While car sharing may sound like some vaguely utopian experiment in cooperative living, it’s actually an affordable and simple idea that’s catching on across the country. Companies like Zipcar and Mint, and more recently Hertz and Enterprise, allow you to rent a car for as little as an hour to get errands done, go visit friends and family, or take a fun excursion. Is car sharing right for you? Consider these reasons why it might make sense for you to join the car-sharing ranks.
1. You’re a city dweller
This one probably comes as no surprise. In walkable cities with good public transportation, many residents don’t drive every day—or even every week. If you only need a car for the occasional shopping trip or weekend away, car sharing can save you thousands of dollars a year on car payments, not to mention parking (and parking tickets!). Most car-sharing companies (including Zipcar, Hertz, Enterprise and Mint) offer a variety of membership and rental options depending on how frequently you plan to use the cars.
2. You’re considering buying a second car
Car sharing isn’t just for urbanites. If you live in the suburbs and have been thinking about adding a second car, becoming a member of a car-sharing plan may solve your problems while saving you money. If one of the major car-sharing companies doesn’t have an outpost in your area, there’s a good chance a local alternative exists. Do an Internet search for “Car sharing” and the name of your town or the nearest city, or visit www.carsharing.org and www.carsharing.net for links and information.
3. You have houseguests
Say goodbye to traveling everywhere in two cars, or squeezing six people into one vehicle every time the grandparents visit. With a car-sharing membership, you can rent a minivan for the weekend, which is a lot easier on Grandma’s arthritic knees—and your sanity.
4. You like to get out of town
Nothing puts a damper on a weekend getaway like flying into town, paying for a 3-day car rental, and then only using the car twice at your destination. If you travel frequently to cities where you don’t need a car to get around, car sharing could be right for you. Unlike rental companies, car-sharing companies allow you to rent by the hour, so that afternoon excursion to the mountains won’t cost you a mountain of cash. Which means you’ll have more left over for last-minute souvenirs.
5. You’re visiting colleges
Carless college students make up a large portion of the car-sharing market. Catering to that market means that Zipcar has outposts at over 100 college campuses and Hertz is now found at close to 50. This is great news for parents touring potential colleges with their hopeful teens, since — depending on duration — car-sharing fees are often more economical than traditional car rentals for seeing the sights.