Understanding What is Zipcar and How Does It Work

In this article, we will explore what is Zipcar and how it works. Also, we will reveal 5 unique benefits of using Zipcar over other ridesharing apps!

Zipcar is an American-based company, more specifically a car service company that provides car-sharing facilities. Zipcar is a subsidiary of Avis Budget Group, founded by Robin Chase and Antje Danielson in 2000.

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By: Viewimage on Shutterstock

What makes Zipcar different?

What makes Zipcar different than other ridesharing apps is that Zipcar provides drive-on-demand service and automobile reservations to its members who want a car-free lifestyle, meaning they want to have car ownership for a given period, say to run local errands around the local neighborhood or are college students wanting a personal vehicle to commute faster, without having to break a sweat to purchasing a car.

Just book a Zipcar!

what is zipcar and how does it work
By: Division of strategic enrollment management, Rowan/Flickr @ All rights reserved.

These cars are billable by the minute, hour, or day. Members can choose from various membership plans (some membership plans may limit insurance options). Members may have to pay an annual or monthly membership fee, and in addition to this, they may also have to pay car reservation charges.

Members can reserve vehicles with Zipcar’s mobile app, online, or in some cities by phone, at any given time, either immediately or up to a year in advance.

Zipcar members are provided with automated access to the cars via an access card that unlocks the vehicle’s doors with the keys already located inside.

Another alternative provided by Zipcar is that members can use Zipcar’s Android application or iPhone application to find a Zipcar by honking its horn and unlocking the doors.

Zipcar is a beneficial carsharing app that provides one with the comfort of owning a car without going through the burdensome tasks associated with car ownership.

How much does a membership to Zipcar cost?

Zipcar charges $7 a month or $70 a year, including fuel, parking, and insurance. Along with the services mentioned above, maintenance is also included in the price.

Zipcar app

The Zipcar Application lets its users find and reserve a Zipcar around the corner or across the globe in just a few swipes on their phones.

Zipcar is the world’s first and only carsharing technology in the market that allows users to sort and choose cars by time, model, or type, according to their preference and convenience.

The benefits of reserving a Zipcar also provide its members the luxury of honking, locking, and unlocking their reserved Zipcar simply by a single touch of a button on their smartphone.

It is a free app for Android and iOS users, and users can apply online to get a Zipcar membership via a valid driver’s license and a credit or debit card. Just having a credit card and a valid driver’s license is not enough.

One needs to showcase a clean driving history too, failure to do so might prevent Zipcar membership services to the individual in question.

Given below are the basic requirements to join Zipcar:

  • The applicant must be over 21 years old (or more than 18 years of age in specifically affiliated campuses)
  • Should have a valid driver’s license (for drivers from the U.S. and Canada, the process typically takes just a few hours. Foreign drivers with a foreign country’s driver’s license are required to use their passports to acquire membership.)
  • The applicant should have a good driving history.

How does Zipcar work?

Here is how Zipcar works:

After attaining a Zipcar membership using a valid driver’s license, book a car of any make and model, according to your needs and convenience.

zipcar app showing the nearest zipcars in a neighborhood
By: office of sustainability, Tufts University/Flickr @All rights reserved

Users can book cars instantaneously with the Zipcar app. A Zipcar member can go to the Zipcar website or app and check on all the vehicles available in your area.

Pick the car of your choice and reserve it online. Booking of vehicles is to be done up to one hour before you need the car.

Find your Zipcar using the information in your reservation and confirm it is the car you reserved by looking for the “name” in the back window sticker.

what is zipcar and how does it work?
By: che9772/Flickr @All rights reserved

Unlocking the doors is easy. Simply by moving your Zipcard across the front of the box stuck to the inside of the windshield, you can open your car.

You can find the car keys inside a box, just on the side of the steering column. That’s it! You can then drive your Zipcar to your desired location.

a zipcar parked near its pickup point
By: Joe C/Flickr @All rights reserved

Zipcar vehicles need to be returned to the exact pick-up location or reserved parking space where they were picked up from initially with the fuel tank at least 1/4 filled.

Fuel card and parking pass in a zipcar
By: Joe C/Flickr @All rights reserved

Zipcar users have to refill their car before returning it with gas if the tank dips below 1/4. c Using the gas card that comes with your vehicle, you will then need to refill the gas tank, or you’ll be charged a $30 fee (the gas card can be found behind the driver’s side visor in your Zipcar).

You can also reserve cars for as little as one hour or as long as 14 days at a time for your weekend adventures or opt for public transit Zipcar if you are traveling on a budget.

Remember that most cities require you to drop off the car from where you found it. Another newer feature added to Zipcar allows one-way traveling but is only operational in particular cities. You need to make sure if this feature is available in your town.

Flex is Zipcar’s one-way service, where you can pick up and drop cars anywhere in the Zipzone so long as it complies with our parking rules where you are ending your trip. Flex costs 31p per minute.

Check out the video below to understand how Zipcar works!

How It Works

Zipcar membership

Zipcar works using two methods:

Membership fees vary according to the package that you choose. There is a one-time application fee of $25, and a monthly or annual fee applies.

Rental reservation fees are around $10 per hour. Daily rental rates are approximately $80.

