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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Car Sharing for Earth Day

Happy Earth Day! Have I ever told you I am a fan of car sharing? When I lived on Capitol Hill, I considered selling my car and just bussing + car sharing. In the City, car sharing just makes sense.

I work downtown, which means I bus to and from work. There is no way I'm paying monthly parking fees just so I can sit in traffic coming in and out of downtown. It takes about 10 minutes to get in and out of downtown via bus thanks to express lanes, HOV only exits and HOV lanes. It is fast, convenient, affordable and good for the environment. My work even gives me a $50 reimbursement check every month to help pay for my bus pass.

All this is fine and dandy, but sometimes having a car handy is more convenient. Enter car sharing!


I have been a ZipCar member for over four years now. My work has a business account, so I have both a business and personal membership.

The Tacoma office has work vehicles available for going to meetings or site visits. The Seattle office doesn't have any parking space for company vehicles, so we have ZipCar. I am able to rent a ZipCar by the hour and have it billed to my company.

ZipCars have designated parking spots. After reserving the car via web, mobile app or phone, you can open the car with your member card. Reservations need to be made at least 30 minutes prior to the time you want to rent it and can be made several weeks in advance. The key is located in the vehicle and away you drive! To finish your trip, you return the vehicle to the designated parking spot before the end of your reservation. You can extend the reservation if no one has a reservation for that vehicle after you.

ZipCars are rented by the hour and a few of them are available over night or renting by the day. A yearly membership fee is required. I received a discounted membership fee thanks to also having a business membership.

All different types of vehicles are available when renting from ZipCar. Ever wanted to drive a Mini convertible? I have! Need a van to haul something? Yep! Need a mini van or SUV for extra passengers/cargo? Done that! Need a vehicle with a bike rack or ski rack? ZipCar has them! Want a car with a parks pass (for camping or day hikes)? Yeah, ZipCar has those too. And they have "Good to Go" passes for the toll bridges, too.

I typically use ZipCar for trips during the day. This way I don't have to drive my vehicle downtown and park, nor return downtown with my car. I have used it for business trips (meetings, site visits, etc.) and for personal trips (doctors appointment).



Car2Go is different from ZipCar. These vehicles do not have designated parking spaces and the trip can be ended anywhere within its home area (for Seattle, this is all City of Seattle streets). You never have to pay parking meters and can end your trip even in a 2 hour only parking spot.

You can walk up to any Car2Go and start your rental, or you can reserve a car for up to 30 minutes in advance via web, mobile app or phone. Since they do not have a designated parking spot, reserving a car more than 30 minutes is not available since there is no way of knowing where in the City that specific car will be. Unlike, ZipCar, you don't have a set reservation, so you can end your trip at any time and don't have to return the vehicle by a certain time.

Car2Go cars are rented by the minute, hour or day. They are slightly more expensive than ZipCar by the hour or day. However, ZipCar has a yearly membership fee while Car2Go has a one time membership fee. Also, if you are likely to rent a vehicle for less than an hour, the minute charge is worth it.

Where as ZipCar has a huge selection of different cars, Car2Go has one vehicle type (well actually two). All Car2Go cars are Smart Cars! All the ones I've seen are gas fueled, but they advertise also having electric Smart Cars. These cars are pretty cool for maneuvering around the City, parking in tight spots, perhaps picking up a passenger (date night with the guy?) or some groceries. They aren't exactly meant for long drives or many passengers (night out with the girls?).

Car2Go has only one type of car - the Smart Car! A great fuel efficient vehicle that is easy to park in the city. It comes in gas and electric powered.

The absolutely best thing about Car2Go, though? One-way trips. You are thinking, "why would you want a car for a one-way trip?" For the answer, remember, I bus to and from work.

My very first Car2Go trip was when I received my new DSLR camera. I had it shipped into work and didn't realize how BIG the box would be. How the eff am I going to carry this sucker on the bus? Oh, yeah! This is why I have a Car2Go membership!

