want to drive a “real” car.
  • you want to go far, far away — like a 24hr trip to the coast
  • you’re going grocery shopping and you want that car to be there still when you come out
  • overnight rates (6pm to 8am)

The thing Zipcar has always had going for it, is the cars. Zipcar seemed pretty revolutionary when they started. You could rent a regular car with zero hassle. And if there was a zipcar parking spot close to you, you pretty much felt like you had a car for whenever you needed it, so long as the neighbors didn’t hog it.

Zipcar was recently acquired by Avis, so I’m expecting more fees to start creeping in at some point.
Car2go jail

Car2go Review
Annual Fee: $0
Initial Application/Setup Fee: $35
Rates: $0.38/min, $13.99/hour, $72.99/day
Service Areas: nine North American cities currently (& some in Europe)
Availability: currently 300 cars in Portland
Membership info

When/why to use car2go:

  • you want to get from Point A to Point B and ditch your car (hello, personal taxi!)
  • you’re going downtown (or somewhere else with metered parking) – yay free parking!
  • cheaper than the bus (especially with 2 people)
  • going to or from the airport (via public transit)
  • you want to use a car for less than 1 hour

I signed up for Car2go last summer, and one of the biggest selling points for me using Car2Go is that more often than not, I don’t need a car for exactly one hour or more. Plus, I don’t want to make a reservation for an exact time in the future. When I’m running to meet friends for happy hour, I want transportation that’s fast and flexible — I don’t want to have to agree to one hour of car rental etc, if I only need to drive 10 min in the rain, and I have a ride home. This is where Car2Go is awesome. You pull up the app, see that there’s a car a couple blocks away, reserve it (the reservation holds it for you for 15 min), and you’re on your way.

Another thing Car2go beats Zipcar on is location. I know off the top of my head that the closest Zipcar parking space is 2 blocks away, and is a more expensive vehicle type, so the closest car that I usually reserve is about 5 blocks away. With car2go, there could be one right outside my door, or a mile away. Obviously, I’m not pleased when I really want to car2go and the closest one is a really long walk in the opposite direction that I need to go. And of course, Car2go’s are little Smart cars so they don’t drive as smoothly as a “regular” car. It took a little bit of getting used. I thought like they felt kind of like a go-kart at first, but I don’t notice it anymore.

Car2go is a Daimler company, so not exactly the ‘startup’ that Zipcar felt like when they started, but fine by me. It feels like a very innovative project coming from a bigger company.

Car2Go wishlist: app notification that you can select ‘notify me when there’s a car within x distance from me’ so if I know I want to go somewhere at some point in the next few hours, I don’t have to keep pulling up the app to refresh.

Another newbie to the car sharing scene is Getaround — think Airbnb for your car. I haven’t used this service yet though.

Do you use a car-sharing service?

Photo by: atomictaco

  • CëRïSë
    April 11, 2013 at 11:05 am

    When I first went car-free, back in Mpls, ZipCar and HourCar were my options, but I never went with either of them because of their relatively limited locations and distance from me. It ended up making more sense for me to load all my laundry into my backpack and bike to the laundromat, say, than bike a couple of miles to the ZipCar, bring the car back to my house, load it up for a laundry run, and then have to ride home from dropping the car off afterward. (It was laundry days when I really missed my car.) For longer trips, I’d do full-on rental cars, which were available at the airport, an easy public-transit ride away. Then David moved out, with his car, and I’ve been in personal shared-car nirvana since!

    Anyway, I love the idea of public car-sharing programs, and I hope they continue to expand and become more useful! I’m glad they’re working so well for you!