I joined Zipcar in December 2020, and I took my first car out last month. While I think Zipcar is convenient, incredibly genius, and makes life easier for people who don’t own a car, there’s one disadvantage to Zipcar that nobody thinks about. In fact, it didn’t cross my mind until I sat inside the car, making me wonder: Is Zipcar worth it?
What is Zipcar?
Zipcar is a car sharing platform where members share vehicles within the community. Zipcar has a fleet of 12,000 cars in over 500 cities and towns, and the selection of cars is readily available in appointed parking spaces. This is incredibly convenient. Zipcar has its very own parking space, so you know where the car is parked at all times. For instance, here in Brooklyn, there are about 4 Zipcars within an 8 block radius from me, and they will always be in the same spot.
My first experience with the car sharing service
The day I booked a Zipcar, June 6, 2021, a Sunday, the closest cars near me were unavailable. I learned my lesson: book a car in advance, because they could be in use when you need them. I’m so used to taking Ubers, where cars come to you within minutes, and I realized this sort of instant gratification isn’t true for Zipcar in peak times, like the weekend. Like a car rental agency, Zipcars are generally not available last minute (or, at least, the cars you want) if you’re in a town or city with a lot of Zipcar members.
While the two cars on my block were booked, the next available car, a Honda Civic, was about 8 blocks away — in a dark parking garage. I couldn’t open the door because of the tight squeeze, but that wasn’t my main issue.
The one disadvantage to Zipcar
I did a Youtube video on my experience with Zipcar. You can check it out at the end of the post. While I go into detail about my experience, there’s one thing I wanted to highlight here: You have no clue who rented the car before you.
This is a disadvantage to the renter because the driver who rented the car before you could have been really messy, or unhygienic. I mention in the Youtube video that once you drop off your Zipcar, someone can book it immediately afterward. At a car rental, when a car is returned, employees do an inspection to make sure that the car is clean, everything is in working order, and that there are no surprises.
This is unfortunately not the case with Zipcar. There is no employee that does these sort of checks after a car has been dropped off. Remember, you are sharing the Zipcar with your community. If you think about it, you “own” that car with hundreds of other people, all of whom are strangers. You can’t expect them to keep it nice for you, and you can’t expect them to abide by Zipcar rules (which is essentially: keep the car clean!). Makes you wonder: Is Zipcar worth it ?
When I got in my car, it reeked of marijuana. The driver before me hot-boxed it (meaning they smoked pot inside without the windows down). They also left it a mess, as you can see in the photo. It was pretty disgusting. I had to drive with the windows down to Long Island on a day it was 95 degrees, with typical NYC traffic. I was not happy. This is the one disadvantage to Zipcar. You have no idea who will be driving before you, and you can’t expect them to be the cleanest drivers. I love everything about Zipcar, but I completely didn’t realize that the driver before me could be a slob.
In addition to this surprise of a messy, smelly vehicle, the driver before me did not leave 1/4 tank of gas, which is a Zipcar rule. The gas light went off as soon as I got on the highway, stuck in traffic, which was a major inconvenience and caused mild anxiety.
Is Zipcar worth it?
While I enjoyed the luxury and convenience of the car sharing platform, and I will likely use it again, I want to make it clear that you have no idea who will be driving before you — and if they leave the car a mess, it’s your duty to clean it up (unless you want to drive in that mess). So is Zipcar worth it? I think so, but as long as you know that you have no idea what the driver before you will be like.
I wrote a longer Zipcar review here if you want to get more details on my experience. Or click the Youtube video below on my experience with Zipcar and what exactly happened on my first rental.
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