By on June 9, 2009

You’re a ZipCar customer.
You have an iPhone in your pocket, and would like to know where the nearest available car is.
You open the ZipCar application.
The map shows you a wide selection of cars. You specify the type, the selection shows those.
You touch the screen and reserve a car.
As you get to where it’s parked, you press a button, which makes the car honk, helping you find it.
And then you open the car, enter and drive off.
Owning cars just changed—a lot.

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37 Comments on “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Car, iPhone Today...”


  • avatar
    virages

    Making cars honk remotely, on a map, on the internet… what could possibly go wrong?

  • avatar
    Richard Chen

    TomTom will be offering an iPhone app and a suction cup windshield mount, no price given.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    There are much neater things you can do.

    My nokia E63 comes with a vpn & sip client.

    While I’m driving, my wife can VPN into our network with her sip client on her Nokia E63 and have a local Brazilian land phone number for her mom to call (or a pbx extension in our case) for the cost of a local call (or in our case, free) and have no idea she’s talking to her daughter on the road.

    That is using a $40 data plan, a $3-$5/phone number (or since we use a pbx — free), a pentium-3 (businesses throw these out) and free pbx & vpn software & $150 unlocked cellphone with no 2 year contract crap.

    Even better is it has 802.11b as well so when she’s at home she just switches to 802.11b to connect to the local lan. If she’s at a hotel she can use their 802.11b (say in a foreign country) and STILL be at the same phone number with no roaming charges & still have her Brazillian phone number/pbx extension.

  • avatar
    motron

    @Robstar: The same thing can be done with the iPhone. But, can you locate, reserve, and unlock a zipcar with your nokia?

  • avatar
    findude

    Owning cars just changed—a lot.

    It’s changing to not owning cars. Many (mostly younger) people are questioning the value of actually owning a vehicle when for less money you can have the use of the right vehicle for the right amount of time on demand. I don’t think the ZipCar style services have reached critical mass yet, but when they do many drivers will give in to the logic of a back-of-the-napkin calculation and never bother purchasing a car.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    motron>

    Probably.

    The fact is, that AFAIK iphone can’t run more than 1 app at a time (at least that is what a buddy with an iphone told me — I don’t know if it’s true or not), my nokia can. My nokia doesn’t come with 2 years of contract terms, and is cheaper. My nokia has a real keyboard, ipsec vpn client & sip client. AFAIK iphone doesn’t come with any of those. And my Nokia has had “copy & paste” for ages.

    I can’t figure out, for most people, how car renting services are popular.

    They are cheap compared to owning a car, I suppose, but paying per hour (is it still like that?) is ridiculous.

    I just rented (for late june) an econobox to drive across the country for $16/day for a 4 day long weekend. I could have had a midsize or large car for about $4-6/day more.

    Last I checked I think there was an initiation fee, a monthly fee with X hours, or per/hour fees that were like $7-$9 (although gas & insurance are included).

    Granted, this is tons cheaper than buying a new car, but you can find rust buckets around here which cost practically nothing to insure for $2k or so. I think my $1000 neon costs something like $0.10/mile in parts/maint + gas + insurance. IIRC full coverage insurance is $40/month.

    I see owning a car as the most expensive + practical solution.
    The cheapest solution is riding your bicycle & a good compromise is public transport.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    But, can you locate, reserve, and unlock a zipcar with your nokia?

    There’s no real reason he couldn’t. Basic iPhone apps based off the webkit framework are really, really easy to port to other platforms, like Symbian/Nokia and certainly the Palm Pre. You could probably even get the steaming pile that is Windows Mobile’s web browser to work.

    This is such an app:
    1. ZipCar installs a cellular radio+GPS-equipped device in each car that ties into the ignition and security system (not hard; similar devices are used in logistics fleets now). ZipCar probably has used the GPS feature for some time.
    2. That device allows the car to connect to the internet and report it’s position, as well as accept commands (like OnStar does)
    3. The whole thing is mashed up on ZipCar’s webservers…
    4. …which you connect to from any web-enabled phone.

    The risk, of course, is if the system is compromised. Of course, you could also compromise it with a flat-bed tow truck and a Faraday cage, so the point is moot.