It worked like a charm! I grabbed a car a couple blocks from work and was able to drive me and my package home for minimal cost (it was actually only $3, since I had 30 minutes of free driving from signing up!). It was worth it to not have to lug that package home and risk dropping it. I parked the car in front of my apartment building (on the street) and ended my trip there!

Car Insurance, Gas and Driving Credit

With both ZipCar and Car2Go, you don't have to have car insurance and you never pay for gas. When you go to the fuel pump, there is a card in the vehicle to pay for gas.

You can earn driving minutes/dollars with both companies. With Car2Go, you can earn minutes by refueling the vehicle. Every time you refill a vehicle that has less than a quarter of a tank, you earn 20 minutes of driving time. When you check out a car on the web or app, you can see how much fuel the car has. I love grabbing a vehicle that needs gas, because it doesn't take me 20 minutes to refill. Note that your driving credit does expire quickly, so don't forget to use it soon afterwards!

Join Zipcar and get $25 in free driving
ZipCar offers cash for driving time through their member referral system. For instance, if you click the image to the right and sign up, you and I will both earn $25 in free driving credit! Isn't that swell?

How does car sharing help the environment?

According to ZipCar's Green Benefits list, for every 1 ZipCar on the road, 20 personal vehicles are replaced. Which is great, because "less cars on the road means less congestion, less pollution, less dependence on oil, and cleaner, fresher air to breathe." ZipCar members on average drive 5,500 fewer miles annually, save up to $500 a month (gas, insurance, maintenance, car payments, etc.) and conserve around 219 gallons of oil per year per member.

Sucky Parts

For me, it means I can rely on mass transit by augmenting it with car sharing. I do own a vehicle. Well, technically half of one. Between me and my fiancé, we own one vehicle. Since we both tend to bus it first, the vehicle actually stays in the garage most of the week.

I know not everyone lives in a City and has access to car sharing. But if you do have either of these car sharing companies or an alternative company in your neighborhood, I highly recommend them. They certainly get two green thumbs up!

Disclaimer: I was not paid to write this post. All links are to their respective pages and are not affiliate links. The sole exception is the member referral link which is advertised as such. I really do appreciate these companies and all thoughts expressed are sincere. All images and logos belong to their respective owners and are linked to their respective pages.


  1. Great ideas for Earth day! I don't think we have car sharing in my country, but I try to walk instead of driving, anytime I can :)

  2. Walking is the best! Not only is it great for the environment but great for your health too!

  3. Walking is the best! Great for the environment and great for your health too. :D

  4. Girl, you just opened my eyes to a whole new world! I had no idea stuff like this was even out there! I couldn't get away with it right now because I'd have to lug the kids' carseats with me everywhere {Can you just see me walking down the street with two mega-huge seats and two not-so-huge toddlers in tow?! I'd certainly be a sight! ;)} but it would be a great option once we're past that phase. Thank you yet again for another brilliant idea! Hope you're having a great day!

    ~Abby =)

  5. What a great post, Bethany! I've always been curious about ZipCar and services like it. It was just beginning to gain traction when I left Seattle for Maui. Since then, I've never lived in a city large enough that supports car sharing.

    Seattle's bus system really is great, isn't it? When Terry and I were living in Belltown we did pretty much what you're doing now. Terry is in construction, so he needed his car, but I went for 5 years without one of my own. I can only imagine it's even better with the lightrail connecting more of the region.

    It's really not a hardship when you can walk/ ride a bus to work, grocery shopping, and any number of entertainment options. I miss it, actually.

  6. Okay, so I've heard of zip cars and smart cars, but I had no idea how car sharing worked or how very "smart" and "zippy" these cars can be! Wow. Truly innovative. I applaud the creators of these car companies...and I applaud you, Bethany, for utilizing such earth-friendly modes of transportation and for introducing us to the ins and outs of car sharing! I'm so glad to know all about this now...and I'm going to look for an opportunity to utilize car sharing in the future. Would this be a viable alternative to renting a car on vacation?

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