Thursday, June 4, 2009

Love for Zipcar.

My mother asked me a few months ago what I wanted for my birthday. I'm not very good with "stuff" - I live and work in a studio apartment with another person, and we have very little furniture in it, so finding a place to keep new things is tricky. I also don't really need anything - I've lived here for nine months with the things I have now, and I can't really come up with a tangible thing that would make my life better or easier.

What I did know is that I wanted to go somewhere. I wanted to do something. While I like to preach about how great riding bikes is, and I go on and on about how fabulous the public transportation options are around here, it's not always easy to do the things I want to do. We don't keep food in the house because we can only transport what our shoulder bags can carry. (I know racks and panniers are an option, but I'm already on a 40 pound, 30 year old bike. There's only so much extra weight I'm into right now.) The Roommate has family up north that we don't see very often because the bus + bike combo to their place would literally take us three hours one way, which is not ideal for a Saturday day trip.

Perhaps the solution is obvious to the rest of you, but it took a little while to become obvious to me: I wanted a Zipcar membership.

Zipcar, for anyone not living in a major city, is a car sharing program. You get a membership, and it gives you access to cars at hundreds of locations for an hourly or day rate. Want to go to the grocery store but can't buy more than you can carry? Get a Zipcar for an hour. Day trips up to see the family? Cars start at $69 for the day. And while that's a little hefty for a rental car, it requires zero advance planning. I can get a car in fifteen minutes. And my closest Enterprise lot closes at 1:00 on Saturdays and isn't open on Sunday, so a Saturday day trip would actually be a two day rental.

Plus, Zipcar pays for your gas and insurance. I don't have my own car insurance - since I don't have my own car - so this is an extra charge that traditional rental car companies have to charge me. I'm also still under 25 for a few months, and Zipcar only requires you be 21+.

I've rented from them three times now, and every experience has been great. I've had to call them for various reasons - a check engine light was on, someone forgot their jacket in my car, etc. - and they're always quick to answer and very helpful. A phone call with the press of one button extends your reservation another 30 minutes, which is helpful for the hourly rentals when your trip hits an unexpected snag.

I pay for their yearly membership rather than a monthly thing, because I just don't drive very much. It's worth $50 a year to me to have the convenience of a car whenever I want it. Carless members of large cities, I can't speak highly enough about them. Check them out at

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