    The other concern is signal strength. A lot of urban lots are four or five levels below ground, and not all developers facilitate subsurface cellular service. I could see that being a real problem.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I can’t figure out, for most people, how car renting services are popular.

    If you live somewhere very urban, parking costs $100/month or more, possible double if you drive from your condo or apartment to a workplace downtown. Insurance costs skyrocket (a base Corolla costs more to insure in Montreal or Toronto than a Mustang GT would in the sticks). You’re already at a $250/mo penalty. On cars that work in urban environs, it means you’re paying significantly more to facilitate your car than to own or lease it.

    Oh, and you car will get dinged, scraped and keyed. Even if you own a beater and opt our of collision and comprehensive insurance (as I did) this just sucks.

    Believe me, Zipcar makes a lot of sense.

  • avatar

    You guys think that is badass? Let me tell you about “The Blue Tooth”.

    With the MMI system in mah S5, coupled with my old but trusty BlizzackBerry 8830, I can call people while I’m taking laps on a racetrack! I can tell them what’s happening (“This prick in an M3 is holding me up!!!”) or we can talk about other stuff (“Thank you for saying I am a generous lover. I really do spoil your clitoris”) or I can share my random thoughts with them (“OH CHRIST IT’S ALL GONE WRONG I’M GONNA HIT THE FLAG STATION!”)

    Plus I can listen to my iPod. Oh Feist, you’re right! How did I miss out on… youuuuuuu?

    The primary issue I see with this ZipCar business, based on what I’ve seen of so-called “public transportation”, is that it will be impossibly to precisely describe who violently shit their pants in the ZipCar you’ve just rented. Was it the person who had it before, or were they also suffering through the stench? Also, who left a used condom in the cupholder?

    @virages: You are so right.

  • avatar
    jmo

    As someone else mentioned, the other main issue is parking. In Boston a deeded parking space can add between 40k and 70k to the cost of a condo.

    Example: “8 Whittier Place (Charles River Park) – West End. Parking space 239 with a convenient location near Massachusetts General Hospital, with 24-hour concierge. Price: $52,500 ($86 HOA).”

    So, that’s $52k plus $86 in HOA fees.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    You guys think that is badass? Let me tell you about “The Blue Tooth”.

    I must get a car with built-in telephony one day. All I can usually do manage is “Hello, hello, I just spent four hundred dollars on a headset and I can’t fricking hear you!”

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    @virages — you are so wrong. Cars can be stolen anywhere, anytime, and are.
    As a registered customer with ZipCar, you have an app activation code which serves to identify you, and to activate/deactivate the car security.

    As discussed here before: we are driving the “car freedom of the late 50′s,” while enduring the car hell of 2009. To many people, cars have become appliances, and are treated as such. This is particularly true of the younger market.

    What ZipCar and other providers are offering is hazzle free car convenience, with all the advantages of having a car, with just a portion of the cost of owning one. A portion related exactly to the time you use it.

    It’s not car as talisman, but it is convenient. And there’s nothing stopping people from creating variations on this theme – utilizing the exceptional interplay of GPS/Mobile Phone/Identification/Map services/Internet booking and charging. (And of course, you can do this with other phones – but the app services being created for iPhones are leading the field.)
    As findude writes – stressing why I think owning cars just changed – a lot:

    findude :
    June 9th, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Owning cars just changed—a lot.

    It’s changing to not owning cars. Many (mostly younger) people are questioning the value of actually owning a vehicle when for less money you can have the use of the right vehicle for the right amount of time on demand. I don’t think the ZipCar style services have reached critical mass yet, but when they do many drivers will give in to the logic of a back-of-the-napkin calculation and never bother purchasing a car.

    The car industry is making a lot of assumptions about how it will recover, at a time when people are not only reducing the number of cars they own, and how much they drive, but also seriously considering alternatives (such as not owning any cars, but having access to them), or using other modes of transportation.
    It all adds up, and goes to the debit column as far as the momentum of recovery for the car industry is concerned.

  • avatar
    mikeolan

    @Robstar: S60 is kind of like a fancy abacus next to the iPhone in terms of application frameworks (the Zipcar app was made possible because Apple now offers a full Google Maps API to be embedded in the actual application) , and I’m not even going to touch your uh, interesting setup (but for most of us Skype will do just fine if we need to make calls over 802.11b.)

