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Car sharing guide: On-Demand, short-term car rentals

December 5, 2018

Think about how often your car is sitting motionless. Or, if you live in an urban area, consider how much you pay per month for parking. That's the basic pitch of car-sharing services: If you only need a car occasionally, you might be able to sell yours and just borrow one on-demand. Car-sharing services are a sort of middle-ground between ride-sharing services, where somebody else drives you to your destination, and car subscriptions, where you keep a specific car for a longer period of time. It's a short-term version of traditional car rentals.

 

A car-sharing service is probably not cost effective for someone who needs to complete a long commute every day. Rather, they're intended for someone who might only from time to time take a trip that requires a car. Think of the college student taking a weekend trip to a neighboring town, for instance, or the downtown resident who makes a Costco run at the weekend.

 

Whatever your situation, car-sharing services all work in generally the same way: You reserve a car ahead of time using an app, borrow it for a short trip or journey and then return it to the same parking spot later. Generally, the car-sharing service provides insurance and includes a gas card to pay for refueling the car if necessary -- but be sure to check all the terms before your first rental. Here's a run-down of the most popular car-sharing apps and services out there today.

 

Zipcar

Likely the best known of all car-sharing services, Zipcarwas founded in 2000 and purchased by Avis in 2013. It now offers 12,000 vehicles across 500 locations worldwide, and claims that a Zipcar is reserved somewhere in the world every six seconds. While Zipcar focuses on college campuses, airports and other urban cities across the US, the company also offers cars at certain locations in parts of Western Europe, Canada and Costa Rica. 

 

To join Zipcar, you have to pay a membership fee that costs $70 per year or $7 per month. Then each car rental costs an hourly or daily rate that varies depending on the vehicle you select. There are also discounted subscription plans for college students. Each rental allows for 180 miles of driving, and Zipcar covers insurance and maintenance for each of the cars. Drivers must be 21 years of age, though college students are eligible to join Zipcar from age 18.

 

Maven

Mavenis General Motors' car-sharing service, which launched in 2016 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The service has since expanded and is now offered in 10 other cities: Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Baltimore, New York, Boston, Denver, Orlando and Washington, DC. Just like Zipcar, Maven users can reserve and borrow a car with an app -- though, unsurprisingly, all of the vehicles are GM cars. Rentals start at $8 per hour, though larger vehicles like SUVscost more. There's no subscription fee and the minimum age is 18.

 

Maven has expanded to other sharing-economy ideas, too. Maven Gigallows drivers to borrow a Maven car for working another job, such as a ride-sharing or food-delivery service. Mavern Reserveallows for longer-term rentals of cars -- a little more like traditional car rentals. And there's even a pilot program to allow GM car owners to share their own vehicles, peer-to-peer style, through Maven -- think of it a little like Turo.

 

Car2Go

A division of Mercedes-Benzparent company Daimler, Car2Gooperates in many major cities around the world. As you might guess based on that, the vehicles are all Mercedes models: the Smart Fortwo, CLA-Classsedan and GLA-Classcrossover in the US market. Here, Car2Go is available in Austin, Texas, Chicago, Columbus, Denver, New York, Seattle and Portland, Oregon. It's also available in Austin, Texas and Washington, DC. In Canada, cities include Calgary, Montreal and Vancouver, though Car2Go no longer operates in Toronto. Joining costs just $5 and after that drivers pay by the minute, with rates starting as low as 41 cents per minute. Daily rates range from $89 to $129.

 

Hui

Toyotais getting into car-sharing in a limited scheme in Hawaii called Hui. Drivers can use a smartphone app to reserve a Toyota or Lexusvehicle and borrow it for a short period of time. The program, which was announced in summer 2018, starts with 50 vehicles at 25 locations around Honolulu. Prices range from $10 per hour for a Toyota Priusto $20 per hour for a Lexus RX. As with most car-sharing services, you also need to pay a monthly membership fee to join Hui.

 

Lime

Though best-known for electric scootersand bicycles, Lime is testing out a car-sharing program in Seattle. So far the mobility startup hasn't shared many details on what it calls LimePod, though GeekWire reportsthat the program will launch 500 cars around Seattle in December. We'll update soon once we have more details on Lime's plans.

 

Turo

Where most of the car-sharing apps discussed here involve a company providing the vehicles that you borrow, Turoworks a little differently. It's a peer-to-peer sharing system, meaning that anyone can list their own car for rental through the service -- think of it as AirBnb for cars rather than apartments. Owners can set their own rates for vehicle rentals and there are all manner of cars available, including supercarsand things like the Tesla Model 3. Turosays it has over 350,000 vehicles listed on its service, comprising 850 different makes and models.

 

BMW ReachNow

In addition to some very limited ride-hailing options, BMW ReachNowoffers car-sharing -- albeit only, so far, in Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon. You pay a one-time fee to join ReachNowand can then borrow BMW and Minivehicles for short driving periods. The pricing strategy works out to $15 per hour or $50 for three hours, or $80 for an entire day rental.

 

UHaul CarShare

UHaul CarSharehas locations at various colleges and universities in 18 states around the country, and offers cars as diverse as a Toyota Prius to a Ford F-150, depending on location. As with rival services, you can use a smartphone app to sign up to drive the CarShare vehicles, then reserve one via the app. Prices start at $5 per hour plus a mileage charge, or $62 for a daily rental that includes 180 miles of driving.

 

Enterprise CarShare

A short-term, on-demand version of the company's well-known rentals, Enterprise CarShareis available in 15 US cities and several-dozen college campuses, as well as in four Canadian and many UK cities. Rental rates vary by location but, for reference, start as low as $4 per hour or $40 per day in Philadelphia, while New York is $8 per hour and $69 per day. Drivers must pay an annual membership fee to join CarShare.

 

AAA Gig

Gigis a new venture operated by the AAA Northern California, Nevada and Utah regional club. Drivers can choose to pay by the mile (at $2.50 per), by the hour ($15 each) or $85 for the day. Gig only uses Toyota Prius Chybrids, each equipped with bike racks for outdoorsy folks to take their two-wheeled toys with them. All Gig cars must be picked up from -- and returned to -- a so-called HomeZone around the San Francisco Bay Area.

 

Getaround

Like the aforementioned Turo, Getaroundis a peer-to-peer car-sharing service, meaning the cars you borrow belong not to Getaround but to other everyday people. It's currently offered in San Francisco, Berkeley, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New Jersey, Oakland, Philadelphia, San Diego, Seattle, Portland, Oregon and Washington, DC. Getaround launched in 2013 and now claims to have 200,000 members nationwide. Ride-hailing giant Uber has also said it plans to partner with Getaroundso users can rent the cars through their Uber app.

 

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