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View Full Version : Zipcar: Any dopers members?


atomicbadgerrace
03-04-2008, 01:21 AM
Any dopers here also Zipcar members? I was doing research for cheap ways to get around while out of town, and came across Zipcar. Their service area is somewhat limited now, but I'm sure it'll expand in the coming years.

How easy is it to use? That is, if I'm reading the site correctly, you pay $x for a yearly membership, then once you get your card, you can hop online, reserve a car, and pick it up where it's shown on the map.

How about availability? Are you usually able to get a car when you need one? Would I have much luck if I needed a car within the next 15 minutes?

Customer service problems/praises? Assuming you've had to deal with them.

As I understand it, you go up to the vehicle and swipe your card somewhere along the windshield, and the doors unlock. Do you leave the ignition keys inside for the next driver? If so, how do they get away with leaving cars parked all around NYC without fear of them being jacked? Do they bill you for the time you reserved the car, or do they start at your initial swipe and end when you "swipe out"?

So many questions, but I love the idea, and I figured at least someone on the SDMB must be using Zipcar... any insight you can share is appreciated!

mmouse9799
03-04-2008, 08:13 AM
Hi atomicbadgerrace, I'm a Zipster, which is what members of Zipcar are called. Let me endeavor to answer your questions...

First, I really like Zipcar. I live in Boston and usually take the Subway, so I don't have a car. I don't really need one for the amount that I drive. Zipcar is very easy to use. You get a membership based on how much you plan on driving. You can also look for deals based on where you work. The company I work for offers discounted memberships. Then, when you need a car, you schedule the car you want for the amount of time you want it. The timing is very specific, so make sure you aren't late returning the car.

I've always been able to find a car when I've looked for one, regardless of when I needed it. It really depends on the number of members in your area. I know in New York City there are many more drivers than cars, so it's an issue.

The ignition keys are always left in the car. You lock and unlock the car with your membership card which is about the size of the credit card. The car will only open for you during your reservation time. You will be billed for the time that you've reserved the car plus any late fees that you encur.

I hope this helps. Let me know if you'd like anything expanded upon.

atomicbadgerrace
03-04-2008, 12:20 PM
Thanks for the info -- definitely appreciated! A couple more logistical questions, if you don't mind sticking around? :)

1- Aside from someone who's waiting for the car call them, how will they know if you're late returning it?

2- When you park and go inside somewhere, I guess you don't take the key with you. Do you lock/unlock the car with your proximity pass?

3- Are there options to pick up in one location and return to another? Or is it always return to the same location you picked it up?

4- What do you do when you return the car, but find someone else has parked in your designated space? :)

5- I hear they pay for gas, and you can use a gas card in the car or buy it yourself and get reimbursed with receipts. I'm guessing it's not a VISA or MasterCard, but a gas-only type card. Are you restricted with where you can refill?

6- Do you have to report mileage after your trip to make sure you stay within the allotted mileage, or does the car automatically report it when you're done?

Phew... I'm looking over the Zipcar site, and though their FAQ is extensive, it's lacking in some areas. ;)

Thanks again for the info!

mmouse9799
03-04-2008, 02:09 PM
1) I'm sure that the cars have a GPS tracker of some kind, so that they can make sure the car is returned to the right spot on time. My guess would be that it's in the box that unlocks the car.

2) No, the key is affixed in the car. The membership card unlocks the doors while you are on your jaunt.

3) I don't believe Zipcar offers different pick-up/drop-off locations. Maybe in the future? (Budget Rent-A-Car does offer this service, if you need it for a trip or something.)

4) There are instructions for that, I know that I've read them, but I don't remember what they are off the top of my head. It's never happened to me, but I know that it does. Once you join, they send you a bunch of information on situational stuff like this.

5)They do take care of gas, insurance and car maintenance. If you decide to get the car washed, they'll reimburse you for it. I've never had to use the gas card, the person using the car before me has nicely made sure that I had enough gas (Zipsters are nice folk!), but their packet of information says that it's accepted most places.

6) You don't report mileage. Once you return the car, make sure all of your stuff is out of it and wave your card to lock the doors, you're done. (They'll probably send you an email survey for feedback on your outing, though.) The car will somehow log the mileage for your reservation. :)

GilaB
03-04-2008, 02:22 PM
In terms of being able to reserve something for 15 minutes from now, it depends on when and where you're talking about. In my Manhattan neighborhood, you almost always need advance reservations on the weekends, but you may be lucky on a weekday.

I've always assumed that they use some sort of Wi-Fi connection to communicate with the cars, which know if you are trying to swipe out a car that somebody else has a reservation for, tell the system how many miles you used, etc. It's not GPS, because the information flow is two-way, and it has to be something that would work in the lot I use, which is an underground garage.