    You might not like 2 year contracts, but, um, I don’t ever see your setup catching on with the general public.

  • avatar
    jmo

    The other benifit of Zipcar – not that I use it -but for those who do. You can chose the car that best fits your needs at any given time.

    Going to the beach for the day, take the Mini convertible. Taking a client out to lunch, take the 3-series. Going to IKEA – take the pick-up.

    It’s like Alfred P. Sloan’s idea of a “Car for every purse and purpose” taken to a new level.

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    @jmo – It’s like Alfred P. Sloan’s idea of a “Car for every purse and purpose” taken to a new level.

    Exactly. You literally have a garage full of cars.

    During a think tank session for a car manufacturer, a few years ago, we proposed that the way of the future was in removing the hazzle from ownership, while increasing choice. As in all other things, it’s the outsiders not invested in the status quo who will be reaping the benefit. (Low cost carriers compared to flagship carriers among airlines, for instance.)

  • avatar
    virages

    @Stein X: I have to admit my comment was silly, but I actually think that this is a pretty good idea. My familly is a one car family and I bike to work. An extra-car like Zip car would be great for the times that my wife and I both need a car (doesn’t happen much, but does). And iPhones and enabling technologies are here to make it possible. So I say hats off to Zip Car for making this service.

    The silly thought that I had about with the remote honking was along the lines of “Hey lets honk the cars that are sitting near my bosses’ house at 3am!” or worse, a hacker has all of the cars on the system honk ghost in the machine style.

  • avatar
    Stein X Leikanger

    Absolutely. And a modification might just have the lights flashing, instead of a very disruptive honk.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    What I don’t understand with car sharing services is I thought it was NOT for commuting since you only get X hours in the car. Drive 1 hour to work, park it in a garage and then pay $8/hr for leaving it in a garage…?

    Why pay $7-$8/hour to commute at an hour+ when you can take a bus/train for $5 or less? (well here in Chicago it’s $2.25 or $2.50 for 3 rides within 2 hours…I forget the exact amount). Wouldn’t even a taxi be cheaper than a zipcar to commute? Don’t you have to pay for the entire hours that you have the car out? Do you have to return it to the same spot? Or can you drop it off at your destination & not pay any more?

    If you are going to use a car for the day, wouldn’t an occasional enterprise rental for $16-$25+taxes (with unlimited miles) be cheaper? Enterprise even picks you up for free (at least the local one here does).

    The only real benefit I see is using it as a rental without having to do paperwork every time and not paying for gas/insurance.

    Re Iphone vs Symbian> I guess maybe it comes down to preference, but I’ll take the features I mentioned above over an Iphone any day. Then again I’m a gadget geek/technical person who makes his living working on Linux + clustering. Multitasking is important and without that, IMHO, the iphone is not very useful.

  • avatar
    jmo

    “What I don’t understand with car sharing services is I thought it was NOT for commuting since you only get X hours in the car. Drive 1 hour to work, park it in a garage and then pay $8/hr for leaving it in a garage…?”

    No, you’d never use Zipcar for commuting. It’s for people who live in Boston, Cambridge, San Francsico, New York, places where it’s a pain to have a car and you are often not communting to work by car.

    Also, I just checked online and a Chevy Aveo from Enterprise is $65.26 a day plus insurance.

    If you’re in the city but you want to go on your monthly Costco run – it’s much cheaper to grab a zipcar for 3 hours than renting a car for the whole day.

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    The ZipCar system is too expensive unless you live in a high parking expense city and even then your enjoyment of the ZipCar is quite limited.

    Here’s why:
    You pay by the hour and must accurately estimate how long you will use the car or be penalized . As ZipCar Wash DC states: “Late penalties of $50 per hour with a minimum charge of $50 plus regular hourly charges.”

    Who, other than some OCD nerd, knows how long a date or shopping spree will last?
    Yes, you can use your phone to extend your current usage BUT only if that next hourly block hasn’t already been reserved by another Zipster.

