We are an independent, advertising-supported comparison service. Our goal is to help you make smarter financial decisions by providing you with interactive tools and financial calculators, publishing original and objective content, by enabling you to conduct research and compare information for free – so that you can make financial decisions with confidence. The offers that appear on this site are from companies from which TheSimpleDollar.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site including, for example, the order in which they appear. The Simple Dollar does not include all card/financial services companies or all card/financial services offers available in the marketplace. The Simple Dollar has partnerships with issuers including, but not limited to, Capital One, Chase & Discover. View our full advertiser disclosure to learn more.
If the thought of making a car payment for the foreseeable future is something you want to avoid but you’re also not a fan of rideshares, you may be interested in a relative newcomer to the alternative car rental scene: Zipcar. For drivers hoping to avoid the commitment of car ownership but also interested in driving themselves around, Zipcar offers a promising alternative.
Unlike traditional car rental services, Zipcar offers short-term vehicle rentals and doesn’t require driver-provided car insurance, and this prospect has become particularly popular in big cities and college towns
What is a Zipcar?
Zipcar is a subsidiary of Avis and serves as a flexible alternative to traditional car rental agencies. Modeled to fit with the on-the-go lifestyle of 21st century Americans, Zipcar allows drivers to use a vehicle when they need it, where they need it and for as long as they need it. One of the primary goals of Zipcar is to offer mobility brands that provide a seamless, customizable experience that is more attractive than typical long-term vehicle rentals, leases or financed ownership.
To apply for Zipcar membership, drivers must be 21 years of age or older, though students who are 18 and older and attend Zipcar affiliated universities may also apply. All applicants must have a valid driver’s license. After the driver’s license verification process, approved drivers will receive their Zipcard by mail in three to seven days. After you activate your card, you’re ready to drive!
Every reservation is granted a free 180 miles per 24-hour period, and drivers incur a $0.45 per mile charge for every mile at the end of the reservation. Drivers in Canada receive a free 200 km per 24-hour period and incur a $0.30 per mile fee following the end of the reservation.
There is a variety of benefits drivers enjoy when using Zipcar services.
- Car selection: Choose from a variety of vehicles, from sedans and vans to SUVs and luxury vehicles.
- Insurance: Zipcar carries insurance that keeps you covered while operating one of the vehicles.
- Maintenance: Zipcar covers all maintenance work, from oil changes to car washes.
- Gas: Zipcar includes gas cards with every Zipcar rental.
- Parking: Each Zipcar has a specific parking spot.
- Monthly cost: For about the same price as one of your digital streaming accounts, you can maintain Zipcar membership. At just $7 monthly, you’ll have access to Zipcar’s range of vehicles in 30 metro areas across the United States. You’ll also incur a fee per use, but this membership fee keeps you in the network.
According to the 2017 AAA Your Driving Costs study, the average driver pays about $1,000 per month for car-related expenses. By utilizing Zipcar effectively, you can expect to spend about $200-$400 per month, for a savings of $600-$800. Not only do Zipcar drivers have the option to drive a different car every time they go out, but they can also save money when it comes to typical auto-related costs like gas and maintenance work.
What happens if you get in a car accident in a Zipcar?
On the off-chance you’re involved in a Zipcar accident, you’ll be covered with automobile insurance. As long as you are in compliance with your Zipcar membership contract, you’ll be covered by a Zipcar insurance policy in the event that an accident occurs. Though the driver is responsible for a damage fee of up to $1,000, Zipcar pays for any damages beyond that amount.
To eliminate or lower the damage fee, drivers can purchase an optional damage protection plan, also known as a Zipcar damage fee waiver. Review the following three protection plans to see how you can lower your potential damage fee.
Zipcar Insurance Standard protection
- $1,000 damage fee per accident
Zipcar Insurance Plus protection:
- $375 damage fee per accident
- Additional $5/month or $50/year
Zipcar Insurance Premium protection:
- 0 damage fee per accident
- $9/month or $79/year
Zipcar liability insurance limits vary based on how long you’ve been a Zipcar member:
- New members who joined since August 1, 2018, and drivers under 21 are covered by the state’s minimum liability requirements
- Drivers 21+ who became Zipcar members between March 1, 2015, and July 31, 2018, receive $100,000 coverage for bodily injury per person, $300,000 for bodily injuries for the entire accident and $25,000 for property damage.
- Members 21+ who joined Zipcar prior to March 1, 2015, will receive Zipcar liability insurance for causing bodily injury or death to others or damaging the property of someone other than the authorized driver or the member up to a combined single limit of $300,000 per accident.
If you already carry automobile insurance, your personal insurance can cover any lapses in the insurance provided by Zipcar.
Similarly, it may be a good idea to consider adding a non-owner car insurance policy. Because Zipcar only covers new drivers up to the state liability minimums, it could be beneficial to have supplemental insurance to cover any extra costs incurred in a Zipcar accident.