I think I've mentioned this here in a different thread, but I once did have a problem when I had a 2 pm reservation, but the car wasn't back. At about 2:15, I called them; they called the person who had the car while I was on hold, then reported back that the person was..... in Pennsylvania. (Two states away, at least a 90-100 minute drive in each direction, and all this in a three hour reservation!) No other car at that parking lot was free, but they transferred my reservation to a lot a couple of miles away, and told me they'd reimburse me if I took a cab there. When I arrived, that car also hadn't been returned, but the Zipcar folks couldn't get that person on the phone, and no other cars in that lot were free. At that point, I gave up, canceled my plans, and took another cab home. They did promptly reimburse me for both cabs when I sent in the receipts, and gave me an hour and a half of free rental time. Both of the customer service people with whom I dealt were professional and friendly, and it's not really the company's fault that the cars weren't returned, but it did point up to me that if it's for something critical, I should have a backup transportation plan.

mmouse9799
03-04-2008, 02:29 PM
I knew I had read much of this .... It turns out that once you're a member, your FAQ gets a lot longer...These quotes are all from the Zip Car member FAQ pages:

How do I put gas in the Zipcar?

Gas is on us! Your gas card is located under the driver's side visor of every car. Use it at the pump like you would a credit card or give it to the station attendant or cashier. When you're asked for your driver ID/PIN number, enter 947227. Don't worry about memorizing it, the number's printed on every gas card. Next, give them the odometer reading (that's the mileage) and let the free gas flow. Always use regular unleaded gas unless your Zipcar needs premium (your reservation confirmation will tell you).

Lastly, leave at least a 1/4 tank of gas for the next Zipster. Hey, it's free so go ahead and top 'er off.

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What if the gas card isn't accepted?

While most gas station chains take our gas card, you may run into one that doesn't accept it. Go ahead and pay for it, and we'll reimburse you. We're good like that. Just keep your receipt and fax or mail it to us with your name, your Zipcard number and the time, date and purchase amount.

<address removed>

In Canada, our gas cards can only be used at Esso stations. If you're not at an Esso, just fill it up anyway and we'll reimburse you.

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Can I park my Zipcar in a different Zipcar spot during my reservation?

No. Each Zipcar has its own reserved parking space. You cannot park your Zipcar in another Zipcar space.

However, if you're parking your Zipcar at its "home" location which has more then one reserved Zipcar space, any of them will do.

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What if the Zipcar space is taken or blocked?

Call us at 866.4ZIPCAR and we'll work with you to find a nearby parking spot.

If there's another car in the Zipcar spot, make a note of the make, model, state and license plate number of the unfortunate offender so that we can have them towed away.

Is there anything else I can answer (or look up) for you?

atomicbadgerrace
03-04-2008, 02:32 PM
I knew I had read much of this .... It turns out that once you're a member, your FAQ gets a lot longer...These quotes are all from the Zip Car member FAQ pages:

Nice! Very awesome- thanks for the additional info. From what I can tell, it sounds like Zipcar would be a good choice.

How are the cars themselves? I know they have a wide variety to choose from, and one can only expect so much from a vehicle that dozens of people could use daily... but, are they usually clean?

And with the car wash reimbursement, they credit you for an hour of time, yes? Is that an additional hour for that trip, or just credited to your "account" for future use?

mmouse9799
03-04-2008, 02:38 PM
Ick! That's awful Gila. I have heard that they have problems in NYC because there are too many drivers for the number of cars. I've never had anything like that in Boston; there are always tons of cars available. (And I haven't heard of it being a problem outside of NYC.)

Atomic, if I may be so bold as to ask, what area are you in?

atomicbadgerrace
03-04-2008, 02:43 PM
Atomic, if I may be so bold as to ask, what area are you in?

For the most part, NYC metro, though I do hop around the east coast from Boston down to the Orlando area a bit.

mmouse9799
03-04-2008, 02:47 PM
Nice! Very awesome- thanks for the additional info. From what I can tell, it sounds like Zipcar would be a good choice.

How are the cars themselves? I know they have a wide variety to choose from, and one can only expect so much from a vehicle that dozens of people could use daily... but, are they usually clean?

And with the car wash reimbursement, they credit you for an hour of time, yes? Is that an additional hour for that trip, or just credited to your "account" for future use?

There is a large variety. I tend to use the ones closest to my apt building, but there are trucks, mini-coopers, volvos...lots of options.

I've found the cars to be very clean. Zipcar does have a no smoking rule and a rule stating that pets must be in carriers at all times. So, that helps--no smoke smell (which would really bother my allergies) and no pet hair or dander. Each person driving the car is responsible for keeping it clean. If there's a problem, I'd call customer service first and let them tell you what to do about the idiot before you who spilled his 20oz. Mountain Dew.

They would credit your account for the car was reimbursement, I'm sure. For the credit, you'd have to submit a receipt for processing and that wouldn't have an immediate turn-around.

Dr. Drake
03-04-2008, 03:05 PM
Just to note, it sounds like a great service, but here in Southern California it's almost completely useless unless you happen to live near one of the large universities. We don't have the public transit, so you'd pretty much have to drive to your ZipCar. I don't understand why they don't have a couple stationed near public transit junctions, or at least downtown.

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