    What city dwelling male uses a ZipCar to visit his suburban love interest? Better ask her beforehand how long you’ll be at her house cuz you need to pre-reserve your actual hourly use with ZipCar. Think she’ll understand or care as to why you can’t stay longer than expected? None of her car-owning boyfriends had such issues.

    ZipCar suggests using their service for all kinds of pleasure trips.
    Who goes to the beach for just a few hours? Getting a traditional rental is a better value for such day-long excursions.

    Who doesn’t like to keep stuff(umbrella, CDs, coat, sports gear, etc )in their own private car. With ZipCar you’d have to carry all your sundries on your person (backpack, yeah that’s convenient).

    The lie about ZipCar is when they compare the annual costs vs a owning a traditional private car.
    They don’t and can’t calculate the value of 24/7 unlimited and UNSCHEDULED use of your private car.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Parking is the key.

    They don’t and can’t calculate the value of 24/7 unlimited and UNSCHEDULED use of your private car.

    Unscheduled – unless you forget that where you parked has street cleaning on Thursday and woops today they decided to tow you rather than give you a $50 ticket. Or, you didn’t notice that you parked in a space that has a two hour limit from 8am to 6pm – ticket. Or all you could find is a metered space and you get downstairs at 8:02am to find a ticket sitting on the windshield. (Seriously, if everything ran as efficiently as parking enforcement in this town it would be a utopia.)

    Or, you dig your car out of its snow bound parking space, return to find your space taken and you need to shovel out a new space.

    You need to look at this from the point of view of living in a dense urban environment with limited and expensive parking options.

  • avatar
    MrDot

    No, you don’t commute with a ZipCar. The service is for people who live in large cities and take public transit/walk/bike to work everyday but need a vehicle for regular runs to the grocery store, mall, walmart, or home depot. Hitting up the local enterprise lot is a pain in the ass, especially compared to punching some info into your cell phone and then driving off.

    JMO is right. Owning a car in a major city is a nightmare. Parking, permits, fines, vandalism, damage from other drivers, ridiculous insurance, overpriced fuel, horrid fuel economy, no room to wash or work on it. If I lived in a neighborhood served by ZipCar, I’d be tempted to ditch my beater.

  • avatar

    You guys are making me feel so ’50s. I would own my own car if I lived in Manhattan. AT least from this vantage point I thnk I would. But I know people for whom the zipcar idea is perfect, and even more so coupled with the iphone.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    But the thing is — if you use the zipcar to go shopping wouldn’t you be better off with a grocery delivery service of some sort? Wouldn’t it work out cheaper?

    I still see peapod trucks around here…

    I live in Chicago (large urban area) 4-5 miles from downtown as a renter and I never find parking more than a block from where I live. I could imagine SF/NY might be different, but don’t both of those places have good public transportation?

    Isn’t the public transport (almost-as) convenient compared to a zipcar? I have heard wonderful things about SF & NY public transport.

    In NY, isn’t it faster to hail a cab somewhere rather than look up where the nearest zipcar location is?

  • avatar
    long126mike

    I think my $1000 neon costs something like $0.10/mile in parts/maint + gas + insurance.

    Are you kidding??

    Let’s play with this for one second.

    Assume you drive 10,000 miles per year. Right off the bat your insurance, without collision, is going to be bare minimum $500/yr., like you said. There’s 5 cents per mile right there.

    Fuel economy best case scenario is 30 mpg, probably less, especially as the car gets older. 10K miles at 30 mpg is 333 gallons at $2.60 per gallon. That’s $867 per year. That’s another 9 cents per mile, and now just with insurance and gas you’re at 14 cents per mile – bare minimum.

    This hasn’t touched repair, maintenance, tires, or any deductibles you might have to pay for something insurance might cover, or dealing with body work if you get in a collision. Top that off with parking costs at meters, garages, or wherever, then it gets very far away from 10 cents per mile. Keep in mind these services are concentrated in urban areas, and parking is rarely free, and if it is, it’s an intense competition to get a free on-street space and probably needing to move it every few days.

  • avatar
    Jeff Puthuff

    Robstar, I’d like to see you take public transport to Costco/BJ’s/Sam’s Club. Sure you could do it, but for a month’s worth of groceries, it may take five or six trips . . . Imagine sitting on a bus/light rail seat with a 24-pack of toilet paper (not that I use 24 rolls in a month). With Zipcar, you could rent an xB for two hours for $16, do Costco in one trip and maybe some other errands, too. For me, it’d be worth it.