Zipcar reservations over one day

  • One hundred eighty miles per day, every day.
  • After 180 miles per day, 20 additional miles are added free of cost for every extra hour. of the user’s reservation until you get to 180 miles.
  • An additional sum of $0.045 per mile for standard cars.
  • An additional sum of $0.55 per mile for premium vehicles and cargo vans.
  • An $80 per day fee.

Zipcar: Vehicle models

A Luxury car on zipcar
By: Phil/Flickr @All rights reserved

Zipcar offers a wide variety of models and makes, and they are as follows:

1. Compact cars:

Ford Fiesta, Mazda 3, Toyota Corolla.

2. Vans:

Ford Transit, Volkswagen transporter, Ford E.

3. Premium Vehicles & Luxury vehicles:

Volkswagen GTE, Audi A3, Mercedes A-Class.

Zipcar: Vehicle Insurance

Zipcar has an attractive insurance plan in place for every rental, which includes the following coverage in the rental policy:

Liability coverage of $100,000

Bodily injury coverage of a maximum of $300,000

Property Damage coverage of $25,000

Deductible $1,000

(Waiving of deductible can be done for an additional $5 – $10 per month.)

Third-party auto liability and Personal Injury Protection (PIP or ‘no fault’ coverage) are provided to Zipcar users with a clean driving history and good standing with the organization.

A $1,000 damage fee may apply, which you can reduce or eliminate by purchasing an optional waiver. ( personal injury protection is in the minimum amount mandated by the car’s home jurisdiction.)

What makes Zipcar better than other car-sharing companies?

Being on Time:

Zipcar’s excellent service ensures quick reservation of cars of your choice for a period of your choosing, ensuring timely service.

No hassles with pick-up time, or cancellations:

You need to get to a meeting. It could be a job interview, you have a one-hour window for the meeting, and it takes roughly fifteen minutes each way.

Then after the meeting, you have to arrange another pick-up. With Zipcar, you drive off, park, go to the forum, get out, drive off, and park again without having to take into consideration pick-up time, or cancellations.

If the meeting is in an area where parking is a problem or expensive, this reason becomes void.

Long Trips can be made quickly and at a great price:

Zipcar ensures that its members spend less on longer rides and save money.


Another good reason, if you have more than three stops to make, then
Uber is a problem. This one is great if you also have a friend who can get in and out, saving you time to park.

Fare Sharing can be implemented to reduce the traveling costs:

Like a pool ride with Uber or Ola, you get to choose your passengers, ensuring that your car ride is safe and pleasant. Another added perk of choosing Zipcar over other carsharing apps is deciding how to travel to your destination.

A glance at Zipcar

zipcar logo
By: Zipcar logo for web-Boston Greenfest/Flickr @ All rights reserved.
  • You have to create a Zipcar account and be given a Zipcar credit card called a ‘zip card.’
  • Once you have an account, you can order a car for one hour before you need it.
  • To use your reserved Zipcar, you need to use the ‘Zipcard’ that comes to the given Zipcar.
  • Every Zipcar has a 180-mile limit per day, and if you cross that limit, the user has to pay more.
  • Most Zipcars are parked in specific areas, and they are mainly seen around college campuses, as it is beneficial for a college student and university campuses.
  • Many cities make round trips mandatory, so you will need to return the reserved Zipcar to the exact location from where you picked it up. Still, more recently, Zipcar has added a new feature called flex wherein users who hire a Zipcar for one-way trips can return a car to the nearest Zipcar reserved parking spot, according to the user’s convenience.
  • Major cities like Baltimore, Boston, Denver, LA, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, and D.C. allow one-way trips. Also, bookings of a round-trip car can be made by the hour or day via the Zipcar app.
  • Fuel and insurance are included in the fee.
  • Zipcar is one of the world’s largest carsharing companies, and once you have a membership, you can use its vehicles anywhere – including Europe.
  • The Zipcar reservation process is faster and easier than booking with a traditional car reservation or car rental service because once you’re signed up to the program, it’s just a few taps on your smartphone to locate the closest available Zipcar and choose your pick-up and return location and timings.
  •  There’s a Zipcar spot every few blocks, as compared to traditional rental car offices.
  • A Zipcar can be rented for as long as a user desires- be it a day or for many months.
  • Zipcar has almost the same (a few dollar difference) rates for compact cars and luxury cars. As a user of Zipcar, What do you think is better: renting a BMW for two days for $200/day from an unheard-of car rental company or using Zipcar, a highly reliable car leasing service, which charges $100/day for 2 days, with gas included.

After having read this article, one can quickly answer the question about Zipcar and how it works. Zipcar is the future of carsharing apps, and it would suffice to say that the lot is shared.

In short, Zipcar has revolutionized the car-sharing industry with its unique app showcasing a highly interactive and immersive user interface, targeting users who want a tremendous car-sharing and car rental service without having to shell out big bucks.

Another selling point of Zipcar is its take on promoting itself via its sustainable and eco-friendly initiatives.

Imagine a world with one million fewer cars on the road and cities with more green space than parking lots as the organization points towards sustainability. Would not that be marvelous?

So, if you haven’t tried Zipcar yet, do it. Book your next ride.

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  1. Great article! I’ve been curious about Zipcar for a while now, and this post has given me a better understanding of how it works. I’m glad to know that it’s a membership-based service that allows users to rent cars by the hour or day. The flexibility of being able to return the car to any Zipcar location is also a big plus. I’m definitely considering giving it a try!

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