I've just registered with Zipcar, the $8/hour car sharing service.
We only have one car because we live near enough to campus to walk to work. But as the kids get older there are more and more occasions where they need to be schlepped in two different directions at the same time. So I think the idea of a car sharing service is wonderful and I'm delighted that it's finally come to Miami.
Except that it sort of hasn't.
In towns where Zipcar is really present, they have multiple locations — sometimes a plethora of locations. If your close location is out of cars, you go a bit further.
Will a car be available when I want one?
It's natural for new members to worry that cars won't be available when they want them. About half of all reservations are made the same day. We monitor utilization very closely, adding more cars as usage rises, keeping availability high. But the beauty of the system is that Zipcar members are entitled to use any of the cars in our fleet. So even if the Zipcar right around the corner isn't available, you'll still be able reserve one located only a few blocks away.
But in Miami, as far as I can tell, at present there's only one location. Yes, it's on the campus, and yes, it's near my house, maybe 10-15 minutes walk and almost as long to drive there, as the relevant entrance is on the far side of the campus. But still.
As far as I can tell from the occasional online spot check, they have a grand total of … two cars. So far, they do seem to be available most of the time. But if neither of those two cars is available…I think the next closest car is in Gainesville! Where, incidentally, they have a lot more locations.
We'll just have to see how it goes.
An interesting point about Zipcar is that the cars never seem to be clean: sticky residue in cupholders, pet fur on the seats, strange odors, etc. Seeing as though they market themselves to car-less UM froshes, I’m interested to read your views on the service.
I’ve got a 1996 Buick Regal Gran Sport with 88,000 original miles and the 3.8 liter engine. It’s always started in the DC winters. It’s also got sticky residue in the cupholders. Interested?
Interesting idea though. Car ownership can be rather expensive.
No doubt the more often Zipcar would have the clean the cars the more expensive it would be.
I used Zipcar for most of the Spring 07 semester. My car had died; my teaching schedule that semester was Tuesday evenings and Wednesday mornings (and my wife’s was Tuesday/Thursday with no guarantee she’d be home by the time I had to leave Tuesdays) so a 24-hour rental once a week would cover my teaching. As long as I didn’t want to drive anywhere while my wife was teaching, we could share her car for errands. We’re at the edge of Washington, so there were only two Zipcars within walking distance (there’s more now, I think). They do take them out of service for maintenance and cleaning, so sometimes there was only one. But I never had a problem. I booked early, of course, well ahead of when I’d need it.
Still, over the summer I bought a new car and cancelled my Zipcar acccount.
We have both Zipcar and Streetcar in the UK. I’m signed up with Streetcar and it is great. There are cars and vans if you need to take anything bulky. The service is excellent in that it’s easy to extend the booking or shorten it. I’m now at the point that in a city like London, where there is an inner city congestion charge as well and increasingly expensive parking charges, there is no point in owning one’s own car. I find a combination of bicycle and Streetcar does the trick.
Zipcar in Washington DC is fabulous – I haven’t had a car since I moved here and have used Zipcar without a problem, but we do have many, many cars and locations.
One bonus of Zipcar that people not realize is that you can use Zipcars in any city or country where they reside – so if you come to DC, you can get a Zipcar here if you want one, even if you live in Miami and started your membership there. It’s a nice benefit that helps you avoid expensive car rental fees when traveling (especially since Zipcar includes the cost of fuel and insurance).