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    ZipCar can be the lesser hassle vis a vis owning a car in a dense urban environment but it is still a neutered option.

    I want to dispel the notion that it affords the convenience of your own car at a lower cost.

    With your strictly time-limited ZipCar:
    You still have to walk or take the bus/subway to the location of the nearest
    ZipCar. Your preferred ZipCar model and location is often not available when you want it.

    You still have to pay for parking when you arrive at your destination(museum, etc) at most downtown locations.

    You still must find a parking spot near your apt when you return home with your Home Depot/Walmart purchase if the items are too heavy to walk with back from the ZipCar return spot.
    So on those occasions:
    Still looking for a spot outside your apt, still shoveling out a space in winter, still at risk of an unfair parking ticket.

    Still at risk of not calculating your precise time usage or overestimating your time. If you schedule for 2 hours to give yourself leeway you are charged for 2 hours even if you return the car after 30 mins! That’s the policy, folks.
    You Share Bears still have not addressed this most annoying aspect of using a community car.

    Still responsible for the mess the prior user left unless you call the 800 and report it promptly. Then you can just enjoy the aroma of a public use automobile.

    Surprisingly, cabs and delivery services are often a better value than Zipcar.

  • avatar
    MrDot

    Fleetofwheel-

    I would say we’re arguing that ZipCar offers most of the convenience of ownership but with less hassle, especially for city-dwellers.

    1. ZipCar lots are often reserved spaces scattered around town. Most of the time, you don’t need to take public transit to the car, especially when ZipCar’s website (and iphone app) uses GPS to plot every car’s location in real-time.

    2. ZipCars are most often used to travel out to large stores/malls. Parking is usually free and not a problem there.

    3. I’ve lived in lots of urban apartments, and I always double-parked or used the alley to unload stuff. At risk of a ticket? Sure, but most cities will cut you some slack if it’s obvious that you’re only stopping long enough to unload. There’s no mercy if you’re looking for long-term parking.

    4. The strictly-enforced reservation system does take some planning. But it exists so that you don’t just sign-out a car for an hour and then keep it all weekend thus depriving everyone else of a vehicle. The system encourages fast turn-over and ample supplies of available cars.

    In most cities, cabs are expensive. If you’re only taking occasional trips, they may be the more cost effective solution, but ZipCar fills the space where you travel too often to justify the cost of taxi fares but not enough to make having your own wheels worth it, while giving you the more shopping flexibility than delivery services.

    Public cars are a compromise. Nobody is arguing any differently. But there are situations where the benefits outweigh the costs.

  • avatar
    josho

    When considering Zipcar, take into account its target market – people who live in dense urban environments where parking is at a premium.

    I agree with everything MrDot said, plus I don’t think anticipating how long you need the car for is that inconvenient – at least not more than having to find a cab, dealing with public transportation, or anything else.

    It seems like most of the objections in this comment thread are from people who anticipate using Zipcar in the same way that you’d use a car in a suburban environment. It’s totally different. Imagine living in an area where a parking space is $300/mo., it could be a couple blocks away from your apartment/condo, most people don’t have cars, daily rentals are hugely inconvenient, and suddenly Zipcars are a lot more attractive.

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    Actually, the author did argue differently, Stein X. Leikanger said: “What ZipCar and other providers are offering is hazzle free car convenience, with all the advantages of having a car, with just a portion of the cost of owning one.”
    That’s a gross overstatement. I have listed numerous ways in which renting a ZipCar for $9.25 an hour with a $50 over-time fee is not at all similar to the way you are accustomed to using your own car.

    I’d like to know how making an intra-city trip in a $9.25/hr ZipCar plus possible parking fee would be cheaper than a cab, bus or subway to the same location. Plus the huge advantage of being able to make the return trip via a another cab, bus or subway that was not incurring the $9.25 hourly fee while you were in the meeting, movie, etc.
    The ‘meter’ is always running on the Zipcar.

    Driving a Zipcar out to a suburban shopping mall is probably the best use for city dweller but look into a 2 day weekend special from Avis, etc and you can get a lot more done in 48 hours for less than the $77/day ZipCar charges.

    What about going to a suburban buddy’s house to watch a 4 hour football game or to visit a girl outside the city? You lose all kinds of freedom and respect in those cases. When you alter your normal social habits to accommodate the strict ZipCar time system is when you realize it’s shortcomings.

    I encourage anyone thinking about using Zipcar exclusively to look into getting a good beater Corolla or Elantra. You might have to park it a block away from your apt but likely it’s closer than the nearest ZipCar.
    And if you really only use your car sporadically, the wear and maintenance issue will not be great.
    But the convenience will be huge.

  • avatar
    darkwing

    Fleetofwheel, I think josho makes a great point — you’re thinking about Zipcar in suburban terms. For example, living in downtown Chicago, I’d never consider driving to a meeting or a movie — that stuff’s all close by, and there’s plenty of public transit, assuming I just don’t walk. Same thing with shopping — why drive out to the burbs when it’s much easier to just walk to Michigan Avenue?

    (Full disclosure: I owned and garage a car, but mostly so my wife can get to her job on the underserved south side of the city. If she was working downtown, I’d be very tempted to ditch it, especially if it wasn’t paid for.)

  • avatar
    jmo

    When you alter your normal social habits to accommodate the strict ZipCar time system is when you realize it’s shortcomings.

    I think everyone is aware of its shortcomings – they just figure that given their circumstances it makes the most sense. I’ll give you an example – in my neighborhood in Boston, when it snows some of the cars don’t move for weeks at a time. If you find that you don’t need a car for weeks at a time – Zipcar makes sense.

    I encourage anyone thinking about using Zipcar exclusively to look into getting a good beater Corolla or Elantra.

    And when you need to bring home something from IKEA? Or when you’re going on a beach run – wouldn’t you rather have a mini convertible than some beater Corolla?

    Again – you need to think in terms of people who find they only need a car for 4 – 8 hours a month in total. IN that case even a beater would be a huge hassle.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    long126mike>

    Read for comprehension please.

    It’s $0.10/mile for parts/maints

    + GAS (separate cost)

    + Insurance (separate cost)

    Does that make it easier to understand?

    Also: I drive 6,000-7,000 miles/year in the neon (lately less…as since I’ve bought it I now have a motorcycle license, live near the train & live 7 miles from work instead of 30).

    On long highway trips I have gotten 38-39mpg. Going to work at 7am (beating rush hour barely) I’ve done 28. But keep going….

    so at 6000-7000 miles/year I make 3 oil changes at $18 ea.

    I replace the tires every 3 years so at $100 total or ~ $33/year. I probably put $400 in parts a year.

    Your numbers are so far off it’s not even funny.

    Jeff> first: I don’t often see people on public transport that do buy a months groceries at once. My wife & I buy groceries for a week or two at a time. A lot of items won’t LAST a month (milk comes to mind).

    2ndly: I do see people with those walker type shopping carts etc on the bus all the time (usually older people) and have seen other people carrying 5-10 grocery bags with their kids in tow. Not uncommon at all.

    3rdly: I do live in a large urban area in 3 different locations and I don’t think at ANY time did I live more than 4 blocks from a grocery store. They are everywhere.

  • avatar
    long126mike

    Does that make it easier to understand?

    Yes, it does, but it certainly was far from obvious with the phrasing you used. Generally people state cost per mile for total ownership costs.

    Your numbers are so far off it’s not even funny.

    Is that another joke?

    Neons average 30 mpg if they’re lucky. What you have gotten one time is not what you average. So the gas number per mile is correct, not “far off.” The insurance number I gave is basically the same as yours, so that’s not “far off,” either. Those are what I put actual numbers to.

    You quote tire, oil change, and “parts” costs. Adding those to gas and insurance, and using your miles driven number, it comes to 23 cents per mile and counting. I see you didn’t mention labor for those parts, so I guess you don’t think your own time has value. For a normal person, $400 in parts probably translates into $1,000 or more at the mechanic, depending on the work done. You also neglected the occasional bumps and bangs to the body which need to be dealt with that aren’t part of the drivetrain. You also assume your cost of parking is free, and even if you live in the ‘burbs and always drive to big parking lots with free parking, you’re still paying property tax on your garage space and paying for the garage itself. So that’s not free, either. You also don’t mention your licensing fees.

    Of course, this has nothing to do with Zipcar and where it’s located and the economic realities of those environments, where parking is at a premium.

    Realistically, you are bare minimum outlaying $2,000 per year for that car when all is said and done. That translates into 210 hours of Zipcar use plus the annual membership fee in the Boston market. For someone who doesn’t commute by car in a city, 18 hours per month for access to a huge variety of new, hassle-free vehicles is an enormous amount of use. Perhaps you’ve never lived like that so have trouble comprehending this.

    The reality is that the average new midsize car runs on the order of $8,000/yr to own, and that’s if you don’t have expensive parking and tolls to pay. Services like Zipcar save people a TON of money with next to zero hassle. That’s why they’re growing at a huge rate, even now.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    Parts/maints for 3 years…
    (9 * 18) + (400 * 3) + ($100)/21000

    (162+1200+100)/21000

    1462/21000 + $0.0696/mile.

    The rest comes in as labor, maybe some windshield wipers…

    gas+insurance are added on top of that $0.10/mile.

    You pay gas/insurance for the zipcar as well — it’s just hidden in the cost of the car. At least I know that I put the proper gas in the car & I have insurance at a level I’m comfortable with.

    Btw: I REGULARLY get over 30mpg on my highway travels in the neon. I suppose my neon must be magical. It would make a good childrens book. Dividing the odo miles between fillups/number of gallons doesn’t equal mpg does it? Nah, that couldn’t possibly be correct.

    Also: Most of the places I go I’d have to pay parking on a shared car as well — or do they cover that?

    And since when is ‘commercial car sharing’ more cost efficient than a taxi, public transport, or a grocery delivery service (for shopping) or going shopping with a friend who has a car? The fact is that except in very extreme circumstances, car sharing doesn’t make a lot of sense. I know that when I rent an apartment or buy a house, one of my main concerns is (even though I own a car): How close IS the grocery store? How close IS the laundromat? How close IS the gym?

    btw: car sharing services growing huge doesn’t necessarily mean anything except people are gullible enough to think it’s a great deal OR it works for someones very uncommon circumstances OR people don’t mind the hassles mentioned above.

    Look at the mess this country is in from the voting and actions of the majority of it’s subjects…

    Regarding “Free of hassle”: read “flleet of wheel”‘s posts I feel no need to re-hash them here.

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    All my critiques of ZipCar are based on a city dweller. I have not argued against ZipCar as being unsuitable because it’s of no use to a mostly suburban dwelling person.
    darkwing, I know it’s not for suburban use.
    It’s not that great for the city either. And you admit you’d rather use other means to get around town.

    If you want to live an insular city-bound life, then having to make do with a ZipCar is one of the compromises of being in the city.
    If you want to venture out to the burbs on occasion, a normal rental car or your own car is the best way.

    ZipCar Inc. does promote their service as being suitable for dates, job interviews, taking clients to lunch, going to the beach and on and on.
    So I am glad to see that most boosters on here don’t believe that hype and see it as having limited use for a run to Home Depot or Walmart.

    It is not a game changing paradigm shift as so many wish it to be.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    It is not a game changing paradigm shift as so many wish it to be.

    I suspect that the founders saw it as a solid niche that would eventually make for a great acquisition opportunity for one of the large rental companies such as Hertz or Enterprise.

    The smart, evolutionary thing about ZipCar is the ability to rent quickly and impulsively (assuming that you are a member.) Instead of going to a location that is probably inconvenient and dealing with a paperwork shuffle when picking up and returning, you can get the car in a heartbeat from numerous locations that are more convenient.

    The membership requirement reduces ZipCar’s administrative costs, plus allows them to better manage their inventory because they can project how many cars they will need and where they will need them. That should help them to make their costs predictable and to avoid having too many vehicles.

    Overall, it makes sense for certain areas, particularly if the trend toward new urbanism continues. At some point, one of the big players should buy them, and the executive team should bank a nice chunk of change.


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